In my first blog, I discussed the late, great Randy Savage who was born on November 15th, now, we go from Savage to thoroughbred racing. Alydar (died November 15, 1990) is my all time favorite race horse. I admit that 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew was my first sports hero , either human, or equine, but when I saw Alydar in the 1978 Kentucky Derby, he became my all time favorite.
As the commentators went over the rivalry he had with Affirmed, I think I latched on to the fact that Alydar always finished second to Affirmed by such a short margin all the time. I could relate being that my whole life, I have been behind the eight ball. Anyway, Alydar was born in March of 1975 at the famed Calumet Farm in Lexington, KY . His sire was Raise A Native, and his dam (mother) was Sweet Tooth, and her sire (also known as broodmare sire) was On and On.
All of their clashes with the exception of the first where Alydar finished 5th, had Affirmed 1st, and Alydar 2nd. The margins were usually a neck, a head, or a nose. The longest margin of victory for Affirmed was 1 1/2 lengths in the Derby. That is how close they were.
The rivalry ended in an ugly manner in the “Midsummer Derby”, the Travers Stakes where Affirmed , ridden by Laffitt Pincay, Jr (Cauthen was serving a suspension) fouled Alydar in the far turn, and Alydar nearly fell, but steadied himself , and managed to finish second. Affirmed was DQ’d and placed second, and Alydar was moved up to first, and awarded the victory. Sadly, Alydar broke his coffin bone (bone in the hoof), and was turned out for the year. When he returned as a four year old in 1979, Alydar sadly, was never the same.
Alydar’s noted victories were: The Great American Stakes (77), The Tremont Stakes (77), the Champagne (77), the Flamingo Stakes (78), the Florida Derby (78), The Travers (78), the Whitney Stakes (78), the Nassau County Handicap (79), and became the first and only horse to finish second in all three Triple Crown races. After retirement to Calumet farm, he became one of the best sires ever. Some of his progeny include 1990 Horse of the Year Criminal Type, 1988 Horse of the Year, Alysheba (winner of the 1987 KY Derby and Preakness as well), 1989 Belmont Winner , and 1989 Travers Winner Easy Goer, and 1991 KY Derby Strike the Gold.
On November 13, 1990, Alydar was found in his stall at Calumet farm with his right hind leg badly injured. He was carefully transported to the hospital, where they did emergency surgery the next day on the 14th. He came out of the surgery alright. The vets put him in a sling which he resisted, so they removed it, and let him try to walk.
In the morning of November 15, 1990, Alydar tried to walk around without the sling, and seemed ok, until he sniffed the mares outside. He tried walking faster, and was not used to the huge cast, and slipped and fell, and broke his femur. There was nothing to be done, but to euthanize him. So, this great horse, and great sire died, at the age of 15. The very interesting thing was that several hours later that day, a son of his, Strike the Gold, broke his maiden (won his first race), and like I said previously, 5 months later, was in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs with the Roses on his back. So, a great thing happened out of a very sad event.
That evening, I was home making chicken for dinner. My mother was downstairs taking a nap. We had our local CBS news on, and it was the sportscaster, Warner Wolf doing the report. I was not really paying much attention to what he was saying, and then he said something about Alydar and then I heard the words “dying,” and I was like ,”Not Alydar.” My mom muttered that Alydar died. I watched the broadcast showing the Affirmed/Alydar head and head battle in the 1978 Belmont. My heart was crushed. I immediately watched the sports segments on the local news on ABC, and NBC, as they had the segments on at the same time. It was as if I were in denial. Sure enough, they confirmed the news. I was just devastated. I couldn’t believe it. It hurt so much. I even watched the 11pm news. That is how much in shock I was.
I won’t go into a lot of detail on this but what hurt more about Alydar’s passing was that his death, and the circumstances around it are pretty controversial in that there is a possibility that he may have been the victim of foul play for the insurance. Calumet Farm had gotten into over 100 Million dollars in debt , and Alydar was pretty much the cash cow as he had been a successful sire, and John T. Lundy, the farm President at the time had used Alydar seasons (breeding seasons) as collateral for loans and things. Alydar was insured for 36 million, so with all that financial debt, it was speculated that the horse was worth more dead than alive.
The way the horse was injured was debated. Lundy claimed Alydar kicked the stall door. The fact that after the horse was removed from the stall, the stall was wiped clean, and such, before the insurance inspector could look. In other words, the farm should have left the horse’s stall as the horse left it (all bloody and such), so the insurance person could make a decision as to whether to pay up or not. Eventually, Lundy and the Farm’s attorney, Gary Matthews were nailed for bank fraud in relation to the Farm’s finances, but unfortunately, no justice for Alydar as of yet.
Twenty one years later, I still miss Alydar. Whatever the circumstances of his death, which will never been known, in my opinion, it robbed him of at least 10 more years of his life, maybe 15 if he would wind up living to age 30. Alydar was robbed of at least 8-10 more years of producing top horses for fans like me to enjoy, so fans like us were robbed as well. Racing too was robbed because the Alydar sire line was cut short.
I hope you enjoyed the blogs about two athletes I admired who shared an “anniversary,” and whose deaths robbed them for Lord knows what reason. They are gone,but not forgotten.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead