Triple Crown Winner Affirmed Euthanized

ByChris Duncan

Jan. 12, 2001 -- Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner whose riveting stretchduels with Alydar in 1978 thrilled racing fans throughout theworld, was euthanized today following months of leg problems. Hewas 26.

The chestnut colt retired to stud in 1979 after a career thatsaw him win 14 stakes races and more than $2.3 million.

"He was basically the best horse I ever rode, the mostintelligent," said Steve Cauthen, who was 18 when he guidedAffirmed to the Triple Crown. "He was just a horse of tremendouscourage. He loved to race. He was a great horse to ride."

Affirmed-Alydar Duels

Alydar finished second to Affirmed in all three races, comingcloser to victory each time. Affirmed won by 1 1/2 lengths in theDerby, a neck in the Preakness and a mere head in the Belmont.

The most famous duel, of course, was the last, when Affirmed andAlydar battled side-by-side down the final seven furlongs.

"He pulled it out under the most extreme situation," Cauthenrecalled in 1999. "Anyone that saw that race will never forget it,and probably remember it as the greatest race they ever saw."

Even in his retirement years at Jonabell Farm near Lexington,Affirmed always seemed to know when cameras were pointed at him. Hehad a command presence and would strut and pose, his brown coatshowing a smattering of white around the muzzle and eyes.

Affirmed had surgery in October to repair a dislocated leftfront pastern joint, but laminitis soon developed in his righthoof. Laminitis is an inflammation of soft tissue that can becaused by excessive weight-bearing after the opposite limb isinjured.

Dr. Larry Bramlage performed the initial surgery. On Jan. 8, thehorse was returned to the hospital, where he was put undercontinuous observation, according to Jonabell Farm. Bramlageexamined Affirmed this morning and recommended euthanasia.

Jimmy Bell, the farm's general manager and president, said thehorse seemed to be moving with pain in recent months.

"We elected to have [Affirmed] humanely euthanized, rather than to allowhim to continue to suffer," Bell said.

Seattle Slew Only Living Triple Crown Winner

The death of Affirmed leaves Seattle Slew as the only livingTriple Crown winner. Seattle Slew became the 10th Triple Crownwinner in 1977.

Since Affirmed accomplished the feat, seven colts have had ashot at the Triple Crown but failed by losing in the BelmontStakes: Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba(1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet(1998) and Charismatic (1999).

"Any time a good horse seems to come along these days, healways gets compared to Affirmed," Bell said. "Until one wins theTriple Crown and 14 Grade I races, they've still got a lot to liveup to. This horse was the definition of a champion horse."

Affirmed did not have as successful a stud career as Alydar, whowas euthanized in 1990 after breaking a leg in his stall, orSeattle Slew, still standing at Three Chimneys. But his progenyhave been strong turf runners and his daughters have made goodbroodmares.

Of the more than 700 Affirmed foals, 75 had won stakes races. Asa group, his foals had earned about $40 million.

"Affirmed will forever stand with those who exemplify the word'champion' in thoroughbred racing. We cannot begin to imagine howmuch we will miss him," said Patrice Wolfson, the horse'sco-owner, with her husband, Louis.