Racing's greatest rivalry
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Affirmed beat Alydar in 7 of 9 meetings
By Bob Diskin
Special to ESPN.com
June 10, 1978 - Once more, it was Affirmed and Alydar dueling down the stretch. Affirmed had won the Kentucky Derby by 1½ lengths, the Preakness by a nose.
For the last half-mile in the 1½-mile Belmont, the two went head to head. "We got in the front, by maybe a head, at the 3/16th pole," said Alydar jockey Jorge Velasquez. "I thought, maybe today would be different . . . until very late."
With Steve Cauthen whipping Affirmed with his left hand, while Velasquez whipped Alydar with his right, the two were dead even with a 1/16th of a mile to go. Affirmed poked his nose ahead in front five strides from the finish, and kept inching ahead. He won by a neck. It was Affirmed's seventh victory in nine meetings with his arch-rival.
Affirmed was the 11th Triple Crown winner and, for the first time, there were successive winners (Seattle Slew won in 1977). As the 3-5 favorite, Affirmed paid $3.20 to win.
Odds 'n' EndsBoth Affirmed and Alydar come from the same male sire line through Native Dancer, who was Alydar's grandfather and Affirmed's great-grandfather.
Native Dancer's son Raise a Native, who was undefeated in four starts as a two-year-old before suffering a career-ending injury, was the sire of both Alydar and Exclusive Native (sire of Affirmed).
Alydar's dam, Sweet Tooth, came from a long line of Calumet foundation mares.
Affirmed, on the other hand, came from a modest broodmare, Won't Tell You, purchased by Louis Wolfson for a modest $18,000 in 1972. She was resold for $5,500 when Affirmed was a yearling. She never produced any other notable horses.
Alydar, a contraction of Aly darling, was named for the Aga Khan, a close friend of owners Lucille and Gene Markey.
When Alydar won the Blue Grass Stakes in April 1978, his owners, usually confined to wheelchairs, were given special permission to drive to the winner's circle in a station wagon to receive their trophy. It was the last time they saw their prize colt perform live.
Before becoming Affirmed's owner, Wolfson served nine months in a federal prison for failure to comply with SEC regulations.
Wolfson's wife Patrice was the daughter of legendary trainer Hirsch Jacobs, who raced the mare Affectionately. Because she was Patrice's favorite horse, the Wolfsons started naming all their horses beginning with "Aff."
This practice sometimes caused confusion for Laz Barrera. When nominating his horse for the Preakness, the trainer mistakenly began to write "Affiliate," a top four-year-old, instead of Affirmed.
Alydar was the only horse to finish second in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Affirmed's seven victories over Alydar were by a total of 10 lengths. (He also finished ahead of him by 1¾ lengths in the Travers but was disqualified.)
Alydar's two first-to-the-finish-line victories over Affirmed were by a total of 4¾ lengths.
In Affirmed's 29 races, 17 times he went off at less than even-money and 24 times under 2-1. He never went off worse than 2.30-1 after his first three races.
In Alydar's 26 races, 18 times he went off even-money or less. Only once - in his second race (2.10-1) - did he go off more than 2-1.
Seattle Slew's victory in the 1978 Marlboro Cup was the first time a horse other than Alydar finished ahead of Affirmed. It was Affirmed's 19th race.
The only horse to have beaten Alydar after his first race until the second race of his four-year-old season, a total of 20 races, besides Affirmed was Believe It in the 1977 Remsen.
Although Cauthen is generally thought of as Affirmed's rider, Laffit Pincay in nine trips aboard Affirmed was always first to the finish line. Affirmed, though, was disqualified in that 1978 Travers because of Pincay's tactics.
Affirmed broke Kelso's career earnings record and was the first horse to exceed $2 million in purse money.
Most of Affirmed's offspring - including champions Flawlessly, Zoman and Peteski - preferred racing on grass to dirt.
Alydar produced Kentucky Derby winners Alysheba, who also won the Preakness in 1987, and Strike the Gold (1991). He also sired such top colts as Easy Goer, Turkoman and Althea.
Calumet's owner, J.T. Lundy, and its chief financial officer were convicted in 2000 of bank fraud, bribery, conspiracy, and making false financial statements as they tried to keep Calumet afloat from 1988 to 1990.
Although no charges were ever brought in Alydar's death, his case remains open.
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