The Last Triple Crown Winner
Thomas Dunne Books, Hardcover, 9780312628086, 304pp.
Publication Date: March 29, 2011
In 1978, racing fans witnessed a rivalry for the ages when a horse hailing from Harbor View Farm named Affirmed and an eighteen-year-old jockey dubbed “Stevie Wonder” faced off against the celebrated Alydar and emerged victorious in each leg of the Triple Crown---by a combined margin of less than two lengths. In this long-overdue biography of Affirmed, veteran sportswriter Lou Sahadi captures the life and spirit of this indomitable horse who twice earned Horse of the Year honors and placed #12 on the Blood-Horse list of “Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.”
The descendent of Man o’ War and War Admiral, Affirmed possessed an unrivaled combination of speed and heart. Sahadi chronicles how the initially docile chestnut colt began his stellar rise in 1977, winning seven times and placing twice in nine races. Entering the 1978 season, many experts speculated that Alydar, the latest prize product from the storied Calumet Farm, would prove himself the better horse on longer distances, as he had done in the Champagne Stakes the previous October. Trainer Laz Barrera opted to run Affirmed in three races in California—away from Alydar—in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby, a strategy that paid off as Affirmed, under reigning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year jockey Stevie Cauthen, bested his rival in three races that fascinated even the most casual of sports fans.
Affirmed also delivers fascinating subplots including that of jockey Louis Pincay Jr., who took over for Cauthen in the winter of 1979 and rode Affirmed to victory in the horse’s final seven races; and owner Louis Wolfson, the Wall Street financier who found redemption in Harbor View Farm with Affirmed after Wolfson served one year in a federal prison, his conviction having led to the resignation of Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas.
Sahadi draws on interviews with Cauthen, some members of the Wolfson family, and many more to tell the story of how Affirmed emerged from one of the most exciting showdowns in sports history to capture imaginations across America. Telling a story that transcended the Thoroughbred racing world, Affirmed finally gives this courageous horse his due.
"Sahadi has successfully covered horse racing and has done justice to Affirmed and Alydar, as well as their human connections and many fans, forever connected in history as the combatants of the greatest rivalry ever seen on the American turf. Sahadi specializes in writing about sports history and keeping the reader's interest from cover to cover, and he clearly succeeds here, aided by an already exciting story that just needed to be told by such a master of his craft. This book is highly recommended for all fans of racing history, as well as to fans of American sports history, as the 1970's truly were the golden age of horse racing."—Horse-Races.net
"There is no greater atmosphere than the Triple Crown and Sahadi captures the spirit of it. A must read for everyone."—Hank Goldberg, ESPN reporter
"One of the greatest racing rivalries of all time deserves an equally world-class storyteller to make it come alive so many years later. Mr. Sahadi gets you so close to the action, you can almost smell the hay in the stalls of these two equine superstars."—Leonard Shapiro, columnist, The Washington Post
"Brings to life a time in racing that no longer exists."—Ron Borges, columnist, Boston Herald
"No question, Affirmed-Alydar is racing’s greatest rivalry. Lou Sahadi is a masterful storyteller who vividly brings it back to life…The book is a winner."—Sal Marchiano, former sports anchor