Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame


Champion Two Year Old Colt of 1977, 1978 Triple Crown, 1978 Horse of the Year, 1979 Horse of the Year

Affirmed, one of the most famous horses in recent racing history, is best known for his great rivalry with Calumet Farm's Alydar which came to a climax in the 1978 American Classics. Affirmed narrowly beat his persistent shadow in all three races, becoming the most recent Triple Crown winner. Twice Horse of the Year and the winner of three Eclipse Awards, Affirmed seemed to be almost too pretty to run. The beautiful colt was a bright chestnut with a star and a stripe, and he possessed almost faultless conformation. The famous painter Richard Stone Reeves, known for his Horse of the Year portraits, honored Affirmed by stating that as far as conformation went, he was in a class with Buckpasser and Secretariat.

After every race, Affirmed returned to the winner's circle to calmly wipe his mouth on his devoted groom's pants. The ritual had first began after Affirmed's morning workouts, and Juan Alaniz cheerfully endured his role as an equine napkin, saying that the colt simply liked to keep his face clean. Affirmed and Juan were loyal friends, and often spent afternoons napping together in the horse's stall.

Affirmed was foaled February 21, 1975, in Florida. He was a son of Exclusive Native, whose career had included victories in the Sanford Stakes and the Arlington Classic, and the Crafty Admiral mare Won't Tell You.

Wearing to colors of his breeder, Louis Wolfson's Harbor View Farm, Affirmed began his racing career at Belmont Park, wiring the field to break his maiden in his first start on May 24. Trainer Laz Barrera didn't waste any time testing his future star against stakes quality horses, and entered him in the Youthful Stakes the next time out. Affirmed came from behind this time, and scored by a neck.

In his third race, the Great American Stakes, Affirmed tasted defeat for the first time, running second to Alydar, and the famous rivalry began. After crossing the country to win the July 23 Hollywood Juvenile by seven lengths, Affirmed returned east for Saratoga's Sanford Stakes on August 17. Steve Cauthen had the mount on Affirmed for the first time, and the pair won easily from the Olden Times colt Tilt Up.

Affirmed met Alydar again ten days later, this time in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, and won by a convincing half length.

A few weeks later, the pair met for the fifth time. They hooked up three furlongs from home and battled desperately down the Belmont Park homestretch. Affirmed was again triumphant, winning the Futurity by a nose in the final strides.

In a muddy Champagne Stakes, Alydar took vengeance for the last two races, sneaking up on Affirmed, who was distracted by Darby Creek Road, and beating him by 1 1/4 lengths. Said Steve Cauthen:

"My horse had plenty left, but he was so busy playing games with Darby Creek Road he never even saw Alydar until it was too late."

The two met one final time in the 1977 season, with both the Laurel Futurity and the two-year-old championship on the line. With Affirmed changing leads at least a dozen times, the two rivals battled down the homestretch with the third place horse another ten lengths back. Both horses displayed remarkable speed and courage, but in the end it was Affirmed who won by his handsome neck. He was named Champion Two Year Old Colt.

In his three-year-old debut, Affirmed won a purse at Santa Anita, following it up with a win in the San Felipe Handicap, despite the fact that he was out of condition, having missed quite a bit of training time due to a rainy winter which was rather uncharacteristic of Southern California.

In the Santa Anita Derby Affirmed beat Balzac by eight lengths, and only the Hollywood Derby remained before the trip to Churchill Downs. Since Alydar was wintering on the east coast, Affirmed had very little competition, and he got into the habit of playing when he was in the lead, which worried trainer Laz Barrera. Playing games with Darby Creek Road had cost Affirmed the Champagne Stakes the year before, and the trainer told Steve Cauthen to use his whip and try to wake the horse up in the Hollywood Derby. Following the orders, The Kid hit Affirmed twelve times in the stretch run, but the bored and slightly lazy horse ignored him completely, winning by only two lengths. When Affirmed went back east to meet Alydar once again, he proved that his trainer had worried in vain, beating his rival in all three hard fought classics.

Affirmed's margin of victory was Affirmed on the way to roses.widest in the Kentucky Derby, in which he spent the early stages of the race in third, while Sensitive Prince set a fast early pace, and then passed Believe It to take control at the top of the stretch. Alydar closed quickly as they headed for home, and although he passed Believe It for second money he could not catch the flying colt in the pink silks. The roses belonged to Affirmed, who won by a length and a half.

In the Preakness, Alydar didn't wait as long to challenge his rival. When Affirmed took the lead at about the half mile mark, Alydar was only five lengths off the pace, and hooked up with Affirmed as they turned for home. The two rivals battled gamely down the stretch, and in the end Affirmed claimed the Black Eyed Susans by only a neck. Believe It was third, again.

The Belmont Stakes gave Affirmed the chance to wear a Triple Crown. For Alydar, it was an opportunity for revenge. Affirmed took the early lead, but this time Alydar didn't wait to make a late move. The two began their battle with more than a half mile left to run, and each fought gamely as they sought to get a head in front. Alydar had the lead at one point, but Affirmed bravely fought back. The grandstand at Belmont Park shook as thousands of fans cheered the two The legendary battle horses down the stretch for the closest Belmont Stakes finish since Jaipur's victory over Admiral's Voyage in 1962, and at the wire Affirmed was once more victorious, winning the Test of Champions by a head.

Owner Louis Wolfson was asked if he considered Affirmed to be a great horse, and replied:

"Yes, a great three-year-old, and so is Alydar. But I want to see him run at four before I call him great overall."

After a well deserved rest, the new Triple Crown winner scored his eighth straight victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes, coming from behind on a wet track to catch the speedy Sensitive Prince in a powerful stretch drive. But Affirmed didn't extend his winning streak to nine as his connections had hoped. Although he was first under the wire in Saratoga's Travers Stakes, Affirmed was disqualified in a controversial ruling for bumping Alydar, so both Affirmed and Seattle Slew had technically lost their previous start when the two Triple Crown winners met in the Marlboro Cup. Seattle Slew won, and to the puzzlement of his connections Affirmed scarcely offered a challenge. The mystery was solved in the morning, when the vet discovered a throat infection. Affirmed seemed to have even less luck in challenging Seattle Slew than Alydar had experienced in the Triple Crown races. When the pair met for their second and final time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Affirmed's saddle slipped in the stretch after an exciting battle with Slew for the early lead. His only consolation was the fact that Seattle Slew didn't win the race either. His lack of condition took its toll in the two mile race, and despite Slew's game effort, Exceller nosed him out to become the only horse to conquer two Triple Crown winners.

Despite being beaten in the last three races of the season, once by disqualification, once by poor health, and once by tack failure, Affirmed was voted Horse of the Year To some, the official honor seemed hollow, since many people felt that the older champion was the better horse, having beaten the young Triple Crown winner twice. Others argued that Affirmed had valid excuses for both races, and had turned in a stronger season than his older rival.

Affirmed wintered in California, and in February he was teamed with a new rider, Laffit Pincay, Jr. Steve Cauthen, previously Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, was suffering from a streak of bad luck which already affected Affirmed season debut.

With Pincay in the irons, Affirmed romped to a ten length victory in the Charles H. Strub Stakes. Assigned 128 pounds for the Santa Anita Handicap, the mighty son of Exclusive Native handled the burden with ease. He won by four and a half lengths and covered the mile and a quarter in 1:58 3/5, a new track record.

In May, Affirmed went to post at Hollywood Park for the Californian Stakes. Some worried about the 130 pound impost, but in vain. Affirmed cantered to a five length victory. This prompted a weight assignment of 132 pounds for the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Sirlad, a champion in Italy, pushed Affirmed to set a sizzling pace, but despite giving weight to the foreign champion Affirmed held the lead to win by three quarters of a length. He missed the American record for the distance, but only by a fifth of a second, clocking the distance in 1:58 2/5.

Affirmed was given two months off following the Hollywood Gold Cup, then returned to New York. He added two more wins to his record, but was kept out of the Marlboro Cup when he was assigned 133 pounds, while the talented Spectacular Bid was given only 126. Barrera did allow his charge to go to post against the younger star in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which was weight for age. Affirmed gave away five pounds, rather than seven, when he met the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

The Gold Cup was perhaps Affirmed's finest hour. He withstood four separate and impressive challenges from Spectacular Bid, with Bill Shoemaker in the irons, as well a challenge from Coastal, the 1979 Belmont Stakes winner. While beaten, Spectacular Bid was far from disgraced. Few horses can make repeated challenges in the same race.

Affirmed after the Jockey Club Gold Cup

Affirmed was retired following the Jockey Club Gold Cup. His lifetime earnings totaled $2,393,818, which made him the world's Current Leading Money Winner until Spectacular Bid surpassed the amount in June of 1980. Once again, Affirmed was Horse of the Year. And this time, no one questioned that he'd earned the title. He was elected to the Hall of Fame the year after his retirement.

Affirmed first first stood stud at Spendthrift, then later at Calumet, and finally at Jonabell before passing away in January of 2001. Some consider Affirmed to be a failure at stud, since he never reproduced himself (certainly an unfair expectation), and enjoyed less success than his old rival Alydar. Yet he has actually done very well. His offspring include Canadian Triple Crown winner Peteski; Canadian turf champion Charlie Barley, winner of $922,943; Bint Pasha, the 1987 Champion Three Year Old Filly in France; Tibullo, who earned a championship in Italy; Irish Champion Easy to Copy, Irish One Thousand Guineas winner Trusted Partner, and the good handicap mare Buy the Firm.

His most successful offspring. a daughter, also carried the colors of Harbor View Farm. Flawlessly earned two Eclipse Awards racing on the turf, with her career earnings exceeding two million dollars.

Affirmed's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 29 22 5 1 $2,393,818

Affirmed, 1975 chestnut colt

Exclusive Native Raise a Native Native Dancer Polynesian
Raise You Case Ace
Lady Glory
Exclusive Shut Out Equipoise
Goose Egg
Good Example Pilate
Parade Girl
Won't Tell You Crafty Admiral Fighting Fox Sir Gallahad III
Admiral's Lady War Admiral
Booka Brook
Scarlet Ribbon Volcanic Ambrose Light
Hot Supper
Native Valor Mahmoud
Native Gal

Read Affirmed and Alydar by Timothy T. Capps for more information.

Recommended titles include: Champions from the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 of the 20th Century from Blood-Horse, and Man O' War: Thoroughbred Legends #1 by Edward L. Bowen, as well as Seabiscuit on DVD .
Seabiscuit DVD

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