Definitions

Affirmed

Affirmed

[uh-furm]

Affirmed (February 21, 1975January 12, 2001) was an American thoroughbred race horse who was the eleventh winner of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. As of 2008, he was the last horse to do so. He was the great-great-grandson of Triple Crown winner War Admiral through damsire Crafty Admiral.

Affirmed is also known for his famous rivalry with Alydar, whom Affirmed met ten times, including in all three Triple Crown races, and who became the first racehorse to finish second in all three Triple Crown races.

Race record at age 2

As a 2 year old, Affirmed won 7 of 9 starts with two place finishes for earnings of $343,477 under regular rider Steve Cauthen, then a teenager. Notably, six of those starts were against his rival, Calumet Farm's Alydar, with Affirmed winning four and Alydar winning two. Affirmed had a front-running style and Alydar closed from far back, so their races together often consisted of Affirmed getting the lead and Alydar attempting to catch him late in the race. After Affirmed won a maiden race, he faced Alydar (who was ambitiously placed by trainer John M. Veitch in a stakes race in his first start) for the first time in the Youthful Stakes, a 5 1/2 furlong stakes in June at Belmont Park. Affirmed won the race by a nose, and Alydar finished a distant fifth. It was the only time that the horses would meet where they would not run 1-2.

Their second meeting came in July 1977 in the Great American Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. This time, Alydar would turn the tables, blowing by Affirmed at the top of the stretch and drawing away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Affirmed also picked up a win in California's major summer stakes for 2 year olds, the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, before shipping back east to face Alydar again.

The colts then moved on to Saratoga Race Course, where they ran in the Hopeful Stakes, a major 2 year old stakes race held each August. Affirmed held off Alydar's charge to win by 3/4 of a length. By this time, the colts were starting to arouse interest and press coverage, as they seemed to be relatively evenly matched and were the two best 2 year old colts in the country. Affirmed also picked up a victory in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, a race that Alydar sat out.

The colts met again in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park in September. This time Alydar moved earlier. The colts hooked up with 3/8 of a mile to go, and battled in an exciting duel to the wire. Affirmed won by a nose, giving the colt a 3-1 edge in the series.

Still, Alydar's partisans believed his come-from-behind style would favor the horse at longer distances. The Champagne Stakes in October, which often decided the 2 year old championship in that era, seemed to prove Alydar's fans right. The Champagne was run at a mile, and this time, Alydar moved late, making up ground in the final 1/8 of a mile to pass Affirmed near the wire and win by more than a length. Alydar's win the Champagne might have wrapped the 2 year old championship up for the colt, but Affirmed would have one more chance, in the Laurel Futurity in November. Affirmed and Alydar both made their moves on the turn, hooked up in another duel like the one in the Futurity Stakes, with the same result, Affirmed winning, this time by a neck.

With his 4-2 margin in the series, Affirmed was named the Champion 2 year old of 1977.

Preparing for the Triple Crown

Trainer Laz Barrera decided he didn't want to continue facing Alydar when preparing for the Triple Crown. So, while Alydar shipped to Florida and then to Kentucky to prepare for the Kentucky Derby, Affirmed came back to Santa Anita in California. He picked up a win in the San Felipe Stakes, and then won the major preparation race for the Kentucky Derby, the Santa Anita Derby, by a distance. His last Kentucky Derby prep would come with a victory in the Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park.

With Affirmed and Alydar both winning their Derby preps easily, the 7th meeting of the colts in the Kentucky Derby would be eagerly anticipated.

The Triple Crown

In the Kentucky Derby, Affirmed let Sensitive Prince take the early lead, sitting third through the early stages, while Alydar stayed far back. Affirmed made a strong move for the lead on the far turn, and Alydar's move came too late in the stretch. Affirmed won by 1 1/2 lengths. Affirmed now had a 5-2 edge in the series.

In the Preakness, Affirmed went to the lead and set the pace, and Alydar made his big move on the far turn, at the same point in the race when Affirmed made his winning move in the Derby. Affirmed held a short lead entering the stretch and was able to hold it against Alydar's relentless drive. Affirmed held on and won by a neck.

As exciting as the Preakness was, the Belmont Stakes would turn out to be even more exciting. Again, Alydar's partisans assumed that the 1 1/2 mile distance of the Belmont, 1/4 of a mile longer than the Derby and 5/16 of a mile longer than the Preakness, would favor the colt with his closing style and distance-oriented pedigree, and he would finally be vindicated and would deny Affirmed the Triple Crown.

However, Affirmed was able to get to the lead and set a very slow pace, going the first quarter mile in 25 seconds and the half in 50 seconds. Alydar's jockey, Jorge Velasquez, smartly put Alydar close to the pace, and moved alongside Affirmed with more than 6 furlongs to go. For more than 3/4 of a mile, the two colts raced neck and neck, pulling away from the rest of the field. At the finish line, once again, Alydar could not vanquish Affirmed, and Affirmed won by a nose and became racing's 11th Triple Crown winner.

After the Triple Crown

Affirmed returned to the races in early August in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. Affirmed nearly became an upset loser himself to the front running Sensitive Prince but was able to close in the last 100 yards in a race that Laz Barrera considered one of Affirmed's finest efforts.

Affirmed and Alydar would meet once more, in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Affirmed, piloted by Hall of Fame Jockey Laffit Pincay who was substituting for the injured Cauthen, cut off Alydar entering the far turn causing his rival to check suddenly. Affirmed crossed under the wire first but was disqualified and placed second. They would never meet again, and the final standing stood at Affirmed 7, Alydar 3.

Affirmed then prepared to meet another major rival, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew. The 1978 Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap marked the first time in racing history that two Triple Crown winners ever met in a race. Seattle Slew, the 1977 champion, who was also a speed horse, never allowed Affirmed to get close to him and defeated Affirmed by three lengths. They would meet once more, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. This time, Affirmed was to be aided by a rabbit, his stablemate Life's Hope, who was entered in the race was to push Seattle Slew to run very fast in the first stages of the race. However, Affirmed's saddle slipped during the race, leaving his jockey with almost no control. Affirmed tired and finished far back as Exceller and Willie Shoemaker beat Seattle Slew by a nose.

As a 3 year old, Affirmed won 8 of 11 starts with 2 seconds and 1 out of the money finish, for earnings of $901,541. He was named Horse of the Year despite the two losses to Seattle Slew, and was also named the Champion 3 year old.

As a 4 year old

As a four-year-old in 1979, Affirmed got off to a rocky start, with a third place finish in the Malibu Stakes and a second place finish in the San Fernando Stakes. He was thus carrying a five race losing streak into the Charles H. Strub Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Laz Barrera fired Cauthen and replaced him with Pincay. With Pincay aboard, Affirmed would never lose again and would dominate the handicap division the rest of the year, establishing that his dominance of Alydar was no fluke.

Affirmed won the Strub, and then ran in the Santa Anita Handicap against Exceller, the horse who had upset Seattle Slew in 1978. Affirmed won easily, setting the stakes record in California's most important stakes race which still stands as of 2008. Affirmed then went to Hollywood Park, where he won the Californian, and then, carrying 132 pounds, he won the Hollywood Gold Cup in a 3 horse stretch drive over Sirlad and Text, setting an all time earnings record and running the 1 1/4 miles in a fast 1:58 2/5. Affirmed picked up the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park, and then faced one more all time great horse, 3 year old Spectacular Bid, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, also at Belmont. Spectacular Bid, like Alydar, preferred to run off the pace, and once again, Affirmed was allowed to set a slow pace, going the first half mile in 49 seconds. Spectacular Bid made several runs at Affirmed, but could not get by, and Affirmed closed out his career by handing another great horse what would be the final defeat of his career, as Spectacular Bid would go on to have an undefeated season in 1980.

Affirmed was named Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse of 1979, having won 7 of 9 starts with 1 second and 1 third as a 4 year old and earning $1,148,800. In his career, Affirmed earned a then record $2,393,818 (first thoroughbred racer in North America to win over 2 million dollars in a career) with 22 wins, 5 seconds and 1 third from 29 starts.

Affirmed's courage was in many ways his most remarkable attribute. Affirmed was a natural speed horse who won most of his races on or near the lead. However, when challenged in the stretch, even by top horses such as Alydar and Spectacular Bid, he simply would not let them pass. Affirmed therefore had a lethal combination of speed (which allowed him to get early position and not have to rely on a good trip passing horses to get into position and win) and heart (which allowed him to fend off challengers).

Affirmed's Triple Crown accomplishment has not been repeated since, and his career has been honored with his election to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Affirmed's trainer, Laz Barrera, once said: "Affirmed is greater than Secretariat, or any Triple Crown winner, because only Affirmed had to face Alydar."

Career as a sire

Affirmed was syndicated at a then-record 14.4 million dollars. At stud Affirmed sired over 80 stakes winners, 9 champions with earnings in excess of $44,000,000 (through 2004) including Flawlessly and Peteski (Canadian triple crown winner in 1993). Though Affirmed never raced on the turf (grass) he was a noted sire of turf runners, most notably multiple Grade I winners Flawlessly and The Tin Man. His daughters are valued as broodmares.

Affirmed was the second US Triple Crown winner to sire a second generation Triple Crown champion. Affirmed's foal, Peteski, won the Canadian Triple Crown in 1993.

In 2001, Affirmed was euthanized after falling seriously ill with laminitis, a circulatory hoof disease. The same disease has also led to the death of fellow Triple Crown winner Secretariat and Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. He was buried whole--the ultimate honor for a race horse--at Jonabell Farm, wearing the flamingo pink silks of his original owners, Harbor View Farm.

In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Affirmed was ranked #12. He is the last horse to win the Triple Crown in 31 years.

Pedigree

External links

[[Category:Belmont Stakes winners] {]Gold Cup: Jockey Club Gold Cup 1978 (I have pic with date on blanket)

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