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Affirmed - 1978 Triple Crown Winner


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Affirmed Horse Racing Hat


Affirmed Racing Print

Pedigree: Exclusive Native - Won't Tell You (Crafty Admiral)

Owner: Harbor View Farm

Trainer: Lazaro Barrera

Eclipse 1978 Triple Crown Winner and Eclipse award winning Horse of the Year

Affirmed's Race Record
Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings
29 22 5 1 $2,393,818

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Affirmed Race HorseAt the start of 1978, there had never been back-to-back Triple Crown winners and no horse had ever had to beat the same rival in all three races to earn the Triple Crown title. All that changed during the course of 1978, when Affirmed and Alydar provided the racing world with equal amounts of thrills and pathos. By the time the Belmont Stakes (G1) had been run, Affirmed was a Triple Crown winner, but Alydar emerged a heroic, sympathetic figure.

But the Affirmed-Alydar rivalry was launched long before the Triple Crown. It started on June 15, 1977, at Belmont Park. The occasion was the Youthful Stakes. It was Alydar's career debut, Affirmed's second start. Affirmed was the winner that day while Alydar finished fourth. It would be the one and only time, in ten career meetings, that either horse would finish worse than second when facing each other.

Affirmed was born on February 21, 1975 at Harbor View Farm in Florida. Harbor View owner Louis Wolfson and his wife, Patrice Jacobs Wolfson, had both sent runners out in past Kentucky Derbys, but had never had tremendous success. All that would change with Affirmed.

Affirmed made his career debut on May 24, 1977, at Belmont Park, winning a 5-1/2-furlong maiden race by 4-1/2 lengths. Three weeks later, Affirmed won the Youthful, stalking the early pace, taking the lead in the stretch, and handing on to win by a neck. From that point on, Affirmed and Alydar were practically inseparable, slugging it out in race after race in a rivalry rarely seen among two-year-olds.

Alydar evened the score in the Great American Stakes on July 6, winning by 3-1/2 lengths. Trainer Lazaro Barrera then shipped Affirmed out to Hollywood Park, where he won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G2) on July 23. It was the first of four straight victories, including wins in the Sanford Stakes (G2), Hopeful Stakes (G1), and Belmont Futurity (G1). The Hopeful and Futurity wins came at the expense of Alydar, but only by a nose and half-length, respectively. On October 15, Alydar flew past Affirmed in deep stretch to win the Champagne Stakes (G1) by 1-1/4 lengths and put him in a position to wrap up divisional honors.

But there was one more race left for the two, the Laurel Futurity (G1) on October 29, and Affirmed this time showed more resolve down the stretch, hanging on to win by a neck. Affirmed finished the year with a 7-2-0 record in nine starts and earnings of $343,477. More importantly, he had a 4-to-2 edge on Alydar. That was enough to earn Affirmed the two-year-old championship.

While Alydar headed to Florida to prepare for the Triple Crown, Affirmed went to California with Barrera. Separated by thousands of miles, the two matured, continued their outstanding form, and set up a Kentucky Derby (G1) matchup that had racing fans drooling.

Affirmed won all four starts in California, including Santa Anita (G1) and Hollywood (G1) Derbys. But Alydar was just as dominating on the East Coast, winning the Florida Derby (G1) and Blue Grass Stakes (G1). Kentucky racing fans, sensing Calumet Farm was poised to win an unprecedented ninth Kentucky Derby, sent Alydar off as the 6-to-5 favorite, with Affirmed at 9-to-5, the first time since 1960 that two separate betting interests went off at less than 2-to-1.

What they got would prove to be the least dramatic of the three Triple Crown races. Third choice Sensitive Prince went to the lead entering the first turn, with Raymond Earl running second, and jockey Steve Cauthen content to let Affirmed linger back in third place. Believe It made a strong move on the far turn and had a short lead at the top of the lane, but Affirmed quickly pulled past, opened up a two-length lead in midstretch, then had more than enough to hold off the late charge of Alydar, who could only get within 1-1/2 lengths.

Two weeks later, on May 20, the two would stage an epic duel in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Affirmed once again stalked the early pace, but when longshot Track Reward started backing up after about a half-mile, Affirmed was left alone in the lead. Jorge Velasquez, who some had felt waited too late to move on Alydar in the Derby, started moving on the backstretch, got to Affirmed's side leaving the turn, and the two dueled all the way down the stretch. But Affirmed showed tremendous heart, fighting off Alydar's stretch-long challenge to win by a neck.

As good as that duel was, the Belmont Stakes, three weeks later, would become the definitive battle in racing history. A five-horse field, the same size as Secretariat's 31-length rout of five years earlier, assembled for the race. This time, there would be no early speed for Affirmed to stalk, or any hesitancy for Alydar to go after him. After a half-mile the two were running first and second, with Affirmed up by a length. By the time the 1-1/2-mile race was half over, the two were running together in tandem. As the two swung into the stretch, Alydar reached even terms with Affirmed. And as an appreciative crowd at Belmont Park roared its approval, the two great rivals ran as one all the way down the stretch. Alydar appeared to briefly take the lead inside the eighth pole, but Affirmed found just a little bit more. At the wire, Affirmed was the victor by a head, securing the Triple Crown title while assuring the Affirmed-Alydar rivalry its place in the all-time Thoroughbred pantheon.

The two would race each other just once more, in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Affirmed would win once again, but was disqualified for interfering with Alydar on the backstretch. Affirmed finished the year with two more losses, failing to catch Seattle Slew in the Marlboro Cup Handicap (G1) and finishing fifth--his only off-the-board finish ever--in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) after his saddle slipped. But his accomplishments during the year were such that he was honored as Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt.

Barrera sent Affirmed back to California to start his four-year-old year. But after opening up the year with a third in the Malibu Stakes (G2) and a second in the San Fernando Stakes (G2), Barrera replaced Cauthen in the saddle with Laffit Pincay Jr. Affirmed would never lose again, winning six Grade 1 races, capping off his career with victories on the East Coast in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1) to wrap up honors as Horse of the Year and champion older horse. He also became Thoroughbred racing's first $2-million runner, retiring with $2,393,818 in earnings.