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Bill Dwyre

Two horses do rare feat, then meet

September 16, 2008|Bill Dwyre

But as they started the final turn, Affirmed, with Steve Cauthen aboard, fell back slowly. Cauthen was holding on more than riding, and later revealed his saddle had started to slip and probably hadn't been tightened properly in the paddock.

Exceller, suddenly moving as if he had been tossed from a catapult, appeared in the picture and took off after Seattle Slew, slipping by on the inside in the homestretch. He got ahead by a length, and few horses, once passed, will fight back at that late stage of the race. But Seattle Slew was like few horses.

He made a late charge, pulled ahead for a second, fell back and then was charging again as Exceller got his nose in front at the wire.

Bill Nack of Sports Illustrated wrote later: "Exceller won by the snip of his chocolate nose. . . . That battling final furlong remains [Seattle Slew's] most enduring legacy as a racehorse."

Affirmed died in 2001 and Seattle Slew in 2002, both comfortable on farms. That left us, for the first time in nearly a century, with no living Triple Crown winner.

Exceller turned out to be an unproductive sire, and despite his millionaire status and eventual Hall of Fame election, alongside Affirmed and Seattle Slew, he was eventually shipped to Europe and lived there until his owner went bankrupt.

In 1997, Exceller, the only horse ever to beat two Triple Crown champions in the same race, was sold for the value of his meat and butchered in a slaughterhouse.

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Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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