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May 03, 2010
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May 03, 2010

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

EXCERPT | May 11, 1987

Valiant Victory

Alysheba overtook Bet Twice to win a stirring Derby

The winner of just one of 10 previous career starts, Alysheba went off at odds of 8--1 in the 113th Kentucky Derby. William Nack reported for SI.

Turning into the top of the stretch, jockey Chris McCarron had Alysheba lying third and in quick range of Bet Twice and On The Line, who were bobbing heads apart on the lead. Then On The Line began to fold, and all there was left for McCarron to do was run down Bet Twice. He was doing precisely that, driving Alysheba toward Bet Twice's right flank, when jockey Craig Perret whipped his colt lefthanded and Bet Twice veered suddenly to the right, away from the sting of the stick and into Alysheba's path.

Alysheba's front hooves clipped the leader's heels. The bay son of Alydar stumbled badly, appearing almost to go to his knees. Behind him were some 10 tons of Derby horses, and had Alysheba fallen, sending horse and rider sprawling, there is no telling the tragedy that might have played out in the upper stretch at Churchill Downs. "At that point I didn't think I was gonna win it," said McCarron.

But win the Derby he did, even though a tired Bet Twice, staggering around the homestretch like the town drunk, drifted in front of him a second time, forcing Alysheba to swing out and go around him. McCarron beat a tattoo on his colt to keep him running, furiously whipping lefthanded, and in the final 70 yards Alysheba surged past Bet Twice to win by three quarters of a length. It was a remarkable performance, the centerpiece of a show that made for one of the most chilling, dramatic finishes in the recent history of the Derby.

Alysheba, who died in 2009, won the Preakness but lost to Bet Twice in the Belmont. He retired after winning the 1988 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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