11/22/2004 12:00AM

Doug Peterson found dead in hotel

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Doug Peterson, who trained Seattle Slew during his 4-year-old season in 1978 and more recently operated a public stable in Southern California, was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday evening, according to a spokesman in the Los Angeles coroner's office. Peterson was 53.

An investigation into the cause of death is under way, according to the coroner's office. Peterson had lived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, near Hollywood Park, in recent years.

Peterson was a 26-year-old assistant to Bob Dunham when he took over the training of Seattle Slew in 1978 after previous trainer William Turner Jr. was fired by Karen and Mickey Taylor and Sally and Jim Hill, who owned Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner.

Under Peterson's direction, Seattle Slew won 5 of 7 starts, including the Marlboro Cup and Woodward Stakes. Seattle Slew finished second by a nose to Exceller in a thrilling running of the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Seattle Slew was named champion older male of 1978, the only champion Peterson trained.

Peterson began training in New Mexico in 1969. The following year, at age 18, he became the youngest trainer to win a $100,000 stakes when Texas Sky won the Land of Enchantment Futurity at La Mesa Park.

In recent years, Peterson's stable often had at least one horse of stakes-caliber, but consisted mostly of claiming horses. Peterson won a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in 2001 with Sigfreto, who won the Phil Shepherd Stakes at Fairplex Park the following year.

Peterson is survived by a son, David.