On This Date in Sports June 10, 1978: Greatness Affirmed

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It is greatness Affirmed, as Affirmed wins the Triple Crown by beating rival Alydar in the Belmont Stakes by a head. Affirmed was ridden by young Jockey Steve Cauthen, who is just passed his 18th birthday. In all three races, Affirmed battled Alydar, ridden by Jorge Velasquez. The time of the races was a quick 2:26.80, the third-fastest all-time at the Belmont, as Alydar was beaten by a head.

After a strong debut as a two-year-old, Affirmed won several major races, including the Santa Anita Derby in the lead of Triple Crown season. Affirmed was sired by Exclusive Native, who was mated with Won’t Tell You. Alydar, meanwhile, was sired by Raise, a Native, who had also sired Exclusive Native, the sire of Affirmed. His Dam was named Sweet Tooth.

Affirmed was Trained by Laz Barrera, who chose Steve Cauthen as his Jockey as a 17-year-old Cauthen made headlines in the Horseracing world when he won 487 races, winning a record $6 million in 1977. Alydar was trained by John Veitch and ridden by Jorge Velasquez, who became famous thanks to his battles with Cauthen in the Affirmed-Alydar duel.

Affirmed and Alydar one cannot be mentioned without the other their duels in the Triple Crown of 1978 were so memorable. With 11 horses in the field, Alydar was the favorite going into the Kentucky Derby. Affirmed, also loved by the experts, ran the stronger race, battling Sensitive Prince early for the lead before pulling ahead. Alydar started slowly but finished strong, battling Believe It for second before making a last-ditch charge at the lead. Affirmed would not be caught winning the Kentucky Derby in a time of 2:01:20, beating Alydar by one and one-half lengths. The race was run five days after Steve Cauthen turned 18, the youngest to ever win a Triple Crown race.

Affirmed and Alydar went into the Preakness Stakes as the favorites, with Affirmed looking to get in position for history. The two colts who finished ahead of the field at Churchill Downs created a quick pace at Pimlico, running the Preakness in a time of 1:54.40. The two ran side-by-side down the backstretch, with Believe It finishing a distant third. Affirmed once again was the winner beating Alydar by a head.


Just five horses were entered in the Belmont Stakes, as Affirmed and Alydar became the greatest rivalry in Horseracing. The two horses broke free of the field and raced a half-mile duel for history side-by-side again; the two ran the third-fastest run in the history of the Belmont Stakes at 2:26.80. When it was over, it Confirmed who was the winner again, beating its rival by a head again.

The Triple Crown win was the pinnacle of Steve Cauthen’s career; as he reached adulthood, he had trouble with weight limits in the United States and moved to Europe, where limits were higher. Affirmed was the second straight Triple Crown winner following Seattle Slew in 1977 and the third in six years, starting with Secretariat in 1973. There would not be another until American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown in 2015.