Seattle Slew is not just another pretty face. And he’s no pushover, either

John Robertson June 27 1977

Seattle Slew is not just another pretty face. And he’s no pushover, either

John Robertson June 27 1977

Seattle Slew is not just another pretty face. And he’s no pushover, either

John Robertson

Man has been exploiting horseflesh ever since Black Beauty was reduced to pulling a hack for three square bales a day while his owner sat on his London derrière and pocketed all the gelt. We all know what the movie National Velvet did for Elizabeth Taylor—but whither the horse? If the vet hadn’t given Liz a few knocker shots while he was giving Velvet his booster shots, she’d still be wearing jockey shorts and parroting such Oscar-winning lines as “Eat your oats like a good little horsey,” instead of reigning as the world’s light-heavyweight beauty queen. In 1973, when Secretariat won the Triple Crown, his owner, Penny Tweedy, tucked a cool six million dollars in syndication fees into her wall-to-wall jodhpurs, but all the horse got was room and board and all he could handle. Fillies only, however. Anita Bryant saw to that. From Triple Crown winner to professional blind date.

The latest matinee idol along shed row is a fast-mover named Seattle Slew, who was in such a hurry to be put out to stud that this month he became the first Triples Crown winner in the history of the sport never to lose a race. But owners Karen and Mickey Taylor, who bought Slew on a whim at a yearling auction for $ 17,500, after losing out on a Tiffany lamp, stubbornly refuse to allow him to retire to a life of richly deserved debauchery and lust. They want him to keep running for the good of the sport.

How would you like to be forced to run around in circles in front of cheering thousands, with some French guy sitting astride your back, flogging your arse with a whip? You would? Well, there’s no accounting for taste. What gripes me is that nobody thought of asking the horse what he wanted to do.

Let’s put the old horseshoe on the other foot for a moment. How would you like it if your boss called you in one day and said: “Jones, you’ve done such fine work around here, we want to protect this company’s bloodlines by putting you out to stud in the steno pool for the rest of your reclining years here.” One could conjure a pitiful picture of old Jones a few months later, crawling up the front steps of his house on all fours, whimpering for mercy as his ever-sympathetic wife reaches down and helps him onto the sofa, cooing softly: “You’ve been working so hard lately, dear, you’ll just have to speak to your boss about

getting another raise.” At which point Jones goes into a swoon and expires. And the family doctor will shake his head enviously and say: “Curious case, that. Took the morticians a full 48 hours to get the smile off his face.”

This is the fate that should have awaited Seattle Slew. The bred line. One fast filly after another. Y’know, I’ve often wondered how the horsey set handles the fi-

nancial arrangements. Do you pay before? Or after? Or do you just leave it discreetly on the dresser? “Your stable or my stable?” “Well, if you want to quibble about it, forget it.”

Anyway, now the truth can be told. Seattle Slew is an old friend of mine. I even sneaked down to visit him in his stall after the Belmont, and there he was, alone and broke and determined to go into business for himself.

“Lend me a dime or I’ll bite your nose off,” he whinnied.

“What do you want a dime for?” I asked.

“I want to call AÍ Eagleson to exchange a few ideas. For one thing, maybe it’s about time he put Bobby Orr out to stud. He’s got two bad knees now, and if his elbows ever go it will be too late.”

“Look,” I said. “It’s already been tried with Derek Sanderson and look what it did to him. He used to work every summer as a test driver for Sealy Posturepedic. He kissed so many girls on Cape Cod, his lips used to move in and out with the tide. And like the tide, Derek worked fast and didn’t leave a ring. Remember when he was in hospital last winter? Well, he had terminal trench mouth from endless bouts of mononuclear warfare. They caught it just in

time. But he paid a grim toll. He can never pucker again.”

Seattle Slew’s snout slammed me again. “It behooves me to suggest that you have missed the point entirely. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Orr and Sanderson and all those other swinging young hockey players used to just give it away, didn’t they?” “Gee, I never thought to ask. But, yeah, I guess they did at that.”

“Well,” whispered Slew, “Eagleson’s missing the greatest gold mine of all. Fan clubs are old hat. In horse racing we prefer to call them . . . heh, heh . . . service clubs. It’s strictly business, you understand. The ecstasy is optional. But if my owners ever caught me giving one away, they’d banish me back to the Rockies to hunt up my own like everybody else.”

“Okay, horse,” I said. “So you have this plan for the Eagle which would guarantee lifetime employment for fading athletes at prices we wouldn’t believe. Come to think of it, selective breeding may be the only way we’ll ever stop Russia, after what happened at the world championship. Maybe that’s how the Russians developed all those players, with Igor giving Olga a pinsk to grow an insk in Minsk and plying her with four-buckle overshoe remover. But one thing bothers me about all this. What can AÍ Eagleson do for you?” “Never thought you’d ask,” he whinnied. “Look, this may seem like a ball, but after I get through running and those fink owners finally let me sow more really wild oats, I want to be able to sock away a little something to take care of me in my old age. I’ve been talking to a few of the studs in the bam. And we decided that we need someone to organize us. First of all, we want to pick the fillies ourselves. Blind dates are out. And we also want to pick the time.

“The way they do it now, it has all the romance of a dentist appointment. High noon in the O.K. Corral. We’d like some soft lights, a little Mancini, touches like that. And then there’s the money. They can keep the oats. We want bread. And then there’s the matter of sharing the TV rights.” “You... you... exhibitionist,” I gasped. “For the races, you idiot. Now gimme that dime.”

I walked away, drooling with envy.

By the way, if you call me at the office this week and I don’t come to the phone, it’s because... well, you see... I think I’m a little hoarse ...