Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame


Alydar, who is fated to be remembered as the shadow of 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, was owned and bred by the great Calumet Farm under the leadership of Mrs. Gene Markey. He was a dark chestnut colt by the leading sire Raise a Native, who had earned a juvenile co-championship for Harbor View Farm before retiring prematurely in 1961, and out of Calumet Farm's outstanding broodmare Sweet Tooth, the dam of champion Our Mims. Alydar's broodmare sire was On-and-On, a stakes winning son of the leading sire Nasrullah and Calumet Farm's champion filly Two Lea. Sweet Tooth's stakes winning dam Plum Cake was a daughter of Ponder, the 1949 Kentucky Derby winner, and the champion mare Real Delight, both of whom carried the Calumet colors.


Under the training of John Veitch, Alydar began his racing career in 1977, making his first start in the Youthful Stakes and finishing fifth. He then won a maiden race before meeting Affirmed for the second of six times at the age of two. While they had met in the Youthful Stakes, the pair really began their rivalry in the Great American Stakes. Alydar had failed to challenge Affirmed in the Youthful, but he handed the Harbor View colt his first defeat in the Great American, sparking a two year long rivalry. Alydar then won both the Sapling Stakes and the Tremont Stakes before meeting his foe again.

The next time out, Affirmed evened the score with a half length triumph. The two young stars met again in the Futurity. It was a close fight, but Affirmed claimed victory by a nose. Alydar had a score to settle in the Champagne Stakes. He snuck by his loafing rival to claim victory by a length and a quarter, the widest margin yet in the series of duals.

The Juvenile Championship was on the line in the Laurel Futurity. Ten lengths ahead of the field, the brilliant pair held their own race for seasonal honors. Both performed with speed and courage, but in the end it was Affirmed by a neck. On November 26, 1977, the good colt Believe It ran the race of his life to beat Alydar in Aqueduct's Remsen Stakes. It was the only time Alydar lost to a horse other than Affirmed in the first two years of his career. Although Alydar had missed the Eclipse Award, his dam Sweet Tooth was honored with the title of 1977 Broodmare of the Year.

Alydar wintered in Florida, while Affirmed suffered through one of the wettest winters in Southern California's history. After winning a seven furlong allowance race at Hialeah, Alydar went to post in the Flamingo Stakes. A two horse race with Hickory Tree Stable's Believe It was anticipated. Believe It, trained by Woody Stevens, had also scored a seven furlong allowance victory earlier in the Hialeah meeting, so the pair appeared to be on even ground. The Experimental Handicap weights listed Affirmed as the high weight, with 126, while Alydar and Believe It followed him closely with 125 and 124. The Flamingo, therefore, featured two of the "big three" Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Affirmed, having missed training due to poor weather on the west coast, had not yet started.

Earlier on the Flamingo Day card, jockey Jorge Velasquez had ridden three straight winners, moving within striking distance of the meeting's leading rider, Jeffrey Fell, who had ridden forty-six winners over the course of the Hialeah meeting. Velasquez, after winning the sixth, seventh, and eighth races, had forty-five winners. The ninth race was the Flamingo, and he had the mount on Alydar, who was starting as the 9-10 favorite over Believe It.

The dark chestnut son of Raise a Native did as expected, coming from well back to take the lead with a quarter mile to race. Eased in the final strides, Alydar won going away, by a margin of four and a half lengths. His time of 1:47 was only a fifth off of Honest Pleasure's Stakes record, set two years earlier, and tied Bold Ruler's previous record, which had stood since 1957. Believe It finished fourth behind Noon Time Spender and Dr. Valeri.

Velasquez, now tied for the riding title, expressed his confidence in Alydar, saying:

"I know my horse is the champ. After he made the lead, he slowed down a little. He thought the race was over. I had to keep after him."

The jockey then left for the tenth race, which was the final race of the meeting, having picked up an unscheduled mount. First under the wire, he survived a foul claim to win the meeting's riding title in what could only be described as a brilliant come from behind victory. His five race winning streak was an unprecedented feat.

Said trainer John Veitch of his Flamingo Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby hopeful:

"This horse is a natural athlete. He's big and muscular, and he's grown about an inch taller since last fall."

Alydar's next start came at Gulfstream Park, in the Florida Derby. The overwhelming favorite at 1-5, Alydar was expected to be challenged only by Believe It, who was made second choice in the betting despite his poor showing in the Flamingo. The race unfolded somewhat differently than expected, with Eddie Maple holding Believe It back off the early pace. Alydar stayed much closer to the early leader, 65-1 longshot Judge Jay, than he usually did, pulling his rider out of the saddle down the backstretch and making his move earlier than usual. Alydar put a head in front with a half mile remaining, and Believe It challenged as they neared the top of the stretch, then moved past. Alydar rallied, regaining his lead and beating Believe It to the wire by two lengths.

Despite slow early fractions, the time of 1:47 was only a fifth of a second off General Duke's twenty-one year old stakes record. Having claimed Florida's orchids, Alydar next set his sights on Kentucky and the famous blanket of roses. Only one final prep remained, and only Affirmed, who was to run in the Santa Anita Derby the following day, stood in his way.

Alydar wins the Blue Grass

The Blue Grass Stakes served as Alydar's final Derby prep, and the Calumet star turned it into an exhibition, winning by a stunning thirteen lengths. Jimmy Conway, who had trained Chateaugay to win the 1963 Derby, summed up the 1978 Run for the Roses by telling the New York Times:

"Let's face it, it's a race between Affirmed and Alydar. Those two are like that (clapping hands together) They must adjust to possible speed, like Sensitive Prince. But other than that, they must race each other. They'll have to look each other in the eye somewhere along the line, and that could be your Derby"

John Veitch told reporters that he was glad that the two stars had not yet met as three-year-olds, since it added to the excitement of the Derby. Laz Barrera, who trained Affirmed for Harbor View Farm, said, "Affirmed needs a horse like Alydar to make him run."

The excitement surrounding the two favorites, who had met six times as juveniles but had been on opposite coasts since fall, overshadowed other leading contenders. The speedy Sensitive Prince was undefeated when he arrived at Churchill Downs, yet was virtually ignored by the press. Believe It, having been beaten twice by Alydar in Florida, was also disregarded despite his quality. The two chestnut rivals, one in pink and the other in red and blue, were the stars.

The two were reunited at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Alydar was the narrow favorite for the much anticipated Kentucky Derby. He had either won or been second to Affirmed in twelve of his fourteen starts. Affirmed had yet to be beaten by any horse except Alydar.

As expected, Sensitive Prince provided the early speed, and then Affirmed claimed the lead in the stretch. Although Alydar's powerful drive easily put Believe It in his place, he could not catch Affirmed in time. The roses went to the star of Harbor View Farm.

At Pimlico, Jorge Velasquez kept his mount closer to Affirmed, and the rivals hooked up earlier than they had at Churchill Downs. It was a grueling stretch battle, and one of the most famous in Preakness history, with Alydar gaining slowly throughout, but he once again couldn't top Affirmed. The Harbor View colt was the winner by a neck, while Believe It finished in his familiar third place position.

The last of the classics would mean either a Triple Crown for Affirmed, or dramatic retribution for Alydar. Trainer John Veitch expressed confidence in his colt, who ran without blinkers for the first time. Affirmed went to the top immediately, and Alydar followed. The two began their battle early in the classic race, and fought gamely for the last half mile, side by side. Alydar had the narrow lead at one point, but Affirmed fought back, and the two swept under the wire in a photo finish. It was Affirmed who wore the White Carnations, and the Triple Crown, but Alydar had become the first horse to run second in all three American classics, losing by a combined total of less than two lengths.

The famous finish

Outside of Affirmed's company, Alydar won the Arlington Classic, and then met older horses in the Whitney Stakes on August 6. The field included J.O. Tobin, conqueror of Seattle Slew, as well as Peter Pan Stakes winner Buckaroo. John Veitch expected J.O. Tobin and Nearly On Time would be on the lead, and that Alydar could be rated comfortably behind them.

It was Buckaroo, however, that went with Nearly On Time. Alydar was forced wide, than raced in seventh position. As J.O. Tobin moved up to challenge Buckaroo, Nearly On Time faded to last, and Alydar began his move at the head of the stretch. Jorge Velasquez, asked if he was worried when he saw both J.O. Tobin and Buckaroo ahead of him, answered, "I was never worried. I knew my horse would respond."

And respond he did. Alydar blew past the pair to win by ten lengths, running the mile and an eighth in 1:42 2/5. Buckaroo was second. Steve Cauthen, up on Banquet Table, said simply "I never look forward to meeting him [Alydar]." As it happened, Alydar was the least of his problems. Banquet Table ran eighth, although he did beat Nearly On Time.

Alydar then met Affirmed one last time, but his victory by steward's decision in the 1978 Travers Stakes was an unsatisfying end to the great rivalry. Alydar came out of the race with a fractured coffin bone, and was therefore out of commission for the remainder of the year.

As a four year old, Alydar had some success, although he failed to return to his previous form. He won the Nassau County Handicap, and ran second in both the Oaklawn Stakes and the Carter Handicap before retiring to stud. His lifetime record was fourteen wins, nine seconds, and a third in twenty six lifetime starts. He was out of the money only twice. (He ran fifth in his first start, the Youthful Stakes, and he ran out of the money once in his final season). Alydar's career earnings totaled $957,195. Although Alydar's talent was overshadowed by the deeds of his rival Affirmed, and he was never honored with an Eclipse Award, he did become Calumet Farm's eleventh Hall of Fame member in 1989.

As a stallion, Alydar was extremely successful, near the top of the American Sire's List a number of times, and finally leading it in 1990. His offspring brought home the classic victories and Eclipse awards that their famous sire had so narrowly missed earning himself.

One of Alydar's most famous sons was 1988 Horse of the Year Alysheba. Winner of the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Alysheba failed in his Triple Crown bid when archrival Bet Twice avenged his two previous defeats in taking the Belmont Stakes. Named Champion Three Year Old Colt in 1987, Alysheba returned at four to win, among other things, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Woodward Stakes, and the Breeders' Cup Classic. Named Horse of the Year, he retired as the world's leading money winner, with $6,679,242 in earnings.

Alydar's son Criminal Type became the last champion to carry the famed red and blue silks of Calumet Farm. After racing in France as a two and three-year-old, the dark chestnut returned to the United States to win a pair of allowance races in 1989. Conditioned by D. Wayne Lukas and racing for Calumet Farm and Jurgen Arnemann, Criminal Type began his five-year-old season by winning an allowance race at Santa Anita. He then took the San Pasqual and San Antonio Handicaps before running second to the millionaire Ruhlmann in the Santa Anita Handicap. He was again beaten by Ruhlmann in the San Bernardino Handicap.

In May, Criminal Type turned the tables on Ruhlmann, taking the Pimlico Special in the track record time of 1:53. Sixteen days later he handed defeat to the champion sprinter Housebuster and classic winner Easy Goer, also a son of Alydar, in the Metropolitan Handicap. In the Hollywood Gold Cup, Criminal Type faced 1989 Horse of the Year and dual classic winner Sunday Silence, as well as the top horse Opening Verse. Victorious, Criminal Type took his place as the nation's leading handicapper. After defeating Dancing Spree and Mi Selecto in the Whitney Handicap, he was retired due to lameness. Having earned $2,352,093, Criminal Type became Calumet's sixth and final Horse of the Year.

In addition to Criminal Type and Alysheba, Alydar also sired Easy Goer, winner of the 1989 Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, Woodward Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, as well as the champion filly Althea, the millionaire Turkoman, the 1991 Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold, the top filly Miss Oceana, and the undefeated juvenile star Saratoga Six. The list goes on.

Alydar died prematurely in the fall of 1990 after breaking his already injured hind leg in a barn accident. The insurance settlement paid Calumet a record amount of fifty million dollars, but the mighty sum pales in comparison to the deeds of Alydar and his offspring on the racetrack. Alydar is buried at the legendary Calumet Farm where his maternal ancestors are at rest.

Alydar's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 26 14 9 1 $957,195

Alydar, 1975 chestnut colt

Raise a Native Native Dancer Polynesian Unbreakable
Black Polly
Geisha Discovery
Raise You Case Ace Teddy
Lady Glory American Flag
Sweet Tooth On-and-On Nasrullah Nearco
Mumtaz Begum
Two Lea Bull Lea
Two Bob
Plum Cake Ponder Pensive
Miss Rushin
Real Delight Bull Lea
Blue Delight

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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