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Old Foes, New Race
William Nack
June 08, 1987
Alydar and Affirmed, once fierce opponents, compete now in the breeding shed
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June 08, 1987

Old Foes, New Race

Alydar and Affirmed, once fierce opponents, compete now in the breeding shed

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That Alydar finally found the end of his rainbow at the stud, where Affirmed has not, is no doubt a matter of genetics. Alydar is a son of Raise a Native, himself a son of the great Native Dancer and one of the most prepotent American stallions of all time. And Alydar's dam, Sweet Tooth, descends from one of the finest female families ever produced at historic Calumet, a line from which numerous major stakes winners have come, including the notable fillies Our Mims and Sugar and Spice.

"The Calumet family that Alydar came from is a magnificent female family," says John Williams, the former general manager at Spendthrift Farm. "And his sire, Raise a Native, is one of the most influential sires of this century, through his sons and daughters."

Affirmed is a grandson of Raise a Native—his sire, Exclusive Native, is a son of Raise a Native—and thus his apples fall farther from the big tree. Moreover, Affirmed's dam, Won't Tell You, comes from a much thinner bloodline than Sweet Tooth's. All of which explains, at least in breeding theory, why Alydar has so far done much better at the stud than Affirmed. On the racetrack, of course, there wasn't more than a wink and a nod separating them in the first place. So, having gone to the stud with virtually equal ability, they were ultimately separated in the breeding shed by the arcane mandates of pedigree.

All that aside, the most compelling ending for these two horses was written last fall when Affirmed's principal owner, Louis Wolfson, agreed to transfer Affirmed from the financially crumbling empire of Spendthrift Farm to Calumet. A year earlier, with the upheavals at Spendthrift growing more ominous by the week—the great Seattle Slew left Spendthrift on Sept. 6, 1985—Lundy had approached Donald Wolfson, Louis's nephew, and told him, "If there is ever any interest in moving Affirmed, there will always be a stall for him at Calumet Farm."

At the time, Louis Wolfson hesitated—he still felt bound by a commitment to Leslie Combs, the chairman of the board at Spendthrift—but he did muse aloud to Donald, "It really would be something to see those two horses side by side again." Last fall, following Combs's departure from Spendthrift and with the farm in such turmoil that he could no longer hesitate, Louis Wolfson made the move. Affirmed was vanned to Calumet on Oct. 10.

Donald Wolfson had urged his uncle to move Affirmed in part because the names of the two horses were so inextricably bound on the racetrack, their rivalry so much a part of history. "I thought it really would be interesting to see these horses back together," Donald said. "I'm a romantic."

Lundy saw it more as a business opportunity to draw attention to the horses and the farm. "It has such commercial value," Lundy says. "Everybody still remembers those races. It has value for both of the horses and all the people involved with them. It's a great novelty."

And so the two old competitors are back together again. They see quite a lot of each other these days—in the fields, when they are turned out and when they are led to and from the breeding shed—and they have adjoining stalls in the stallion barn. The walls between them are concrete, trimmed with oak, and they can't see each other, but by day they can hear each other drink and eat, and by night they can hear each other snore. They are, otherwise, and always, kept far apart. "They'd kill each other if they could get at each other," Lundy says. "Stallions don't like other stallions."

As unsociable as they may feel toward each other, they both spend a lot of time in their separate fields looking at the mares grazing in the nearby pastures and waiting for the vans to bring in the broodmares from surrounding farms for servicing. Affirmed, particularly, gets to nickering when the vans ship in the new recruits. "It's like a singles bar, and he's like a guy checking out the girls," says Greg Clarke, Affirmed's groom.

Alydar breeds to classier mares than Affirmed—he is now, after all, one of America's premier stallions—but Lundy is certain that Affirmed will one day make his mark with one of his foals. "Affirmed is subject, any minute, to come up with a big-time horse," Lundy says. "It's a pleasure to have him."

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