The greatest rivalry in the history of Thoroughbred racing is Affirmed and Alydar. Their Triple Crown battle is still the stuff of legend, something that anyone who witnesses it will never forget. Overall, the two horses met ten times on the racetrack, with Affirmed prevailing in seven of those races. The final time they went eye to eye, however, resulted in a very flat ending to the match.
Their final time on the track together came in the 1978 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Their dominance was so great at this point that only two other horses (Nasty And Bold and Shake Shake Shake) even dared to show up and dispute the issue. They again finished one-two as they had so many times before, but this time there was a problem. Affirmed was being ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr. instead of his usual rider Steve Cauthen and Pincay had been taken wider than he wanted by one of the longshots. Jorge Velazquez was on Alydar and when he went for the vacant rail, Pincay and Affirmed interfered with Alydar. Affirmed did finish first, but was subsequently disqualified and placed second behind Alydar, who re-rallied after the incident and still ended up crossing the line second.
It was a disappointing ending to what had been a sizzling matchup between two of the best horses ever to take to the racetrack. We all know that Affirmed might have been the overall winner on the track and that Alydar was the overall winner off the track in the stud barn. It's just unfortunate that their swan song as competitors came from the stewards' stand and not the Winner's Circle.
Tune in tomorrow for a look at the 2009 renewal of the Travers. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of championsgallery.com