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AFFIRMED, 1978: 11th Triple Crown Winner

Alydar Got the Accolades, but Affirmed Won the Races

Crowning Moments In Horse Racing History

June 06, 1998|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THE BELMONT STAKES

Only 11 horses have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. With Real Quiet bidding to become the 12th when he runs in the Belmont today, this series looks back at the Triple Crown champions.

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Sunday Silence did not win the Triple Crown, but he had something in common with Affirmed, who did win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1978.

To this day, some observers believe Easy Goer was a better horse than Sunday Silence, even though he was beaten in three of their four meetings in 1989.

Twenty years after memorable battles at Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park, some still say Alydar was more talented than Affirmed, but Affirmed is the one who etched his place in history by becoming the 11th--and latest--horse to win the Triple Crown.

Although he never seemed to do it by much, Affirmed won--22 times in 29 starts. He was the champion 2-year-old in 1977, then was voted horse of the year in 1978 and '79.

For all his achievements, Affirmed is remembered most for his 3-year-old encounters with Alydar, beginning with the Derby.

While Affirmed, trained by the late Laz Barrera for Louis and Patrice Wolfson's Harbor View Farm, had wintered in California, Alydar had been dominant in Florida and Kentucky, winning the Flamingo, Florida Derby and, by 13 lengths, the Blue Grass Stakes. This helped explain why he was favored in the Derby.

It turned out to be the easiest of Affirmed's Triple Crown victories. He took the lead for good early in the stretch and beat a closing Alydar by 1 1/2 lengths under 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen.

The win swayed the public in the Preakness. Affirmed was the 1-2 favorite and withstood Alydar the length of the stretch to win by a neck after being a head in front a furlong from the finish.

Three others entered the Belmont, but it was basically a match race for the final mile. Affirmed and Alydar were almost inseparable around the far turn and through the stretch, but, again, it was Affirmed who prevailed, winning by a head in one of the most memorable races in history.

This made it seven victories in nine meetings with Alydar, and he finished first again in their 10th and last meeting in the Travers in August, but was disqualified and placed second.

Both colts were exhausted by the time they hit the Belmont. It was Affirmed's 15th start and Alydar's 17th.

Barrera, who had won the 1976 Kentucky Derby with Bold Forbes, once said in an interview that Affirmed had lost about 100 pounds by Belmont time. "We just kept him in light training leading up to the race," he said. Affirmed was beaten in his final two starts in 1978, then began his 4-year-old season with two defeats at Santa Anita. He rebounded to win his final seven races, including the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, before being retired.

Now 23, he is still at stud at Jonabell Farm in Kentucky. Most of his success as a stallion has come with turf runners though he never raced on grass.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS

May 26: Sir Barton (1919)

May 28: Gallant Fox (1930)

May 29: Omaha (1935)

May 30: War Admiral (1937)

May 31: Whirlaway (1941)

June 1: Count Fleet (1943)

June 2: Assault (1946)

June 3: Citation (1948)

June 4: Secretariat (1973)

June 5: Seattle Slew (1977)

Today: Affirmed (1978)

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

1978: THE BREAKDOWN

(Time, Margin, Odds, Purse)

Date: May 6

Race: Kentucky Derby

Distance: 1 1/4 miles

(2:01 1/5, 1 1/2 lengths, 9-5, $186,900)

*

1978: THE BREAKDOWN

(Time, Margin, Odds, Purse)

Date: May 20

Race: Preakness

Distance: 1 3/16 miles

(1:54 2/5, neck, 1-2, $136,200)

*

1978: THE BREAKDOWN

(Time, Margin, Odds, Purse)

Date: June 10

Race: Belmont

Distance: 1 1/2 miles

(2:26 4/5, head, 3-5, $110,500)

THE CHALLENGERS

The top three finishers in the races in 1978 and the $2 mutuel payoffs:

KENTUCKY DERBY

1. Affirmed

$5.60

$2.80

$2.60

*

2. Alydar

$2.60

$2.40

*

3. Believe It

$2.80

*

PREAKNESS

1. Affirmed

$3.00

$2.10

$2.10

*

2. Alydar

$2.10

$2.10

*

3. Believe It

$2.10

*

BELMONT

1. Affirmed

$3.20

$2.10

Out

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2. Alydar

$2.20

Out

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3. Darby Creek Road

Out

AFFIRMED'S RECORD

(1977-79)

Starts: 29

1st: 22

2nd: 5

3rd: 1

Purses: $2,393,818

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