One of the greatest rivalries in racing history would have to be Affirmed and Alydar. They raced each other 10 times, from June 15, 1977, in the Youthful at Belmont, to August 19, 1978, in the Travers at Saratoga. Affirmed won seven of these matches including thrilling duels in all three Triple Crown races.
Trainer: Laz Barrera
Jockey: Steve Cauthen
1977 9 7 2 0 $343,477 1978 11 8 2 0 $901,541 1979 9 7 1 1 $1,148,800 Totals 29 22 5 1 $2,393,818
Trainer: John Veitch
Jockey: Jorge Velasquez
1977 10 5 4 0 $285,026 1978 10 7 3 0 $565,071 1979 6 2 2 1 $107,098 Totals 26 14 9 1 $957,195
They met six times as 2 year olds, the first in the Youthful Stakes at Belmont. This was Alydar's first start and he finished 5th while Affirmed won. They met five more times with Affirmed winning the Hopeful, Futurity, and Laurel Futurity while Alydar took the Great American and the Champagne. Alydar ended the year with a record of 10 starts, 5 wins, and 4 seconds. Affirmed ended the year with a record of 9 starts, 7 wins, and 2 seconds and was given the Eclipse Award as Champion 2 Year Old of 1977.
Alydar at the Kentucky Derby
|1978 Kentucky Derby chart notes:|
AFFIRMED away alertly but held in reserve for six furlongs, moved up boldly along outside thereafter to take command on second turn, relinquished the lead momentarily a quarter mile out but responded to a rousing ride to regain command in upper stretch and was fully extended to hold ALYDAR safe. The latter, under snug restraint early, commenced to advance from the outside after six furlongs, continued wide in the stretch, swerved to bump with BELIEVE IT in closing sixteenth and finished strongly when straightened.
In the Preakness, the public made Affirmed the favorite given his front running style and the speed favoring reputation of Pimlico. He didn't disappoint as he got the lead by the 1/4 pole and stayed there the rest of the way, winning in 1:54 2/5. Alydar rallied from 6th but just couldn't get past the stubborn Affirmed.
|1978 Preakness chart notes:|
AFFIRMED, taken under light restraint after breaking alertly, quickly joined TRACK REWARD from the outside, gained the advantage leaving the first turn, made the pace under clever rating, responded gamely to rousing when challenged by ALYDAR in the upper stretch and turned back that rival under brisk handling. ALYDAR, under restraint and allowed to settle early, advanced willingly outside of horses in backsretch, engaged AFFIRMED well out from the rail approacking the stretch to nearly reach even terms then couldn't get to that rival when set down in a steady drive.
Only three rivals showed up to challenge the pair in the Belmont and the race basically turned into a match race with the pair running 1-2 almost the whole way. The final 7 furlongs of the race they went at it head to head. For a moment at the head of the stretch Alydar actually got his head in front. Affirmed's jockey, Steve Cauthen remembers: "Alydar was really breathing down my neck. He got a head in front of us for a few strides, but once we got the lead back, I knew he'd never give it up." And he didn't as the pair finished only a head apart in a final time of 2:26 4/5, their closest rival 13 lengths farther back. Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner and Alydar became forever known as the only horse to finish second in all three races.
|1978 Belmont chart notes:|
AFFIRMED went right to the front and was rated along on the lead while remaining well out from the rail. He responded readily when challenged by ALYDAR soon after entering the backstretch, held a narrow advantage into the stretch while continuing to save ground and was under left-handed urging to prevail in a determined effort. ALYDAR, away in good order, saved ground to the first turn. He came out to go after AFFIRMED with seven furlongs remaining, raced with that rival to the stretch, reached almost even terms with AFFIRMED near the 3/16th pole but wasn't good enough in a stiff drive.
|1978 Travers chart notes:|
AFFIRMED away in good order, prompted the pace while racing outside SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE into the backstretch, took over just after going a half, came over racing into the far turn interfering with ALYDAR, settled into the stretch with a clear advantage and held sway under good handling. AFFIRMED was disqualified and placed second following a stewards inquiry and a foul claim by the rider of ALYDAR. ALYDAR, never far back while being reserved early, moved through along the inside to go to the leaders midway along the backstretch, was taken up sharply when AFFIRMED came over at the far turn, dropped back several lengths after coming out, came again to make a bid leaving the turn but wasn't able to gain on the winner during the drive.
That was their last meeting as Alydar was injured shortly after and laid off for a long time. He came back at age 4 but was never quite the same and retired after six races. Affirmed won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3 Year Old of 1978 as well as Horse of the Year. He went on to at age 4 to win over a million dollars to become racing's first winner of over $2 million and won the Eclipse Awards for Champion Older Horse of 1979 and Horse of the Year again. Both were eventually elected to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
Affirmed at stud, 1997
Affirmed was standing at stud for a $30,000 fee at Jonabell Farm in Kentucky until his death on January 12, 2001. He had to be euthanized due to laminitis which was aggravated while trying to recover from a ligament injury to the other foreleg. While he has had a few nice offspring like Flawlessly and Peteski, he has never come close to approaching the overall quality that Alydar did. So far in 18 seasons at stud, Affirmed has sired 808 foals of which 560 have made it to the races, averaging only $65,177 in earnings for a total of $36,238,158.
Affirmed and Alydar info on the web:
- Photo and video tribute to Affirmed from The Turf Online from just after his death
- Affirmed Obit from The Turf Online
- Affirmed video as a stallion in 1997
- Poll - What was the greatest rivalry ever in horse racing?
- Affirmed photo head shot
- Affirmed photo confirmation shot
- Alydar photo at the 1978 Kentucky Derby
- Affirmed stallion page from Jonabell Farm
- Affirmed bio from National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
- Affirmed bio from Thoroughbred Champions
- Affirmed bio from Thoroughbred Times
- Alydar bio from National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
- Alydar bio from a fan page
- Laz Barrera bio from National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
- Steve Cauthen bio from National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
- Jorge Velasquez bio from National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
- Affirm, Alydar made it a two horse race from Sporting News
- Now and then with Steve Cauthen
- Triple Crown restrospective 1978 from MSNBC with a really nice photo
- Affirmed photos fan page
- 1978 Belmont finish from HorsePhotos.com
- Affirmed/Alydar Triple Crown Vignette from the Whitcomb Gallery
- Photos from Thoroughbred Memories:
$2 win ticket on Affirmed from the 1978 Travers
Alydar photo courtesy of Buster Massey, Affirmed photos courtesy of Karen Estis, Travers program and ticket courtesy of Tom Sporney