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May 17, 2010
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May 17, 2010

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | May 29, 1978

A Two-Horse Race

In a thrilling Preakness, Affirmed held off Alydar—again

In their seven previous meetings, Affirmed and Alydar had run more than six miles against each other, and the total distance separating them at the wire had been less than three lengths. William Leggett reported for SI.

The Preakness of 1978 was a brilliant horse race, one that even surpassed its buildup. With more than a quarter of a mile remaining, Alydar ranged up on the outside, challenging Affirmed with a rush that seemed sure to carry the colt into the lead. But Affirmed dug in and fought for every inch of ground. Just as he had in the Kentucky Derby two weeks before, Affirmed was getting a superior ride from Steve Cauthen. But Alydar, who had fallen far behind in the Derby while apparently having trouble handling the track, this time was getting good traction when he made his move.

All the way to the wire the two battled, never more than half a length apart—but with Affirmed always ahead. The winner's time for the 1 3/16 miles was 1:54 2/5, which equaled that of the last two Triple Crown winners, Secretariat and Seattle Slew. Cauthen also had enough horse left to finish the last 3/16 of a mile in 18 1/5 seconds. Only Little Current (1974) ever ran that quickly at the end of a Preakness.

Woody Stephens, the trainer of Believe It, who came in third, summed up his feeling about running against Affirmed and Alydar. "I'm going wherever they ain't," he said. "In the Derby, Believe It was beaten by less than three lengths; in the Preakness, it was nearly eight. So long, Affirmed. Bye-bye, Alydar."

Affirmed beat Alydar by a head in the Belmont to win the Triple Crown.

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