05/09/2002 11:00PM

Seattle Slew's links to Sunshine State

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The death of Seattle Slew reminds me of how close that magnificent racehorse and stallion came to launching his stud career in Florida.

I was a freelance writer a quarter-century ago and Jim Hill was a young New York vet. Hill and his wife, Sally, became partners with Mickey and Karen Taylor in the ownership of Seattle Slew. But one could not be a vet in New York and an owner as well, so for a time there was no admitted proprietary connection between the Hills and Taylors. For all anyone knew, Hill was Seattle Slew's vet and Sally Hill and Karen Taylor were close friends.

Jim Hill may have been comfortable at that time but was not affluent. When Slew began to make headlines, the Slew team wanted to secure Slew's future as a stallion and reap a considerable capital gain along the way. Brownell Combs of Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky made an overture to syndicate the horse's breeding rights, with the Hills and Taylors continuing to race the horsE. When he retired they would own breeding shares. When certain deadlines came and went and the deal wasn't consummated, the Slew team began to get anxious.

I had known Jim Hill for some time and suggested he talk to Harry T. Mangurian Jr., whose Mockingbird Farm was a work in progress in those days. In Seattle Slew, Mangurian envisioned a stallion who would be what he needed to breed to his Eclipse champion Desert Vixen and his other outstanding broodmares. He would have a suitable stallion here in Florida and would not have to frequently ship his mares to Kentucky. Mangurian and his advisors met with the Slew team for a business dinner at King Arthur's Court, across from Miami International Airport.

A deal was struck very quickly. The Slew team, however, informed Mangurian that they could not complete the deal until the Combs-Spendthrift option had expired, which would happen within a couple of days. That option was about to expire-less than two hours remained-when Brownell Combs phoned the Slew team and told them that the deal had been done and Seattle Slew would retire to Spendthrift.

The first graded-stakes-winning son of Seattle Slew to stand in Florida was Slewpy. He stood at the Slew team's newly acquired Wooden Horse Stud for the 1985 breeding season. Slewpy was a New York-bred from the first crop of Seattle Slew. He began his racing career in New York-bred races but went on to win the Grade 1 Young America Stakes and Grade 1 Meadowlands Cup.

In 1985, Slewpy's introductory $50,000 fee equaled that of Tartan Farms' Fappiano. Those two stallions had the highest advertised stud fees in Florida. Only In Reality, also at Tartan Farms, allegedly had a higher stud fee among Florida stallions, although his fee was advertised as private.

Seattle Slew has left his hoofprint in Florida. There are three of his sons standing here. They are Dr. Caton (Double Diamond Farm), Hubble (Sol Red Farm), and Metfield (T-Square Stud). Two years ago at this time, Double Diamond Farm was readying a Florida-bred Seattle Slew youngster for the Saratoga yearling sales. The colt fetched $4.2 million, a Florida record for a yearling sold at auction.

The Slew saga does not end here, however, as two weeks ago, under a foal-sharing arrangement with the Taylors, Double Diamond's Kris S. mare Del River foaled a Seattle Slew colt.

"He's a nice bay colt," said Roger Brand, general manager of Double Diamond. "Too bad there won't be any more of them."