Horses - Affirmed
In the crazy world of horse racing the one thing we had yet to see going into the 1978 horse racing year was back to back triple crown winners. That was about to all change because of a horse by the name of Affirmed. Not only had there never been back to back triple crown winners but no horse ever had to beat the same rival in all three legs of the triple crown. So 1978 was indeed special all the way around. Because during this amazing year Affirmed and Alydar gave racing fans all over the world the thrill of a lifetime. By the time the last leg of the triple crown at Belmont was run, Affirmed was a triple crown winner but it was Alydar that got everyone's sympathy and was the hero of the year.
The truth is, the Affirmed - Alydar rivalry started long before they ever got to the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the crown. On June 15, 1977, was when it all started at Belmont Park. The two horses were running in the Youthful Stakes. It was Alydar's first race and Affirmed's second. Affirmed won the race while Alydar finished a disappointing fourth.
In was the only time in ten meetings between these two horses that they both didn't finish first or second. Affirmed came into the world on February 21, 1975. He was born at Harbor View Farm in Florida. The owner, Louis Wolfson, had sent other horses out to race in his career but never with the success that was about to come with Affirmed. Affirmed made his maiden race on May 24, 1977, at Belmont Park. He won the race by an easy 4 and 1/2 lengths. Three weeks later was when he won the Youthful with Alydar coming in fourth. But after that race, Affirmed and Alydar ran every race almost neck and neck in one of the greatest rivalries of all time. On July 6 at the Great American Stakes, Alydar finally got the better of Affirmed and beat him winning by 3 and 1/2 lengths. This didn't discourage trainer Lazaro Barrera who then immediately shipped Affirmed out to Hollywood Park where he won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 23.
This was the first of four straight victories for Affirmed. There were other races afterwards, with Affirmed and Alydar trading victories. This set up the first leg of the triple crown, the Kentucky Derby. Ironically, this turned out to be the least exciting race of the three with Affirmed taking a commanding lead. At the end, Alydar could only close the gap to 1 1/2 lengths though he gave it a valiant effort. It was a different story two weeks later at the Preakness where the two horses were engaged in an epic duel. Affirmed again took an early lead but this time Alydar made it a race with Affirmed winning only by a neck. But as good as the Preakness was, the Belmont Stakes will go down in history as being one of the most exciting races in history. For almost the entire race in a five horse field, Affirmed and Alydar were running neck and neck. It was like out of a movie.
Finally though it was Affirmed who won the race by a head. This was indeed one of the greatest horse rivalries in racing history, one which may never be duplicated.