Published by Esquire
RICKY WILLIAMS, A PREACHER and certified master of Reiki energy healing, is thinking at the greatest horse in the world, and I have interrupted him, and the master is not altogether pleased. Birdsong rides the sweet spring breezes into the barn, where it is drowned out by circular new-age music that rounds back on itself in a kind of inchoate instrumental drone that sounds to admittedly old-age ears like the slow disembowelment of a herd of cellos. There are three crystals on the shelf next to the CD player: two chunks of rose quartz and a smaller, smokier wedge that runs more to deep gray and white. The crystals stay there all the time, and the greatest horse in the world does not attempt to eat them. He stands calmly in his stall on this fine Kentucky morning, and the master thinks at him, at least until some clumsy infidel comes stumbling in and blows the energy flow all to hell and gone. The master gives off a bit of a glare--if Reiki energy worked like laser beams, I'd be nothing more than a shadow on the floor by now--so I leave. And Seattle Slew, the greatest horse in the world, tosses me a look as I go.
He is twenty-seven years old now, old for any kind of horse, let alone the only undefeated horse ever to win the Triple Crown, let alone one that retired with nearly $1.2 million in earnings. You can see the years mainly in his flanks, the deep chestnut lightening with age, and around his mouth, too. He walks stiffly, more in angles than in the deep arcs of rolling muscle within which he once uncoiled. It is his eyes that are young. Bright, with great wide whites to them, the eyes are expressive, soulful even. Seattle Slew doesn't simply look at undifferentiated human beings who pass his stall in the fluid spring. He looks at you. You can feel it.
He's the last of them now, the last living Triple Crown winner, even though his victories in 1977 have been obscured in history by those of Secretariat four years before and by the Affirmed--Alydar duels of a year later. Slew did not demolish the competition the way Secretariat did, and he had no Alydar to push him to the wire. He ran tough and he ran smart, with smooth and dependable acceleration. He looked at them all with that great white eye of his, and he simply would not let another horse beat him.