Secretariat

A Farewell to Billy Turner

Those who are regulars here can expect to read mostly feel-good stories with feel-good endings. This is not one of them. Who Billy Turner was and how he treated people and shared the gift of Seattle Slew is indeed a feel-good story, but where life led him is not. To those reading this, it is not meant to feel sorry for Turner, but to open one’s eyes to the sometimes harsh realities we must face. ~ Steve Haskin

A Farewell to Billy Turner

By Steve Haskin

 

Seattle Slew was not just another all-time great; not just one of a small iconic group of horses to sweep the Triple Crown. And not just one of the fastest horses of all time, For 41 years he was the only undefeated Triple Crown winner in the history of the sport, plucked out of a yearling sale for a meager $17,500. His story was meant to be one of racing’s great Cinderella fairy tales, and the first few chapters read as such, as his fame spread around the world. But then, somehow, the story began to unravel, as did all the major characters. Billy Turner, the true hero of the story and the architect of what would become arguably racing’s great equine dynasty, should have used his masterful training job with Seattle Slew as a springboard to success, stardom, and a place in racing’s Hall of Fame.

But that didn’t happen. Despite eventually conquering the alcohol demons that got him fired as trainer of Seattle Slew, a move he fully understood at the time, Turner’s career plummeted into racing’s abyss, a dark and empty place inhabited by cheap, mostly unsound, New York-breds, and even those dwindled down to four or five until the Thoroughbred finally was gone completely from Turner’s life. All that was left was the memory of one of the greatest horses of all time and their magical journey together through the Triple Crown.

At first, it looked as if Turner’s success would continue when he won the 1980 Metropolitan Handicap with William Reynolds’ Czaravich. But that would be his last hurrah.

As the mega-trainers came along with hundreds of horses, dominating the sport, there was no longer room for Billy Turner, despite his unmatched credentials. Many thought for sure they would have given him a lifetime access to good horses and a pathway to success. But credentials, no matter how impressive, are worthless if no one acknowledges them. And racing’s prominent owners either forgot or chose to forget the extraordinary skills of a lifetime horsemen, who took a speed crazy colt and turned him into a legend.

For the next four decades following Slew’s Triple Crown sweep, the only time Turner’s name was in the news was when the media contacted him to ask his opinion about a Derby and Preakness winner who was on the verge of making history. It became evident to Turner and his wife Pat, who he met at an AA meeting in 1991 and married in 1998, that Billy’s racing life had been relegated to the past. The present was fading quickly and there seemed to be no future.

All he had to cling to was the title of racing’s only living Triple Crown winning trainer, a title many fans felt should have gotten him into the Hall of Fame, but the years passed and those doors never even opened a crack.

All Turner could do over the years was train the few cheap New York-breds he was given and wait for a phone call that never came.

“The owners we did have cared about Bill, but all they had were unsound New York-breds who Bill had to back off on for months at a time,” Pat said. “It was a struggle watching him train those horses and so depressing to go to the barn every day. Bill was always known for his training of Slew, but his real genius was taking horses no one wanted and turning them into winners, but these were beyond his capabilities. We finally got down to three to five horses and couldn’t even feed ourselves. When Bill was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2015 it ripped the heart out of him.”

That was the same year Turner finally lost his title as the only living Triple Crown winning trainer, a title he held since Laz Barrera’s death in 1991. Despite falling on hard times and his career hanging by a thread, Turner was genuinely thrilled for American Pharoah, his connections, and most of all the sport and the fans, who had to wait 37 years to celebrate racing’s greatest achievement.

“I think it’s great,” Turner said the night of the Belmont Stakes. “If we didn’t get it done right about now it would have hurt racing’s fan base. You couldn’t have held the public’s attention much longer. I thought American Pharoah ran the best race of his life and improved with every race through the Triple Crown.”

That was typical of Turner, who never had any bitterness toward Slew’s owners, Karen and Mickey Taylor and Jim and Sally Hill for firing him or for the drastic decline in his career.

“I never heard him be bitter about anything or say one bad word about the Hills and Taylors,” Pat said. “If anything, he was too hard on himself. He took everything to heart.”

Turner said back in the early ‘90s he had no animosity toward the Taylors and Hills for the breakup. “There’s no bitterness at all,” he said. “We all made mistakes, but we’ve grown and learned a lot. If I was in their position I would have done the same thing. I appreciate everything they did for me and have no hard feelings whatsoever. I just feel very fortunate to have had a horse like Slew come along in my lifetime. Luckily, even with my problem I was able to appreciate everything Slew accomplished as a 4-year-old. The alcohol didn’t finish me off for another six or seven years following Slew. After practically drinking myself to death I still was able to make a solid comeback and am grateful for everything. Here I am the only living trainer to have won the Triple Crown. I figure I’ve gotten a lot more than I deserve.”

Seattle Slew’s groom John Polston recalled, “I didn’t know all the details, but I really enjoyed working for Billy. I knew Billy before I knew the Taylors and the Hills. You could walk up to him and ask him for 20 dollars and whether he knew you or not he’d give it to you. Billy is one of those happy-go-lucky guys, but he really didn’t like the publicity. When Billy left, he just wished me good luck. I could tell he was hurt. I still couldn’t believe a guy who had just won the Triple Crown would get fired. We all knew Billy liked to drink, but as far as I’m concerned he was always a good trainer.”

Hall of Fame trainer P.G. Johnson once told Pat, “If I had a trainer who was drinking and he won the Triple Crown I would buy him the bar.”

Jim Hill explained, “Billy could do the right thing with the horse, but he just couldn’t do the right thing with himself.” Sally Hill added, “People do get divorced. It certainly wasn’t what any of us wanted.”

As it turned out, the Hills and Taylors also got divorced, and their partnership was dissolved following a heated court battle, with Hill suing Taylor for misappropriation of funds. The” Slew Crew” was no more. The multi-million dollar kingdom they had built from a $17,500 yearling had come crumbling down as quickly as it shot up. As Turner said, “Slew became so big that it just consumed everybody involved.”

In the years following Slew, Turner waited for his next big opportunity, but he was not the type to go out there and try to sell himself, unlike the new breed of trainers that were coming into the sport. Turner was a humble, gentle soul who just loved horses, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

His first wife, Paula, knew he wasn’t cut out for the dog-eat-dog world of Thoroughbred racing and having to hustle to get horses.

She recalled their first date: “It was on the banks of the Brandywine River, near Unionville, Pennsylvania. Billy had his binoculars to his eyes, watching birds and I sat on a rock singing Simon and Garfunkel songs. I realized this interesting, brilliant guy loved nature and horses as much as I did. He was so shy and modest. Billy had been immersed in a hard-living culture, with its hard knocks the norm. I saw the difficulty of such a shy soul trying to make his way in a world where success often depends on how well you put yourself out there…talking to potential owners, when you’re only truly at home with the horses. It eventually took its toll.”

Paula also recalled the early days when Seattle Slew came into their life. She had grown up in an orphanage and kept having the same recurring dream. “I was a horse-crazy kid with no access to horses other than through books and westerns. I kept dreaming that I rode and trained a black stallion, and as we flew faster and faster he told me he was the fastest horse in the world.”

Paula told Billy about her dream after they were married when she realized he had been a successful steeplechase jockey from the photos on his parents’ wall. Then one day, years later, when she was training and galloping horses at Mrs. Henry Obrey’s Andor Farm in Monkton, Maryland, she was sent a big, near-black colt owned by the Hills and Taylors that eventually was going to be sent to Billy in New York. He was still kind of raw and clumsy and she nicknamed him Huey after the gawky cartoon character Baby Huey. Also, his right front leg turned out sharply from the knee down and he was a bit slow to learn; he thought everything was a game. But he soon began to learn his lessons well and it was time to send him and two other horses to Billy.

Then came his first gallop; his first look at a racetrack. That is when Paula realized this was the horse in her dreams. As he flew around the track, she thought, “This feels better than any stakes horse; this is like nothing I’ve ever known.” He had the “power of a locomotive and the grace of Nureyev,” and as she put it, “We were in another universe altogether.”

She jogged back to Billy and told him, “This is it, Willy. This is it.” He replied, “What are you talking about?” Then she said the words that would change his life, “Huey. He’s the one you’ve been waiting for.”

The following year, Seattle Slew and Billy Turner became household names and made history together. Turner was praised for his handling of Slew and getting this blazing-fast horse who ran seven furlongs in a track-record 1:20 3/5 in his 3-year-old debut to win not only the Kentucky Derby but the Belmont Stakes. After that allowance race, Turner asked, “How am I going to get this horse to go a mile and a half?” With all his steeplechase training he was able to get him to relax and the Belmont turned out to be the easiest of all his stakes victories. Baby Huey had become the first undefeated Triple Crown winner.

But the relationship between Turner and the Taylors and the Hills began to deteriorate over several disagreements, including running him in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park only three weeks after the Belmont Stakes; a race in which he suffered his first career defeat, finishing a dismal fourth. That would be his last race as a 3-year-old and the last time he would be trained by Turner.

Between their disagreements and Turner’s drinking problem, it was decided to send Seattle Slew to another trainer for his 4-year-old campaign, in which he would stamp himself as one of the all-time greats. Turner had some success after that, but his drinking problem got worse and his career began to suffer. Then he met Pat.

Despite Billy and Pat both conquering their demons, his career continued to decline. No owners would send him good horses. He finally was forced to retire several years ago and he and Pat moved to Florida when she got a job at Pavla and Erik Nygaard’s farm breaking 2-year-olds who were going through the sale.

“Billy came to the farm to be around the horses but it was tough on him,” she said. “It was painful for him to be around horses and not be involved in any way. The last few years were very difficult.”

One morning, about two years ago, Turner suffered a broken neck in a mowing accident and had a long and painful recovery. Pat said it was Bob Baffert who donated “a significant amount of money for his care.” While in ICU it was discovered he had prostate cancer that had spread to his bones.

This past December 17, at age 81, he was admitted to the hospital suffering from shortness of breath, and tests revealed the cancer had spread to his lungs. He chose not to receive further treatment and on December 27, he was sent home under hospice care. 

With medical costs spiraling out of control, the Nygaards set up a GoFundMe page for Turner and agreed to match up to $10,000 of funds raised.

On December 31, Pat crawled into bed with Billy and held him in her arms. “He died very gently a half hour later,” she said.

Pat was numb for several days before it all overwhelmed her. “Today I feel like I hit a brick wall,” she said. “I can’t believe all the outpouring of love and admiration people had for Billy.”

She thought back to that fall day in 1991 when she first met Billy at the AA meeting in Middleburg, Virginia and there was instant compatibility as they talked about many things in addition to recovery and horses.

“From that day on there wasn’t a moment I’ve had with Billy that wasn’t comforting,” she said. “Billy made everyone around him comfortable, from the owners to the backstretch workers.”

Anyone who knew Billy Turner is well aware he would not want any tears shed for him. At the end he might very well have been recalling the time he shed tears. That was when he attempted to talk about the death of his beloved Seattle Slew. They now reside together in racing’s pantheon.

Photo by Steve Haskin


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192 Responses to “A Farewell to Billy Turner”

  1. pro vet says:

    interview about Flightline…….Youtube …….thoroughbred daily news channel…………..

  2. Greg Marsh says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for your sensitive and honest portrayal of one of horse racing’s least appreciated horsemen.

    I work for a Christian inner-city Mission here in Winnipeg. Most of the people we help have had alcohol and / or drug struggles. Most of them have had childhood abuse issues (usually emotional abuse from their fathers) which has scarred them to the point where they find rare peace and solace in escaping. Those of us who are clean and sober and who haven’t struggled with these issues likely “self-medicate” ourselves at times with shopping (retail therapy) or eating treats. My biggest weakness is dark chocolate. In many ways, all people are alike.

    I would never consider any of those I work with to be irresponsible or not worthy of work. With support and (often) through forgiveness, they can move beyond their struggles and challenges.

    I realize it is unfair to compare today with the 1970s – a time when people held more rigid (and less sympathetic) views about drug and alcohol use and users – but it is heartbreaking to read your article about how a person who no one seemed to have a bad word to say about him – either as a person or a horseman – could be cast aside so ignobly.

    Thinking back on the 1970s and the triple crown winners and near misses, I can’t think of another trainer who existed so under the spotlight than Billy Turner (with the possible exception of Juan Arias, the trainer of Canonero II.)

    Billy Turner deserved a better fate. I say this at a time when the word “deserved” is overused and is applied to people deserving a new car, a better job, a Happy Meal. Mr. Turner was everything an owner would want in a trainer – a man who would care for their charges as though the horses was his own, and a trainer who could bring out the best in the horse.

    It would be a deserved though belated honor to see Billy Turner inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame. He deserves it as much for not quitting the sport he loved after it had turned its back on him as much for his work in turning a $17,500 purchase into one of the most influential horses and stallions of my lifetime.

    greg (Fan of Damascus)

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you so much, Greg. So good to hear from you again, I appreciate you providing your first hand knowledge of the people and the problem. It is very sincere and enlightening. Keep up the great work.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Great post my friend!

      You are to be commended for your constructive job in the community.

      Keep it up !

      and try to make a little time to share your views under Steve’s blogosphere…

  3. Bill Dawson says:

    Todd Pletcher’s promising colt, Emmanuel, was back on the track today, (1-15), recording a bullet 4 furlong work in 48.43, 1/22, at Palm Meadows. He spiked a fever prior to racing in an allowance race, on 1-7, and was scratched by the track Vet.
    Emmanuel broke his maiden at first asking, going a mile in 1:36.47, drawing off by 6 3/4 lengths, at GP. By More Than Ready, out of a Hard Spun mare, he appears to be a colt with plenty of upside moving forward.

    • Lynda King says:

      Lots to like about this colt in my opinion.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Yes indeed Lynda, there’s a lot to like about Emmanuel.

        Just to be clear, I’m not trying to upstage our host, posting the first edition of his Derby Dozen (next week), but I thought I would list my top 12 contenders on the Derby trail.

        Rattle N Roll
        Simplification
        Epicenter
        Emmanuel
        My Prankster
        Slow Down Andy
        Smile Happy
        Pappacap
        Chasing Time
        Mo Donegal
        Classic Causeway
        Joe

        • Matthew W says:

          I’m starting to watch the works again….Messier looked fantastic today

        • Mike Relva says:

          RNR has zero works. I like Brown’s horse.

        • Lynda King says:

          Like your list Bill have many of them on my list.

          • Bill Dawson says:

            Thanks Lynda
            Would you care to post your top 12? Maybe you and some of the regulars will post their lists just to compare how they stack up against Steve’s Derby Dozen when he posts next week.

            • Lynda King says:

              Not in any particular order yet:
              Rattle N Roll
              Commandperformance
              Tiz The Bomb
              Emmanuel
              Zandon
              Slow Down Andy
              Smile Happy
              Pappacap
              Chasing Time
              Jack Christopher
              Classic Causeway
              Simplification
              Giant Game

              • Bill Dawson says:

                Hi Lynda

                I just finished reading Steve’s “Derby Rankings Week 1”, your list included 10 of his top 14 horses. My list included 9 of his top 14, and I had 2 in his KOTD segment, (Emmanuel & Joe). It appears you and I are right there or thereabouts with our rankings versus Steve’s. 🙂
                Good luck moving forward on the Derby trail.

    • Bigtex says:

      He was very impressive.

  4. Paula Higgins says:

    This was so bittersweet and really heartbreaking at the same time. I knew Mr. Turner had problems but never
    realized that his life was so hard for such a long period of time. Thank GOD he had Pat. I think she must
    be a gem to realize what an amazing person she married. He was a brilliant trainer and it speaks volumes
    about what is wrong with humans and the sport that no one would give him a shot again. Once you
    have a reputation for alcoholism, people are reluctant to give you a chance. But the reality is that all people
    deal with it differently and many are able to function at their previous levels. They just need a chance.

    When I think of Seattle Slew, I do not think of anyone else associated with him but Billy Turner. it will be forever
    that way for me. I think he did his absolute best for Slew and i think he tried to keep him from being mishandled
    by his other connections. A special place in heaven for that alone.

    I think it is quite wonderful that Bob Baffert came to their aid financially when he was at his sickest. None of us
    is one dimensional and this is the truly kind and generous side of Bob Baffert.

  5. Profsdottir says:

    “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’ ” Such an amazing partnership Turner had with the outstanding Seattle Slew. But it’s hard not to think what his life, extraordinary as it was at times, could have been. Thank you for this compassionate take on a complicated, beautiful and talented soul, may he rest in peace.

  6. Derek Manthey says:

    I’m saying this to everybody. How about keeping your comments relevant to Steve’s post It’s getting sickening seeing long winded sililoquies that don’t pertain to the subject Steve has graciously wrote for us. He doesn’t have to do this and the people who don’t stick to the subject are showing a lack of respect for him and the rest of is who truly enjoy his works. If you want a debate the first thing you have to do is stick to the subject!!!!!!!!!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you!! Derek. I allowed it this time because it is the last column before the Derby Rankings, but it ruins the whole flow of the subject matter. The person below who constantly tries my patience is on slippery ground and I wont tell him again. I gave him his final warning. Also the administrator, whose patience is running thin with certain posters, will be laying down the law in next week’s comments. It was his idea and being it is his website I back him fully.

  7. Coldfacts says:

    I recently saw a blog tiled as follows – The 3 best KD Prospects not trainer by Bob Baffert. I was appalled.

    Whilst BB has won seven KDs. this shouldn’t give rise to such a theme for a blog. It represents a gross disrespect of other trainers.

    Nowhere in Europe would there be any blogger that would highlight the 3 best Epsom Derby prospects not trained by Aidan O’Brien. Trainer O’Brien has been just as dominant in the Epsom Derby as BB has been in the KD. But those with knowledge of the sport are well aware that there is no monopoly in any Derby. Success is only for a season or a few. Who would a have thought that Charlie Appleby would have emerged the TC force he has become?

    Steve Haskin’s comments involving Bob Baffert also captured my attention – Derby Rankings is gonna start off crazy until a Baffert decision is made on all counts. That left me less appalled, but this comment still had me wondering why Bob Baffert is being mentioned.

    Both statements though different in context, infers that BB’s KD prospects should first be assessed before a determination can be made of all others. I consider same grossly inappropriate and a blatant disregard for history. See Below:

    In 2019 BB was represented in the KD by the Champion 2YO (Game winner); SA Derby winner (Roadster) and KD Post time favorite (Improbable). None of the aforementioned hit the board. Those were the best 3 KD prospects not trained by other trainers, and they finished amongst the also ran.

    After winning the KD with War Emblem in 2002. BB didn’t win the KD for the next 12 years, despite being represented by 8 plus entrants. BB isn’t the only trainer that has had a period of repeated success. Wayne Lukas in his prime was just as dominant for a 5 years period

    Mr. Baffert is banned from submitting entrants to the KD for the next 2 years. Why have some seen it fit to disregard this cold fact and still reference him in relation to Derby prospects, is baffling.

    Why is there no apparent regard for the decision made by CDI due to BB’s scroll of violations? By mentioning a banned trainer in relation to KD prospects. Doesn’t this indicate failure to acknowledge the severity of his transgressions. Why provide him with the undeserving attention. Mr. Baffert should be treated like the repeated offender he is. He is not to be revered. Certainly not by men of repute.

    Choosing to reference a trainer whilst he is under sanction, could inadvertently signal the endorsement of a trainer who has brought the sport into disrepute.

    No one man is bigger than the sport irrespective of his record of achievements.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I know you dont pay attention so I will tell you once again for the last time. First off, Dont ever bring up another blog on here and if you want to ignore the fact that Bob Baffert has several Derby horses that likely will have to go to other trainers if they are going to get to the Derby and are still in limbo you can do so, but dont bring this up again or your comments will be deleted, as this one should have been.

    • pro vet says:

      garbage……

  8. pro vet says:

    oBVIOUSLY , EddieF did not leave because of a comment. They probably turned his internet off, or lost his house. Hard to believe he bet.

  9. Matthew W says:

    Opening First Saturday in May…..”I’ll Have Another Couple”, a Paul Reddam Production! Directed by Doug O’Neill, co-starring Mario Gutierrez, and introducing Slow Down Andy, as “Threepeat”…..special guest Star Lava Man, as himself!

    • Coldfacts says:

      The last KD winner to sire a KD winner was Unbridled. Before him it was Seattle Slew. This has been highlighted to indicate the rarity of the occurrence and the historic hurdle Slow Down Andy has to negotiate. He has to be significantly better than his generation to win the KD. But then, there is always luck.

      • Matthew W says:

        I like him cuz he ran so green, and beat Bob B’s horse (whom he likes, and seemed to fire–Prat said “no excuse”), and it was his first time two turns….trainer did not want to run/was genuinely surprised he won—in a year that has not yet been clearly defined as to whom is going to go on and improve—here’s a horse that has at least bucked a strong trend: he beat Bob, in a race at Los Al that he has owned., and he seems to have upside…gets the cheaters next, blinkers off of a win.

        • Matthew W says:

          Also you think he has to be significantly better than the rest because of a statistic.. .Derby winner siring a Derby winner—there has been 2 in past 37 years,…..I do look at trends, at handicapping angles, THAT one is not one of them, you could have said Bob never lost the Los Al Futurity—until he did.

          • Roberta Greevey says:

            Many people here consider trends in their handicapping. I do too, but I always ask a question: “Why is it so?” If I don’t have a reasonable answer, I move on. I would move on from the derby winner/sire “trend”.

  10. Kerri says:

    Lovely article- I think the stories surrounding greatness and all it’s miraculous connections are fascinating!! Thank you

  11. Bigtex says:

    When you learn the type of person Billy Turner was and the fondness people developed for him, it warms the heart that he was the one that got to navigate the career of Slew and enjoy the fruits of his labor and, I’m sure, the pure joy of watching his horse run. Paula’s comments, “This feels better than any stakes horse; this is like nothing I’ve ever known.” He had the “power of a locomotive and the grace of Nureyev,” and as she put it, “We were in another universe altogether.” This is how I felt when I saw American Pharoah run at Oaklawn. You can only hope you get moments like these in your lifetime.

  12. Roberta Greevey says:

    I just wanted to throw in my three cents about about contributors of days past. This is the nature of discussion groups on the internet. People come and they go. I remember all of those mentioned and they were wonderful. Windolin and BelmontBarb were always informative and thoughtful. My recollection is that Windolin just finally couldn’t support racing because of the treatment of horses. Dr Drunkinbum was hilarious, and he knew racing inside out. I believe when Eddie was Nick (LOL) he had a profile photo that along with his good humor and his smarts made me consider hunting him down even if he was 20 years younger than me. Ha ha! Nevertheless new folks come on board and the cycle of life goes on.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I totally agree, and if someone who is one of the top posters on here and certainly one of the most popular suddenly decides to leave without saying a word, that is his prerogative. I would just be disappointed if the reason he left is because he took offense to some innocuous comment, especially when he can dish it out and always in a clever way, Yes. I’ve always wondered what happened to Windolin, Belmont Barb, and Native Dancer and so many other regulars, but I fully understand people have their own lives to live away from here. And new people show up to replace them. Dr. D, Nick Carraway, and EddieF, who were all very similar, were fun and informative, and all just disappeared. I only asked about Eddie hoping he’s OK. Obviously he decided overnight, as the other two did, not to return. I only wish him the best. We all will miss him.

  13. Coldfacts says:

    Our host has indicated that his Derby Rankings is gonna start off crazy until a Baffert decision is made on all counts. I find said disclosure interesting for a number of reasons.

    CDI’s decision is final. The organization doesn’t intend to reverse its decision. This was made clear in an internal memo issued by the CEO which reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to hold BB accountable for the damage he has done. The memo further stated that the organization is prepared to meet him in court any time of his choosing. The preponderance of evidence is in CDI’s favor and consequently any thoughts of a likely reversal of the 2 years ban must be viewed as a fantasy.

    I concur that the 3YOs currently being trained by BB are in limbo. But that this is due to the owner’s decision. History reveals that horses transferred from BB’s barn have not displayed the same level of performance. The quicker the program change is contemplated, the better it will for the procurement of points and the negative effect of the program change.

    Ken Mc Peek’s 4 on the trail will likely occupy prime rankings. There are likely to be in contention with probably 3 form the Asmussen barn. Todd Pletcher has about 3 decent prospects. Mark Casse has 2. Dale Romans has 2 decent colts. Chad brown has 2 nice colts.

    Ignoring the Baffert contingent. The top 12 should emerge from the barns highlighted above. There would be nothing crazy about a top 12 from this group. But then, there are other 3YOs who are not as prominent that could add craziness to the mix.

    • Bigtex says:

      Well I say shame on Churchill Downs if that’s their final decision. It’s not good for the Derby and it seems petty in my humble opinion.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        They certainly have made up their mind that Bob Baffert is evil, not good for fhe Derby image, and no longer is welcome. One might ask, but he’s won the Derby 7 times and has won it in 2015, 2018, 2020, and 2021. Just perhaps that is really why he no longer is good for the Derby. They are sick of him winning, and then to come up positive, what a great excuse to get rid of him and give others a chance. After all, if Bob Baffert can make winning the Derby look so easy, that’s not a good image for America’s biggest race that is supposed to be so hard to win. Not saying that is the case here. Just a thought that it might not be as crazy as one would think.

        • Roberta Greevey says:

          That’s not crazy speculation, but I’m thinking it’s not because he wins the Derby so often. It’s because he gets violations in so many big races including the derby. There’s also the SA Derby/Justify fiasco where the state protocol wasn’t followed, and that allowed Justify to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. In my mind, it’s the violations, not the wins.

          • Steve Haskin says:

            You could very well be right. The violations didnt seem to bother them until it happened in the Derby. So it seems like it’s more protecting their brand than for the good of racing. Bottom line is they can do whatever they want. They are a private company. But let’s save any more discussions on Bob’s 3-year-olds and the ban for the Derby Rankings next week.

          • pro vet says:

            Why do you call the Justify thing a fiasco?…….it was a nothing. proved to be a nothing.

  14. deacon says:

    Just to follow up a few thoughts about Seattle Slew. I was at Hollywood Park when J.O. Tobin upset him in the Swaps Stakes.
    I happen to bet Tobin that day. I just making that long trip to the west coast wouldn’t be in his best interest.
    If I had a contention on Slew’s Triple Crown would only be that I didn’t feel the quality he faced were near as good as some of the other Triple Crown. It’s only a small contention but Slew was brilliant in many of his later races. I watched when beat Affirmed & Exceller so that added to his legacy.
    This story about Billy Turner was very heart felt, I learned a lot the man thanks to your brilliant blog.
    You always out do yourself.
    Every story you tell is an encore to the last story.
    Unless I missed it I would really like to see a story about one of my favorite fillies, Dark Mirage.

    Thank you writing this piece, it was marvelous!!!

  15. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks Steve for this touching homage to Billy Turner Jr., a great Horseman who “talked more to the horses than to the people”. Billy Turner, as you said, is the maker of Seattle Slew’s immortality and all the joyful memories and elation of all his races.

    Turner’s famous quote about Seattle Slew’s future after his 2-year-old championship stating “If he doesn’t win the Triple Crown I haven’t done my job.”, is a testament to the Horseman’s sense of responsibility, honesty and integrity.

    Turner did not have support after parting ways with Seattle Slew but his great training skills led Strike Gold and Play On to excellent 3-year-old campaigns in 1983 and 1981 respectively.

    His second best horse was Punch Line who won all the G2 sprint Stakes in 1997 and 1998.

    Turner also did an impeccable job with Gaviola leading her to a 6-win streak including 4 Stakes in 2000. The daughter of Cozzene was later sold for $1,900,000 in foal to Gone West…

    The last Stakes horse trained by Turner was Dry Martini in 2009.

    The following links takes you to the last interview to Turner last December.
    ***youtube.com/watch?v=3VaMQ-gP-3E***

    My condolences to Turner’s Family and friends.

    God Bless all the people who have helped William H. Turner, Jr. in his good and critical years.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Most People dont realize he got fired as trainer for Robert Lehmann and then had to watch his favorite horse for Lehmann, Dust Commander, win the Derby. He was sick over it.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Yes Steve … Turner was 29 years old then.

        Turner always said that Lehman’s was the strongest stable he’s ever worked for but the owner did not like the fact that out of the fifteen 2-year-old horses in training ‘only’ seven had won by July…!

        Lehmann was not very fond Turner’s patience and horsemanship… I guess.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          No he wasnt. After he won the Derby he said on the winner’s stand that it wasnt as gratifying as big game hunting and bagging a tiger. That didnt go over too well.

          • Roberta Greevey says:

            That says all you need to know about the man as a thoroughbred owner… and probably as a human being.

          • Davids says:

            Perhaps John Lennon was right about “Instant Karma”…in 2008 the tiger got it’s revenge on Mr Lehman in some respect. How repugnant, killing such a beautiful animal. Big game hunting, what an incongruous term.

  16. Nelson Maan says:

    My comment was “awaiting moderation” because I included a link to the last interview given by Ted Turner last December.

    I hope that searching for “Triple Crown winning trainer of Seattle Slew, Billy Turner, w/ California native Andrea Baxter.” will take you that affectionate video…!

  17. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks Steve for this touching homage to Ted Turner Jr., a great Horseman who “talked more to the horses than to the people”. Ted Turner, as you said, is the maker of Seattle Slew’s immortality and all the joyful memories and elation of all his races.

    Turner’s famous quote about Seattle Slew’s future after his 2-year-old championship stating “If he doesn’t win the Triple Crown I haven’t done my job.”, is a testament to the Horseman’s sense of responsibility, honesty and integrity.

    Turner did not have support after parting ways with Seattle Slew but his great training skills led Strike Gold and Play On to excellent 3-year-old campaigns in 1983 and 1981 respectively.

    His second best horse was Punch Line who won all the G2 sprint Stakes in 1997 and 1998.

    Turner also did an impeccable job with Gaviola leading her to a 6-win streak including 4 Stakes in 2000. The daughter of Cozzene was later sold for $1,900,000 in foal to Gone West…

    The last Stakes horse trained by Turner was Dry Martini in 2009.

    The following link takes you to the last interview given by Ted Turner last December … it starts at 16 minutes and 20 seconds in the video.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VaMQ-gP-3E

    I can say that his love for horses kept him alive and in good spirit for very long time…!

    My condolences to Patti Rich, daughter Nelle Durizch, son Liam, and stepdaughter Jessica Rich. Let consolation be in knowing that every one loved, admired and respected the legendary Trainer.

    God Bless all the people who have helped William H. Turner, Jr. in his good and critical years.

  18. Betsy says:

    Steve, thank you for this – I’m tearing up. I’m so sorry Billy never received the due he deserved, just like Slew never did for a long time. Billy deserved so much better than what the industry gave him; the fact that he wasn’t bitter floors me.

    I am certain that Slew was waiting for him …now they are together again..

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Billy was rare in that regard. No bitterness. Maybe he realized that having Slew was something 99.9 of the trainers can only dream about

  19. Roberta Greevey says:

    I remember going to Hialeah with my dad to see the Flamingo stakes in 1977. I turned 21 the year before and I went to every Flamingo Stakes until the track closed. I’ve been to every Florida Derby except two since 1976. But I remember Slew clearly in the Flamingo, winning quite easily against what was probably a far inferior field. Not sure if it was then or maybe years later when my dad talked about how amazing it was that Seattle Slew had won the Derby after having just six races. Horses with six starts in those days were probably immediate tosses. Now you can only hope that Derby runners have had as many as six starts. Slew didn’t achieve what he did on just talent alone. He needed the right trainer, and at that time maybe Billy Turner was the only trainer who could have gotten him to the winner’s circle at Churchill.

  20. Mike Relva says:

    Wish he were given more horses,he deserved for sure.

  21. Steve Haskin says:

    I didnt mean to start a major conversation by asking about Eddie F. Doesnt anyone else want to talk about Billy Turner or is that it?

    • Vince says:

      Fantastic article. I remember those Slew days well. 2nd best racehorse I’ve ever seen. Right behind Big Red.
      The greatest race I witnessed at Belmont park was Slew, Affirmed and Excellent. What a race.
      I remember the fallout with Billy. I never knew the reasons for it.
      Truly he was a man that got ate up by the business.
      His story would make a wonderful movie.

  22. pro vet says:

    A good youtube channel is PAST THE WIRE……todays vid about baffert with a lawyer was ok…little boring………good vid “a talk with broberg” was good…….

  23. pro vet says:

    Alright……..until i get an apology from Mike Reiva……..i am holding Eddie F hostage in by basement……troll me?…….you pay the price. It wasn’t hard, tracking down his trailer…..in Meth head tenn.

    Maybe he made a new year’s resolution………..to only do things he knows about………

  24. Steve Haskin says:

    Should we put out an APB on Eddie F? Hope he’s OK.

    • Davids says:

      Steve, this was the last post from EddieF, he was responding to the poster below.

      Bill Dawson says:
      December 30, 2021 at 9:22 pm
      ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

      Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.
      Give it up EddieF, you’re just not that funny.

      Reply
      EddieF says:
      December 30, 2021 at 10:09 pm
      You win. I’m gone.