There have been many incredible horses run and win the Belmont Stakes, they have made up the history of this incredible and popular race.
The history of these amazing horses always influences the latest races, such as the picks for the 2022 Belmont. We consider the descendants of legends, traits we recognize from epic winners of the past, and more.
However, one thing we always love is a good rivalry, and that is something that Affirmed brought us in his time on the tracks. We have not seen a rivalry quite like this, and it brings excitement beyond the betting action we see in the races as well.
So, what is there to know about Affirmed and his time running the Belmont Stakes?
Affirmed’s Early Years
Affirmed was brought into the world in 1975 in Florida, sired by Exclusive Native, and ‘Won’t Tell You. Both of his grand sires were champions, he had Crafty Admiral on the maternal side of his lineage, and Raise a Native on his paternal side.
However, unlike some of the other epic racers in horse racing history, he would not have a career just linked to his speed, endurance and skill on the racetrack, but also to another horse- Alydar, with whom he would be in a rivalry with through his racing life.
His first ever race was in 1977 at the Belmont racetrack, it was an easy victory for him, and he followed it up with a win in the Youthful Stakes as well. This is where he first encountered Alydar, who came fifth.
Then in their next meet Alydar faced off Affirmed in Belmont again and beat Affirmed by just 3.5 lengths! We did not know back then that this would be the start of something truly epic.
They met again at Saratoga in the Hopeful Stakes that same year. They were anticipated at even money, and they kept the tension tight as they ran off at a head-to-head which they maintained into the stretch.
Alydar made his run on the outside, but he never managed to pass by Affirmed, he held on and ended up winning, albeit by a measly half a length.
They continued to be a symbol of excitement and anticipation for spectators at many meets.
Affirmed & Alydar: A Rivalry
As you can already see, Affirmed’s career is defined by his races against Alydar over the years, their rivalry was at the center of all American attention from their beginning in ‘77.
They met many times over during their season, and Affirmed beat Alydar in 4 of their 2-year-old contests, however, Alydar was never that far back.
They took very different paths to the Derby, but eventually they met and at the Derby Affirmed bested Alydar by only 1 ½, then in the Preakness Stakes, he won again. As the Belmont Stakes arrived, the final third of the Triple Crown, they were all anyone could talk about.
On race day only ¼ mile in, Affirmed was way out in front, Alydar was 2 places behind him. Things were slow to start, but then Alydar’s Jockey set his eye on Affirmed, confirmed target and let loose.
Everyone expected a showdown between these two, it was just fitting, but this was something else. They matched each other all the way from the mile marker to the stretch peak, Affirmed held a slight advantage but Alydar was having none of it.
However, Affirmed crossed the line first, he won the much sought after Triple Crown, and in doing so set a load of milestones.
He was named horse of the year in ‘78.
The Tables Turned
Later on, they met again in Saratoga, and things were unexpected in this instance. Alydar had been struggling to beat his rival over the line for the whole year, and this time, he technically didn’t.
They met in Saratoga, and while Affirmed actually crossed the line before Alydar, he was actually disqualified from the race on the grounds of interference.
Alydar was declared the winner, in a unique turn of events, and while he won the purse and the race, he still had not beaten Affirmed in that year
Time To Leave The Track
Affirmed left the racing scene in ‘79, he had managed to win a grand total of 22 of his 29 races, not quite Man ‘o War stats we know, but definitely something for a horse of his caliber to be proud of, and with his rivalry in mind.
He was syndicated for a huge $14.4 million, and he was a stud at a Farm in Kentucky for many years.
He was 26 when he passed away in 2001. But he lived long enough to see himself inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing in 1980, with such achievements, he deserved it.