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WWOS Flashback: Go west, young Affirmed
By Christopher Ross
ABC Sports Online


Affirmed, like many young males, took the famous advice of former New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley: "Go west, young man." Despite starting his career in New York, Affirmed was shipped to California to train and qualify for the "Run for the Roses" and eventually, the Triple Crown. ABC's Wide World of Sports was there on March 3, 1978 when the colt began his quest for Triple Crown immortality.

The 1977 Two-Year-Old Colt of the Year entered the starting gates for the Santa Anita Derby with Steve Cauthen, the 1977 Triple Crown jockey, on board. Affirmed crossed the finish line first, four lengths ahead of the field.
Affirmed
Affirmed, with Steve Cauthen up, romps ahead of Alydar to win the 1978 Kentucky Derby.

That performance made him the Kentucky Derby favorite. However, Cauthen believed there were two "really good colts" in the mix, with the other one being named Alydar.

Although Affirmed and Alydar would not race each other as three-year-olds until the 104th running of the Kentucky Derby, the Affirmed-Alydar rivalry was something that had been in the making since 1977, having raced each other more then a few times as two-year-olds.

With a fast 1 -mile track in front of him, the gates broke open for Affirmed, Alydar and nine other 3-year olds at Churchill Downs while the world looked on anxiously.

Just two minutes and one second later, Affirmed crossed the finish line first, edging Alydar out by only a head. The run for the Triple Crown had just begun

After outlasting his rival by an even smaller margin at the Preakness Stakes later that month, Affirmed was loaded into the starting gate in Elmont, N.Y. with a shot at history in the Belmont Stakes. His foe that day was a formidable, but familiar one, in Alydar once again.

Affirmed's Stats
Race Time Distance
Kentucky Derby 2:01 1/5 1 1/4 mi
Preakness Stakes 1:54 2/5 1 3/16 mi
Belmont Stakes 2:26 4/5 1 1/2 mi
The gates closed and within seconds the bell sounded; Affirmed broke from the gates alertly. With a fast track in front of him, Affirmed took sole possession of the lead after the first turn. As in the Derby, Alydar challenged Affirmed at the top of the stretch, almost pulling even. But he could not find enough speed to pass Affirmed.

As the horses passed in front of the grandstand down the stretch, the cheers from the crowd drowned out the stretch call. Affirmed would cross the finish line to edge out Alydar for the third time in two months. Affirmed's Triple Crown in 1978 came via the smallest margin of victory ever -- less than a total of two lengths over the course of the three races. He became just the 11th and last Triple Crown winner in history.

Affirmed was ranked 12th out of the top 100 racehorses of the 20th century, according to The Blood-Horse magazine. The colt was also a two-time Eclipse Award winner (1978-79) and inducted into the National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 1980. Affirmed was euthanized on January 12, 2001, at age 26 because of an incurable circulatory hoof disease.



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 The 1977 Two-Year-Old Colt of the Year Affirmed crossed the finish line first at the Santa Anita Derby with Steve Cauthen on board.
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 Alydar challenged Affirmed at the top of the stretch, almost pulling even. But he could not find enough speed to pass Affirmed. Affirmed's Triple Crown in 1978 came via the smallest margin of victory ever.
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