Blog Archive
    2013 (5)
    2012 (6)
    2011 (8)
    2010 (8)
    2009 (7)

Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.

When Bodemeister finished second to I’ll Have Another in both the Derby and Preakness this year, hopes rose that we’d have a contemporary revival of the rivalries that have made so many Belmont Stakes famous. Secretariat/Sham, Affirmed/Alydar, Sunday Silence/Easy Goer, Real Quiet/Victory Gallop….I’ll Have Another/Bodemeister!

That hope died less than 24 hours after the Preakness ended. On Sunday, Bodemeister’s trainer, Bob Baffert, announced that his horse would sit out the Belmont, even though, according to him, the horse came out of the race in great shape.  “He didn’t act tired. After the race, he came back to the barn and he wasn’t as tired as he was after the Derby.”
Still, quickly and decisively, Baffert opted out of a third chance to beat the horse that had beaten his. One of his predecessors made the opposite decision, just as quickly, just as decisively.

John Veitch trained Alydar for Mrs. Lucille Markey and Calumet Farm, and according to Veitch, neither of them ever considered sitting out the Belmont.

“Mrs. Markey didn’t think it would be proper for us not to continue the rivalry,” he said by phone from Kentucky. “She would never let any horse that she owned or that wore Calumet silks look like he was backing out.

“She also thought it would be a wonderful thing for racing for the rivalry to continue.” 

Veitch himself was, as he put it, “all for it.”  He thought that the additional distance would suit Alydar ideally, and he thought that at the Belmont’s mile-and-a-half distance, he had the stronger horse. He welcomed the chance to take another crack at Affirmed, against whom Alydar had already raced eight times with Affirmed emerging the victor six times to Alydar’s two wins.

“The Belmont was an opportunity,” said Veitch, “to seek the revenge that I desperately needed.” 

Asked how he felt about potentially being the spoiler in a Triple Crown bid, Veitch didn’t hesitate.

“I’d have relished it,” he said. 

He didn’t, of course, get that opportunity. Affirmed won again, by a slim neck, becoming the 11th winner of the Triple Crown. And despite the loss, Veitch never regretted running in the Belmont.

“Alydar came out the race great,” he remembered. “I hadn’t planned to run him again until we got to Saratoga; he’d had an arduous campaign.”

A campaign unheard-of now for a horse of Alydar’s caliber: Alydar had won the Florida Derby on April 1, then crushed the Blue Grass by 13 lengths on April 27. Nine days later, he was in the Kentucky Derby; two weeks after that, in the Preakness. 

“He came out of the Belmont so good that he really wouldn’t relax,” said Veitch. “After two or three days being off and then going back to the track for light exercise, he showed me that I had to continue to train him or he was going to hurt himself because he felt so good.

“He came out of the Triple Crown as well as any horse ever has.” 

Veitch emphasized that it was that fortitude and stamina that allowed him to put Alydar through such a rigorous series of races and to consider running the horse in the Belmont.

“I had the horse to work with,” he said. “I had spent two years with him occupying so much of my thoughts, and I knew his capability.

“If you have the horse, you should come back just for the sake for the sport. Trying to do the best for the sport, if you possibly can, is something everyone involved in racing should do.

“That’s the way Ms. Markey felt and it’s the way I felt, and we had the horse to do it with.

“Looking back, it was a wonderful thing for the sport.”

Indeed it was. 

For more on the Affirmed/Alydar rivalry, check out this article I wrote on it for Hello Race Fans.

Comments :

  • John DeMetropolis | June 01 2012 04:08 PM

    Affirmed: 11th Triple Crown winner. But, great to see that replay. I was there, and the words I muttered out loud to no one in particular were: "It's going to be a long time befoere we see that again." I meant the 1-2 close finishes, three times. We had already seen two prior Triple Crowns in the 70s, so I didn't think that was going to remain as rare as it has. But it has.

    report this comment
Returning posters, enter your username and password.

Your Comments

Your email address is required to confirm your comments. Email addresses are never displayed to other users and they are not used for any other purposes other than blog comments.

Once you enter your email address, name, and comment, you will be emailed a link to confirm your comment. Additionally, you will be sent a password. In the future, if you wish to leave other comments, use the password that is provided in the email.