10/18/2001 12:00AM

Slew, still going strong, hits a century mark


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Seattle Slew was a exceptional racer. A champion each year he raced, winner of the Triple Crown, and the best and soundest horse of his generation, Seattle Slew met every challenge and won 14 of his 17 starts.

Yet even the most brilliant racing records will tarnish without the added luster of descendants who carry on the line and renew the glories of sires and dams year after year. In this also, Seattle Slew has proven a splendid animal, and last weekend, the 27-year-old stallion was represented by his 100th stakes winner.

From his first crop, which included champion Landaluce, Seattle Slew has shown the versatility and outstanding quality that marks the truly significant sire. He has sired juvenile champions, classic winners, Horses of the Year, and top runners of both sexes. Last year, his daughter Surfside was the champion 3-year-old filly, and this year, two of his daughters, Kentucky Oaks winner Flute and multiple Grade 1 winner Fleet Renee, are contenders to take the Eclipse Award in that division.

In addition to those top fillies, his eight stakes winners this year include Grade 1 winner Scorpion and Slow Down, a filly bred and raced by the Wertheimer brothers. Slow Down became her sire's 100th stakes winner, winning the Hillsborough Handicap at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

In contrast to this daughter's name, "slow down" is just what Seattle Slew shows little interest in doing. A dark brown son of Bold Reasoning, Seattle Slew is in the twilight of his career, but a scant 18 months ago, he seemed at the end. A problem with vertebrae in the champion's neck was causing him discomfort, and he was taken out of service as a stallion part-way through in the 2000 breeding season.

At that point, his time as a stallion seemed over, and the condition was serious enough that some thought his life was in jeopardy. The syndicate that owns Seattle Slew chose to have an operation on the horse, and a basket was put around two of the stallion's vertebrae. This device allowed Slew's body to fuse the vertebrae naturally, rather than forcing a fusion with a metal rod.

The result has been eminently successful. Although the management at Three Chimneys Farm, where the stallion stands, was typically solicitous about the stallion's comfort and well-being, Seattle Slew was independent as ever. He bounced back, healed nicely, and covered a good book of mares in the spring of 2001.

So far, all is well and happy with Seattle Slew for another breeding season next year. That is good for breeders because, in addition to siring plenty of stakes winners, Seattle Slew also sires top stallions and broodmares. In addition to the stud success of his champion sons, A.P. Indy and Capote, Seattle Slew's son General Meeting got Grade 1 winners General Challenge and Excellent Meeting, and Gold Legend sired multiple Grade 1 winner Heritage of Gold. Slew also has some promising young sons at stud who don't yet have runners. These include Strub winner Event of the Year and Chief Seattle, who ran second in the Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Seattle Slew's daughters have made him a leading broodmare sire, and his most famous grandson is two-time Horse of the Year Cigar. In many of his best races, Cigar raced on or near the pace, rather like Seattle Slew. This racing style was one of Seattle Slew's trademarks. A big horse who was almost black, Seattle Slew was very distinctive as he made the pace in his races.

A strong horse with a very quick, fluent action, Seattle Slew went to the front not from willfulness but because his stride naturally put him at the front, and he was able to maintain this pace, which was a killing one for his competition, because of the ease and rhythm of his stride.

Paul Mostert, a leading researcher into the biomechanics of racehorses, said, "His stride looked like the spokes of a wheel, and that springy rhythm allowed him to cover an amazing amount of ground with very little energy. And the smoothness of his stride also allowed him to race very fast without putting undue stress on his front legs."

Mostert noted that Mr. Prospectors are similar to Slew in their action, and perhaps this is one reason that the two lines tend to cross so well together.

Like Seattle Slew and his grandson Cigar, many of Slew's offspring frequently have shown their best form racing on or near the pace. Landaluce, Swale, Slew City Slew, Capote, and many other of his top offspring have used their natural stride to advantage in important races across the country.