New King of Kentucky
May 4, 1977 - The Blood-Horse
After Seattle Slew won the April 23 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), it didn't take a genius to figure out the unbeaten colt had a good chance to win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Funny thing, though, one of the owners, Karen Taylor, knew a year earlier that Slew would win.
"We were at Sunland Park the day of the 1976 Derby with trainer Bubba Cassio and Tom Dawson because we had a horse in a trial for the Riley Allison Futurity," said Karen's husband, Mickey, who raced Slew with Dr. Jim Hill and his wife, Sally. "We watched the Derby in a tack room, and Karen goes, 'We've got a horse in New York who will win the Derby next year.' Well, you can imagine how that sounded."
While wanting to believe in Karen's clairvoyance, Mickey Taylor figured it was better to be on the safe side, so he traveled to Churchill Downs the Wednesday after the Wood to set things up for Seattle Slew. He was dealt a setback right from the start.
"I talked to (president) Lynn Stone about having my dad set up his camper near Slew's stall, and he said absolutely no camper," Taylor said. "I said thanks and left. After that, I talked to Buck Wheat (track liaison) and told him what I planned to do. He got on a two-way radio, talked to someone, and said Stone said it was OK. He asked me if I intended to do that (not run), and I told him, 'We'll never know.' It was important for my dad to be here."
Seattle Slew and Chester Taylor settled into Churchill, but that didn't mean everything went smoothly. "The night before the Derby, Slew's groom, John Polston, had caught a man named Bruno, who threw some alfalfa in Slew's stall," Taylor said. "Bruno used to work sometimes as a watchman for Billy (trainer Turner). Some water and that alfalfa would have blown Slew up. The police came and were going to arrest John because he was taking it out on Bruno."
Race day came, and Seattle Slew was relaxed-until the walkover to the saddling area. "We're walking over, and the band starts the 'Star Spangled Banner' with a cymbal," Taylor said. "After that, Slew was on all fours. When it came time to be checked by the identifier, Slew walked right over him. Plus, the paddock at that time was all cramped, and Slew sweated a puddle during the saddling."
Seattle Slew broke sideways from the gate, but it didn't take him long to get in contention behind pacesetter For The Moment. Slew raced in second behind that rival before bidding him farewell at the top of the stretch.
"Angel Cordero, For The Moment's rider, said after the race that Slew was eyeballing him and For The Moment," Taylor said. "Cordero said he told Slew 'Good-bye, soul brother' right when Slew went by him."
Following the race, Taylor had another meeting with Stone. "Karen and I had about 100 logger friends come down from Washington," Taylor said. "Lynn Stone told me on the way to the director's room that the room is kind of small. I told him that if I can take your paddock, you can take my friends. And they did."