Senior Citizen Slew: The Last Years
May 18, 2002 - The Blood-Horse
by Lenny Schulman

Though not as glorious as his salad days on the racetrack, in the last two years of his life Seattle Slew again showed the mettle that made him a champion in all he endeavored.

Buoyed by the constant loving care of owners Karen and Mickey Taylor as well as groom Tom Wade, Seattle Slew survived two elaborate surgeries to correct arthritic changes in his vertebrae. He roared back from the first and resumed his heralded stud career, and came back from the second in seemingly good shape before succumbing to the weight of his 28 years on May 7.

When Slew began exhibiting a lack of coordination in January, 2000, he was treated for a neurological deficit. A month later he was diagnosed with a compression of his spinal cord due to arthritis, and removed from stallion duty. A surgical team drilled a circular hole between two vertebrae. A small titanium basket was then hammered down into the spinal cord and screwed in. The bone that was removed was harvested and returned to act as its own bone graft. Seventy-five minutes after he was closed up, the old horse rolled, then sprung to his feet so well the people watching were moved to tears.

Many have criticized the owners' decision to return Seattle Slew to stud duty in 2001, but the big horse's libido never faltered, and he was happy to go back to work. He bred confidently and aggressively, as was his wont, and got 90% of his mares in foal.

In late February of this year the son of Bold Reasoning again exhibited a lack of coordination while walking and was removed from stud service. He returned to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for another surgery to fuse the joint between two vertebrae in his neck. Once again, calling on all his considerable intelligence and resiliency, he began a rapid recovery. Seattle Slew returned to Three Chimneys, where rest was prescribed for the next four weeks.

However, from his barn, Slew could hear mares arriving at the farm to be bred, and the excitement was wearing on him. So the Taylors relocated their star to John Sikura Jr.'s Hill 'n' Dale Farm at the beginning of April. He settled in nicely, with the Taylors and Wade walking him three times a day, plus grazing sessions during his recuperation. In his final weeks Seattle Slew hosted various media members who visited him to write 25th-anniversary stories of his Triple Crown triumph. He died peacefully with his groom and owners at his side 25 years to the day of his Kentucky Derby (gr. I) triumph.

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