|Daily Racing Form|
|Friday, January 12
|A look back at racing's greatest rivalry|
By Bob Ehalt
Daily Racing Form
Boxing had Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Basketball had the Celtics and Lakers.
In horse racing, it was Affirmed and Alydar.
So fierce was their competition that even today, more than 22 years after their final clash in the 1978 Travers, it's still difficult to say one of their names without the other.
Affirmed and Alydar. As inseparable in history now as they were in June of 1978 when Affirmed hit the wire a head in front of Alydar to win the Belmont Stakes and become Thoroughbred racing's 11th - and still most recent - Triple Crown winner.
Affirmed was put down Friday at the age of 26. Alydar, the measuring stick of Affirmed's greatness, died much earlier, in Nov. 1990 after breaking his leg in his stall.
Though both are gone, those 10 races, seven of which were won by Affirmed, still represent the best of the emotion and drama that gives racing such an addictive flavor. Here's a look back at those 10 races:
The winner was Harbor View Farm's Affirmed who battled for the early lead and then outdueled Wood Native to win by a neck.
Score: Affirmed 1, Alydar 0
Score: Alydar 1, Affirmed 1
Both Alydar and Affirmed came into the Hopeful with four wins in five starts, but when it was over Affirmed had his fifth victory.
Affirmed pressed the pace, then turned back a stretch bid by Alydar to win by a half-length in what would prove to be a recurring scenario.
Score: Affirmed 2, Alydar 1
Though the two foes were lapped on each other at the quarter pole, Alydar could not wear down Affirmed. While Alydar was in front by a head at the eighth pole, Affirmed, under jockey Steve Cauthen, would not wilt and hit the wire first by a nose.
Score: Affirmed 3, Alydar 1
With jockey Jorge Velasquez riding Alydar for the first time, Alydar waited until the final furlong to go after Affirmed and blew past him to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Score: Affirmed 3, Alydar 2
The Laurel Futurity, however, turned out to be a replay of the Belmont Futurity.
Eschewing the tactics that were so successful in the Champagne, Alydar again hooked Affirmed after the opening half-mile but could not put him away.
The two waged a fierce war in the stretch but in the end it was Affirmed by a neck at the wire in a victory that was described as a "long, hard drive" in the Daily Racing Form.
Besides giving Affirmed a 4-2 edge over Alydar, the Laurel Futurity wrapped up the 2-year-old championship for Affirmed and heightened the belief that the 1978 Triple Crown would be something special.
Score: Affirmed 4, Alydar 2
Affirmed, meanwhile, prepped for the Derby in California, strolling to victory by a combined 12 lengths in the Hollywood Derby, Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe.
On Derby Day, Affirmed was a 6-5 favorite, with Affirmed right behind at 9-5.
No one else was close in the betting - or at the wire.
Using his superior early speed, Affirmed was no worse than third at any call and by the eighth pole was home free with a two-length lead.
Alydar fell far back early, trailing by 17 lengths at the first call, and though he made up 2 1/2 lengths in the final furlong it was a case of too little as too late as Affirmed won by 1 1/2 lengths.
Score: Affirmed 5, Alydar 2
On a track conducive to frontruners, Affirmed toyed with 88-1 shot Track Reward on the front end and turned for home with a length lead over Noon Time Spender, Believe It, and, of course, Alydar.
In the stretch, the Preakness turned into yet another two-horse duel between Alydar and Affirmed. Alydar moved to within a half-length of Affirmed at the eighth pole, but, again, Affirmed would not let him go past.
At the wire, it was Affirmed by a neck.
Two thirds of the Triple Crown down; one to go.
Score: Affirmed 6, Alydar 2
This time, the Calumet team was determined not to let Affirmed have an easy time of it on the lead. So early on the backstretch of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, Velasquez moved Alydar abreast of Affirmed.
What took place afterwards was arguably the greatest horse race of all-time.
Around the sweeping final turn of Belmont Park, Affirmed and Alydar raced thisclose in a struggle neither seemed intent on losing.
Seemingly attached by velcro, neither could establish much of an edge as they turned into the stretch, greeted by a deafening roar from the throng of 65,417 fans on-hand.
Midway through the stretch, it appeared that Alydar stuck his nose in front. But if he did, it was for just a brief, fleeting moment.
As hard as Alydar ran, Affirmed was able to resist each and every challenge and won the race - and the Triple Crown - by a head in an unforgettable test of courage and stamina.
Score: Affirmed 7, Alydar 2
After Alydar beat older colts by 10 lengths in the Whitney, the notion was that Alydar would upend Affirmed in the Mid-summer Derby, the Travers.
The Travers proved to be the final meeting between Affirmed and Alydar and it generated the most controversy.
Down the backstretch, in order to move clear of the overmatched Shake Shake Shake, jockey Laffit Pincay, subbing for Cauthen, moved Affirmed toward the rail, shutting off Alydar.
Velasquez was forced to take up sharply on Alydar, and though the Calumet colt was able to regenerate a strong head of steam, it wasn't enough.
Affirmed crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front of Alydar. Then the stewards stepped in and reversed the order of finish.
The Travers, the final battle, went to Alydar, but the war clearly belonged to Affirmed.
Final score: Affirmed 7, Alydar 3Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories