Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"We'll Test These Two To The Wire"

That is maybe the second-most famous thing that Chic Anderson ever said in a race call. Needless to say, "He is moving like a tremendous machine!", ranks #1 on the Chic Chart, but the quote in the title of this post was nearly as amazing. Anderson said this shortly after Alydar poked a head in front of Affirmed in the stretch of the 1978 Belmont Stakes.

If you watch the replay of that 1978 Belmont (which you can at, notice how well Steve Cauthen dictated the pace with Affirmed in the early stages. He went a quarter in 25 seconds and a half in 50 seconds. Conversely, Stewart Elliot on Smarty Jones in 2004 went a half in 48 and change and had nothing left in the stretch when Birdstone mounted his challenge. Anderson even notes several times in the race call how slow the pace of the race is. Cauthen assured that he would have enough horse in the stretch when he would need it the most.

Jorge Velazquez was aboard Alydar and he had his horse in front in that classic stretch duel and that likely spurred Affirmed to come back and get the win and the Triple Crown. Affirmed was much like Silver Charm in that respect. Bob Baffert always said that if the Charm could see you, you weren't going to get by him. While Silver Charm never did see Touch Gold until it was too late in the 1997 Belmont, Affirmed had Alydar in his sights almost all the way around the racetrack. Had Velazquez waited to stick a nose in front with Alydar, might the result have been different? Well, we'll never know.
The Belmont Stakes has had many memorable renewals in the previous 140 years, but maybe none quite like the 1978 edition. Just based on what was at stake, the players and the rivalry involved, and the fact that Affirmed is the last Triple Crown winner we have had, it might have been the greatest Belmont Stakes we have seen and it might be the greatest one we will ever see.
Tune in again tomorrow for another look back at the Belmont from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
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