Saratoga Horse Racing

2012: The Year of Seattle Slew.

user-pic
SLEW Maiden Win.jpgHappy Birthday, Seattle Slew!  The mighty warrior horse was foaled on 15 February 1974 at Ben Castleman's White Horse Acres Farm near Lexington, Kentucky--and on his strong back he took millions of people for the ride of our lives.  This piece tonight will not be a recitation of stats, for birthday celebrations are about heart, guts, glory and love.  Numbers--even extraordinary numbers, such as Slew's achievements--have no place at a birthday party...
If you're a racing fan, you know that today is the birthday of one of the greatest Thoroughbreds, ever.  Anywhere, anytime, anyplace.  

Seattle Slew, the most beautiful dark, dark bay/brown--he was all-but-black--captured my
SLEW Jean Cruguet Black and White NY Daily News.jpg
heart in 1976, when he won the Champagne Stakes.  Love, as you know, cannot be described--but you know it when you feel it.  I saw that monstrous two-year-old colt barreling down the home stretch on his way to a huge win (9 3/4 lengths--OK, one stat)--and my heart leapt right onto his back.  In my head and soul, I was hanging onto Cruguet for dear life, feeling every rush, every inch of the way.

During the course of his relationship with them, Slew would take his talented, dedicated jockey, Jean Cruguet, and his quiet,  brilliant trainer, William H. (Billy) Turner for one wild ride.   The magical threesome rode into the Kentucky Derby undefeated--that is, they had lost no races before they got to the Derby--and they kept steam-rollin' until they took the prize, the Triple Crown.  Of only 11 Triple Crown winners, ever--the Slew Crew is the only team who can claim that.

Except for the aforementioned stat, I'm not going to toss out a bunch of numbers in an effort to show that I know Slew backwards-and-forwards.  Besides, anyone can get those stats from Slew's website; Wikipedia or the NTRA.  There are over 766,000 Web references to the nearly-black colt who took my breath away in '76, and the hearts and souls of so many others of you out there. 

Seattle.Slew_Sports_Illustrated.jpg
OH, OK:  just one more number discussion:  during the course of his career, Slew won $1,208,726.  That may sound like chump change to youngins who think that horse racing began last year.  We must acknowledge the fact that, along with inflation of everything else--purses for horse races, most notably BIG races--have grown insanely.  That million-and-change that Slew won--well, in 2010, it would have been $4,297,674.98.  We can't compare horses, saying that any horse who races in 2012 is better or more accomplished because s/he's won so much more money than horses in Slew's generation--include Secretariat, Affirmed, etc. in that count--because it's a moot point.  Inflation is real--in 1978 I  bought a brand new, loaded Thunderbird for $5400.  

Fast-forward to today.  Today is Seattle Slew's birthday, and--although he's no longer with us, he's running in Elysian Fields--still, this is a day to celebrate.  

And 2012 is his year, for this is the 35th anniversary of his dynamic Triple Crown win.  Thirty-five years ago this coming June, Slew took those two great men, Turner and Cruguet,  and made a team--a winning team, the only undefeated Triple Crown team, ever.  (Yep, I repeated that, 'cause it's worth noting more than once.)  That kind of bond cannot be broken, even by death.  Those three had a chemistry, a brilliance that brought out every ounce of strength, power and majesty of the beautiful Slew.  When he did his war dance--dancing on his toes as he entered every track--the crowds knew they were in for a treat.  

Think about that:  the magnificent Seattle Slew was so self-aware that he danced--and then he hunkered down and exploded out of the gate with all the force of God's own thunder.

I hope that there are many celebrations of Seattle Slew's 35th Triple Crown win this year:  this is a feat that should be celebrated often, and well.  I will attend as many as possible, for I adore the horse, more than my humble words can describe.

One party that's gonna rock:  on the evening of July 20th, CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services will fete Slew and the Slew Crew, doing it up right.  Black and yellow will greet guests at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga, and race fans will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with Slew Crewmen.  Renowned artist, Brian T. Fox again will grace the gala with his presence--and the unveiling of a gorgeous new painting of Slew, on which he's working even tonight.

If you love Seattle Slew--are you reading this, Ian?--you should plan to attend.  Come, help us celebrate the otherworldly talents of Seattle Slew and the people who rode him all the way to the stars.    

I believe that Slew invented the war dance, for he boogied into my very core that day in 1976, and never left.  Happy, joyous, wonderful birthday in Heaven, Seattle Slew.  We still love you; we celebrate you--and, in 2012--we will give you at least one party that's worthy of your singularly beautiful name and legacy.

Happy Birthday, Dear Slew,
Happy Birthday, Dear Slew.
Happy Birthday, Seattle Slewwwwwwwww,
We all love you, too, Slew.

(Admit it:  you sang it with me, didn't you?)
;)


CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services/Seattle Slew gala:
www.captainyfs.org


Photo credits:
*  Seattle Slew winner's circle photo, courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese.
*  Black-and-white photo, courtesy of New York Daily News.
*  Belmont Stakes/Triple Crown cover photo, courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Leave a comment

Main Menu

Leave a Comment

M.E. Altieri

THE ALPHA MARE, commonly known as M.E. Altieri, is a writer/editor/activist who lives and breathes the art and sport of horse racing—both Arabian and Thoroughbred.
At the tender age of six months, her Grandmother plopped her on the back of a pony. (See photo.) Three years later, Mare first rode a horse—an American Quarter Horse—on her cousin's farm in Stephentown, New York. That same year her Mother and Grandma took her to Green Mountain Park, a now- (sadly) defunct Thoroughbred track in Pownal, Vermont. Next stop, Saratoga Race Course. The seed was planted, and a passion, born.
While she does have other interests (Medieval languages and theology, cats, tigers, etc.) none hold a candle to her passion for horses. She finds that horses are far-more intelligent, compassionate and kind than 99% of the people she meets. Mare's career is fascinating, if nothing else: in 2011, she served as Editor of a beautiful history book, The Purebred Arabian Horses of Iraq: Myths and Realities by Dr. Mohammad bin 'Abdul-'Aziz Al Nujaifi. She's contributed to several international horse racing publications, including Al Badia, Arabian Finish Line, Desert Mirage and Galopp Magasinet.
She's the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of f!lly Magazine-- the magazine by, for and about women in horse racing. f!lly will debut in 2013. Both Thoroughbred and Arabian racing--and women, f!llies and mare from all around the world--will be featured in the full-color, beautiful, historic publication. Magazines are the first of the media M.E. wishes to tackle: she's also writing a screenplay, and seeks the perfect venue and producer for her horse racing radio show. She's got the voice; God knows, she has opinions--she feels led to put them together and broadcast to the 51% of the racing fan base that's too-often been overlooked. (Hint: 51%...could it be, women?)
An Alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Mare hopes to use these media, including her blog here at Saratoga.com, to encourage women and girls to find their vocations in horse racing and to help make the world a more loving and nurturing place for all equines. When asked to identify her Mentor, the woman who encouraged her to follow her bliss, Mare names the great Penny Chenery. Through these various media projects, Mare hopes to do for other females what Ms. Chenery did for her--open doors, encourage and bless.


QUESTIONS?



Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga

The Thoroughbred is a distinct, created breed of horse. Saratoga Springs, New York is a unique, pristine city in Upstate New York.

Put the two together, Thoroughbreds and Saratoga, and you have America's most prestigious, lushly beautiful and important racing meet. For six weeks every summer, the world's best horses, jockeys and trainers come together to compete for trophies, cash and fame.

In this blog, we'll discover All Things Thoroughbred and the lovely international community of horsepeople, both professionals and fans, alike who set up camp in this city. Some come for six weeks, only. Others are here from April through November every year, when the Oklahoma's open. Yet others trek to town to race their mighty steeds—then fall in love with the place; buy a home and move here.

The Saratoga racing family of humans and horses is a year-round endeavour. You think that all the horses all go elsewhere after Labor Day? Then this blog is for you, too.

(Is the reference, "the Oklahoma" lost on you? Stay tuned, you'll feel like a pro in no time.)

Welcome to the only experience on Earth that can boast of such otherworldly beauty and heart-stopping thrills, all in the same breath: Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.