Affirmed (February 21, 1975 – January 12, 2001) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who was the eleventh winner of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. Affirmed was also known for his famous rivalry with Alydar, whom he met ten times, including in all three Triple Crown races. Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown for a 37-year period, which was ended in 2015 by American Pharoah.
Affirmed won fourteen Grade I stakes races over his career and was a champion each of the three years he raced. At age two in 1977, he was named the champion two-year-old after winning the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, Sanford, Hopeful, Belmont Futurity and Laurel Futurity. At age three, he was named 'Horse of the Year' for winning the Triple Crown and other major stakes races such as the Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Derby and Jim Dandy Stakes. He repeated as Horse of the Year at age four after winning the final seven races in his career, all but one of which was a Grade I stakes race. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. On the Blood-Horse magazine list of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, he was ranked twelfth.
Affirmed was a chestnut horse bred in Marion County, Florida by Louis Wolfson's Harbor View Farm. The derivation of the name "Affirmed" has been the subject of speculation, in part because the conviction of Wolfson, for securities law violations, had been affirmed on appeal in 1969, resulting in his imprisonment. Affirmed was sired by the Harbor View stallion Exclusive Native, a high-class racehorse and breeding stallion, whose other progeny included the Kentucky Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk.
1977: two-year-old season
As a two-year-old, Affirmed won seven of his nine starts, with two placings, 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 won his first start in a maiden special weight race at Belmont Park on May 24, 1977. He followed up with a win in the Youthful Stakes on June 15 where he defeated Alydar by eight lengths. On July 6 in the Great American Stakes, Alydar evened the score with a 3 1⁄2 length win after mounting a powerful stretch drive.
Affirmed was then shipped across country to Hollywood Park, where he won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes on July 23. He then shipped back to New York where he won the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on August 17 by 2 1⁄2 lengths over the previously undefeated Tilt Up. In his next start on August 27 in the Hopeful Stakes, his main rival was Alydar, who was the even money favorite after winning four straight races. Affirmed stalked the early pace set by Tilt Up with Alydar in close contention. Around the far turn, Affirmed moved to the lead with Alydar closing ground on the outside. In mid-stretch, Alydar had closed to within a head but Affirmed pulled away in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by half a length. His time of 1:152⁄5 for 6 1⁄2 furlongs was a new stakes record.
The two horses again faced off in the Belmont Futurity on September 10, with Affirmed going off as the narrow favorite. After a good start, Affirmed settled into second place behind longshot Rough Sea, while Alydar overcame a bad start to move into third place down the backstretch. Rounding into the stretch, Affirmed moved to the lead. Alydar responded and the two horses dueled head-to-head for the final furlong. Alydar appeared to be in the lead for much of the stretch drive before Affirmed rallied in the final stride to win by a nose. "He never gave up," said Cauthen, "even when he was headed."
Alydar turned the tables in the Champagne Stakes on October 15, sweeping by Affirmed in the stretch to win by 1 1⁄4 lengths. The two faced off again in the Laurel Futurity on October 29, then one of the most prestigious races for two-year-olds in the country, with Affirmed winning by a neck. With his 4-2 margin in the series against Alydar, Affirmed was named the 1977 American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt.
1978: three-year-old season
Affirmed started his three-year-old campaign on the West Coast with an allowance race win in March, followed by victories in the San Felipe Stakes, Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Derby. Meanwhile, Alydar was preparing for the Kentucky Derby with wins in the Flamingo Stakes, Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.
The Triple Crown
Alydar was made the 6-5 favorite for Kentucky Derby, with Affirmed the second choice at 9-5 and undefeated Sensitive Prince the third choice at 9-2. At the start of the Kentucky Derby, Sensitive Prince took the early lead as Affirmed ran in third through the early stages, while Alydar stayed far back. Affirmed made a strong move for the lead on the far turn, put away a challenge by Wood Memorial winner Believe It, and held off Alydar's fast-closing charge to win by 1 1⁄2 lengths. Affirmed now had a 5-2 edge in the series.
In the Preakness Stakes, Affirmed set the pace. Alydar made his big move on the far turn, at the same point in the race where Affirmed made his winning move in the Derby. Affirmed held a short lead entering the stretch and held it to defeat Alydar by a neck.
Alydar's partisans assumed that the 1 1⁄2 mile distance of the Belmont, two furlongs longer than the Derby and 5/16 of a mile longer than the Preakness Stakes, would favor Alydar with his finishing style and staying pedigree, and he would deny Affirmed the Triple Crown. Trainer Veitch removed Alydar's blinkers for the Belmont, saying that if Alydar got a better look at Affirmed, maybe he would get by him.
In the Belmont, Affirmed led 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, put Alydar close to the pace, and moved alongside Affirmed with more than seven furlongs to go. For more than six furlongs (half the distance of the race), the colts raced neck and neck, pulling away from the rest of the field. Alydar got his nose in front at mid-stretch, but just as Affirmed appeared to tire, Cauthen went to a left-handed whip, something he had never done before in his eight rides on Affirmed. Affirmed won by a nose to become racing's 11th (and last winner for 37 years until American Pharoah won in 2015), Triple Crown winner. After the third slowest start in Belmont Stakes history, they raced the fastest last mile in Belmont Stakes history, 3⁄4 in 1:14, the mile in 1:37 2⁄5 and finished in 2:26 4⁄5. It was, at the time, the third fastest Belmont ever, behind Secretariat and Gallant Man.
His Triple Crown win set two records: the shortest and longest gaps between the previous and next Triple Crown winners. Affirmed's win in 1978 was the first time the Triple Crown had been won in consecutive years (Seattle Slew won in 1977). Affirmed's win also marked the start of the longest gap until the next Triple Crown winner, with American Pharoah's win on June 6, 2015 occurring 37 years later.
After the Triple Crown
Affirmed returned to racing in early August in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. He nearly became an upset loser to the front-running Sensitive Prince but closed in the last 100 yards in a race that Laz Barrera considered one of Affirmed's finest efforts.
Alydar and Affirmed met once more, in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Affirmed, piloted by Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay substituting for the injured Cauthen, cut off Alydar entering the far turn, causing his rival to hit the rail and almost go down, losing six lengths before recovering his stride. Affirmed finished first but was disqualified and placed second. The horses never met again, and the final winning tally stood at Affirmed 7, Alydar 3.
Affirmed then prepared to meet another major rival: 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 was a speed horse and got the first quarter mile in 24 seconds under jockey Angel Cordero, who never allowed Affirmed to get close. Seattle Slew won by three lengths in 1:45 4⁄5 for the one-turn mile and 1⁄8. The two horses met once more, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. This time, Affirmed was to be aided by his stablemate Life's Hope, who was entered in the race to extend Seattle Slew in the early stages. However, Affirmed's saddle slipped during the race, leaving his jockey with almost no control. He tired to finish unplaced for the only time in his career as Exceller and jockey Willie Shoemaker defeated Seattle Slew by a nose.
As a three-year-old, Affirmed won 8 of 11 starts with 2 seconds and 1 unplaced run, for earnings of $901,541. He was named Horse of the Year despite the losses to Alydar, Seattle Slew, and Exceller, and was also named the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse.
1979: four-year-old season
As a four-year-old in 1979, Affirmed started the season with a third place in the Malibu Stakes and a second in the San Fernando Stakes. He had a five race losing sequence prior to starting in the Charles H. Strub Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Laz Barrera replaced Cauthen with Pincay and Affirmed didn't lose again and would dominate the handicaps the rest of the year.
Affirmed won the Strub Stakes, and then ran in the Santa Anita Handicap against Exceller, who had defeated Seattle Slew in 1978. Affirmed won easily, running the 1 1⁄4 miles in 1:583⁄5, under 128 pounds while setting a stakes record in California's most important stakes race that stood until 2014. Affirmed then went to Hollywood Park, where he won the Californian Stakes under 130 pounds giving runner-up Syncopate 16 pounds. Next, carrying top weight of 132 pounds, he won the Hollywood Gold Cup in a three horse finish, from Sirlad (120 pounds) and Text (119 pounds), 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, three-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 issued challenges at Affirmed, but Affirmed won. Spectacular Bid was undefeated during the rest of his racing career.
Affirmed was named Horse of the Year and the American Champion Older Male Horse of 1979, having won 7 of 9 starts with 1 second and 1 third as a four-year-old and earning $1,148,800. In his career, Affirmed earned a then record $2,393,818 (the first Thoroughbred in North America to win over $2 million) with 22 wins, 5 seconds and 1 third from 29 starts.
His trainer, Laz Barrera, once said: "Affirmed is greater than Secretariat, or any Triple Crown winner, because only Affirmed had to face Alydar."
Affirmed was syndicated at a then-record $14.4 million. At stud, Affirmed sired over 80 stakes winners, 9 champions with earnings in excess of $44,000,000 (through 2004) including:
- Charlie Barley (USA), stakes winner in US
- Flawlessly, North America's grass course champion in 1992 and 1993
- Peteski (CAN), won USA Molson Export Million Stakes and Canadian Triple Crown.
- The Tin Man, won multiple Grade I races, including the Arlington Million
- Trusted Partner (USA), won G1 IRE One Thousand Guineas
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. As a broodmare sire, his daughters have notably produced Honey Ryder (G1W on turf) and Pleasantly Perfect (G1W on dirt & synthetic, notable wins include Breeders Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup).
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 colors of his original owners, Harbor View Farm.
Rivalry with Alydar
|Date||Track||Race||Distance||Affirmed finish||Alydar finish||Margin|
|6/15/1977||Belmont Park||Youthful Stakes||5 1/5 furlongs||1||5||5 lengths (to Alydar)|
|7/6/1977||Belmont Park||Great American Stakes||5 1/2||2||1||3 1/2|
|8/27/1977||Saratoga||Hopeful Stakes||6 1/2||1||2||1/2|
|9/10/1977||Belmont Park||Belmont Futurity||7||1||2||nose|
|10/15/1977||Belmont Park||Champagne Stakes||1 mile||2||1||1 1/4|
|10/29/1977||Laurel Park||Laurel Futurity||1 1/16 miles||1||2||neck|
|5/6/1978||Churchill Downs||Kentucky Derby||1 1/4||1||2||1 1/2|
|5/20/1978||Pimlico||Preakness Stakes||1 3/16||1||2||neck|
|6/10/1978||Belmont Park||Belmont Stakes||1 1/2||1||2||head|
|8/19/1978||Saratoga||Travers Stakes||1 1/4||2*||1*||1 3/4*|
Final: Affirmed 7, Alydar 3
*In their final meeting, Affirmed drifted in, forcing Alydar to be taken up on the backstretch. While Affirmed finished ahead of Alydar, the stewards decided to disqualify Affirmed from first to second, giving Alydar the final win.
In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Affirmed was ranked #12.
|Raise a Native
|Raise You||Case Ace|
Won't Tell You
|Fighting Fox||Sir Gallahad (FR)|
|Admiral's Lady||War Admiral|
|Volcanic||Ambrose Light (FR)|
|Native Valor||Mahmoud (FR)|
|Native Gal (family: 23-b)|
- Officially, Affirmed was 26 years old at the time of his death as all Thoroughbreds foaled in the Northern Hemisphere are deemed to be born on January 1.
- "Horse Profile - Affirmed". www.equibase.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Weinberger, Alan. "What's in a Name? - The Tale of Louis Wolfson's Affirmed".
- Cady, Steve (31 May 1987). "Affirmed and Alydar Ran Into Our Hearts". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "Calumet's Alydar Wins by 3 1/2 Lengths: Triple for Cauthen". The New York Times. 7 July 1977. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
- "Affirmed Takes Sanford; Tilt Up Finishes Second". The New York Times. 18 August 1977. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Strauss, Michael (28 August 1977). "Affirmed Spa Victor; Alydar 2d". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Strauss, Michael (11 September 1977). "Affirmed, $4.40, Beats Alydar by a Nose". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Strauss, Michael (16 October 1977). "On the Sly, Alydar Victors at Belmont". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- "Affirmed Captures Laurel Race". The New York Times. 30 October 1977. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Legacies of the turf: a century of great thoroughbred breeders Retrieved 2011-1-2
- "Horse Profile - Alydar". www.equibase.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Nusca, Andrew (7 June 2015). "Here are the 12 winners of the Triple Crown". Fortune. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "Pharoah is King: American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown - STATS Insights". stats.com. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Goldberg, Ryan. "Affirmed and Alydar's Travers showdown still rouses emotions". drf.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Dwyre, Bill (16 September 2008). "Two horses do rare feat, then meet". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Posnanski, Joe (2 June 2015). "Zenith and nadir". sportsworld.nbcsports.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Australian Stud Book: Affirmed (USA) 1975 Retrieved 2011-1-2
- "Affirmed tribute". Archived from the original on 2002-06-11. Retrieved 2006-05-07.
- Affirmed at Find a Grave
- Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century Retrieved 2011-1-2
- "Affirmed - National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame". www.racingmuseum.org. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "Affirmed pedigree". equineline.com. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
- "Thoroughbred Bloodlines - Turk Mare - Family 23-b". Bloodlines.net. Retrieved 2014-01-24.