Jockeys of Affirmed, Alydar to sign autographs Saturday at Belmont
Hall of Famers Steve Cauthen, who 34 years ago piloted Affirmed to become the 11th and most recent Triple Crown champion, and Jorge Velasquez, who rode runner-up Alydar, will autograph postcards commemorating their unforgettable rivalry Saturday at Belmont Park.
The postcards will be given away free, with paid admission, at the Belmont Park entrances. The autograph signing will be $5, with all proceeds to be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund.
The autograph session comes exactly two weeks before I’ll Have Another attempts to add the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes to his victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and become the 12th horse to sweep the series. Since 1978, 11 horses have tried and failed to win the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” and join champions Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Citation, Assault, Count Fleet, Whirlaway, War Admiral, Omaha, Gallant Fox, and Sir Barton, most recently Big Brown in 2008.
“It looks like he’ll have a great chance,” said Cauthen of I’ll Have Another, who arrived at Belmont Park Sunday on the heels of his hard-fought victory over Bodemeister in the Preakness. “This horse looks like he’s got that same fighting spirit as Affirmed. He likes a game, and he wants to win and he can’t wait to get another battle.”
Cauthen was just 18 in 1978 when he and Affirmed outdueled Alydar and Velasquez through all three legs of the Triple Crown, culminating in their dramatic showdown in the Belmont. The two horses matched strides from the mile pole to the stretch and at the end, Affirmed hit the wire a mere head in front of Alydar and became the third Triple Crown winner of the decade along with Secretariat (1973) and Seattle Slew (1977).
“With Affirmed, he always did the right thing,” said Cauthen, who currently manages a breeding operation in Kentucky. “He didn’t waste any energy. And when it came down to a battle, he thrived on it.”
The autograph session kicks off Belmont’s sizzling Memorial Day weekend, featuring live bands all three days, Family Fun Day on Sunday, a Belmont Park beach mat giveaway Monday and a $500,000 Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4, comprising the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap; the Grade 1, $400,000 Ogden Phipps; the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn, and the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point on Memorial Day.