Updated on 09/17/2011 12:13PM

History Challenge


Timing, of course, is everything

Overshadowed in their prime

Saturday's running of the Travers Stakes marks the 25th anniversary of the final meeting between Affirmed and Alydar - perhaps the greatest rivalry in the sport's history.

In the Aug. 19, 1978, Travers, Affirmed won by nearly two lengths, only to be disqualified for coming over on Alydar as the horses entered the far turn. Alydar was placed first. Earlier that season, Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, with Alydar becoming the first horse to finish second in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

Alydar never won an Eclipse Award, but was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989. Without Affirmed around, it is his name that would be referred to today as the last horse to win the Triple Crown. And he likely would be ranked among racing's immortals. Instead, he is best remembered as Affirmed's constant rival.

Test your knowledge of some other splendid racehorses who simply had the misfortune of being born in the wrong year.

1. William H. P. Robertson, former editor of The Thoroughbred Record, wrote in 1964 that this colt was "the best horse ever to appear on the American turf without winning a championship of any kind."

The bay colt had an obscure beginning, winning his maiden race at Hollywood Park in his third start. He paid $98 to win.

At age 3, he was beaten a nose in the Kentucky Derby. He won the Belmont Stakes by eight lengths, setting a stakes and track record that stood for 16 years. He had the misfortune of being a member of one of the great foal crops of all time.

Name this horse.

2. At age 4, this colt won all 10 of his starts, including the most important handicap races in the country. He won from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. He won the Brooklyn Handicap under 136 pounds and the Carter Handicap under 135.

He was voted Horse of the Year, champion older horse, and champion sprinter. Yet the eyes of the American public were glued on another horse who, in the words of historian Joe Estes, "had the devotion of the largest group of hero-worshippers that ever found a quadrupedalian hero."

Name the two horses.

3. When trainer Jimmy Jones was asked to rank the Calumet Farm yearlings in 1946, he placed this horse first and the now-immortal Citation second.

After this colt won the 1948 Blue Grass Stakes easily in track-record time, many thought Jones might have been right. But at Kentucky Derby time, Jones and his father, Ben, knew Citation was a superhorse. Calumet's "second-stringer" won 23 of 39 starts, set or equaled three world records and seven track records at distances from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, and won seven times carrying 130 pounds. Name him.

4. Daily Racing Form columnist John Hervey wrote in 1943 that this horse was "in our expressed opinion the best horse in training in both years [1941-1942]." Hervey continued, "Though when a picked corps of experts balloted on the bestowal of the title 'Horse of the Year' he was both times passed over with scant consideration and the title awarded to his rival Whirlaway."

Name the horse.

5. Count Fleet is remembered as one of the sport's greatest stars and the sixth colt to win the coveted Triple Crown. A horse who chased him home six times, finishing second five times and third once, is a mere footnote in racing history journals.

One of more than 40 stakes winners sired by Col. Edward Riley Bradley's champion Blue Larkspur, this colt won three stakes as a 2-year-old. Most importantly, had it not been for Count Fleet, the name of this horse would appear on the stands at Churchill Downs, along with the other winners of the Kentucky Derby.

Name the horse.


1. The image of Bill Shoemaker briefly standing up in the saddle at the sixteenth pole of the 1957 Kentucky Derby is one of the most vivid in the sport's history. Whether the Hall of Fame jockey cost his mount, Gallant Man, the race, no one will ever know for sure. Iron Liege won by a nose.

Gallant Man easily won the Belmont Stakes. That same year, he also won the Travers, Peter Pan Stakes, Nassau County Handicap, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He finished second to Bold Ruler in the Wood Memorial and Trenton Handicap and lost the championship and Horse of the Year to that Wheatley Stable colorbearer.

At age 4, Gallant Man won the Metropolitan Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup under 130 pounds and the Sunset Handicap under 132. It was Round Table, however, who garnered the year-end honors.

2. Tom Fool was Horse of the Year in 1953, but had the American public voted, Native Dancer would have won in a landslide.

Dubbed the "Gray Ghost of Sagamore," Native Dancer was the sport's first television star. He was "seen and followed loyally by millions," historian Joe Estes wrote. The colt received bags of fan mail every day from all over the country. Dozens of magazines that never covered racing ran full-length spreads.

The two horses never met. Estes wrote that most experts felt Tom Fool would have beaten Native Dancer.

In 1999, an Associated Press poll of the 20th Century's greatest horses ranked Native Dancer third and Tom Fool sixth. Both horses also were outstanding sires.

3. Like Citation, Coaltown was a son of Calumet Farm's foundation sire, Bull Lea. Coaltown did not start at age 2, but was 4 for 4 when he entered the Kentucky Derby, coupled with Citation. Jockey Eddie Arcaro was concerned that he was on the wrong half of the entry, but trainer Ben Jones assured him otherwise. Citation, under Arcaro, won the 74th Derby in a canter. Coaltown was an easy second.

Coaltown raced magnificently and was voted Horse of the Year in one poll in 1949, but he was forever overshadowed by his more famous stablemate.

4. Market Wise, who couldn't beat $1,750 claimers as a juvenile in 1940, improved to win some of the country's most prestigious races the following three seasons.

In the most important race of 1941, Market Wise beat Whirlaway by a nose in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, breaking Exterminator's 21-year-old American record for 2 miles. The only time the two rivals met as 4-year-olds in 1942, Market Wise defeated Whirlaway by two lengths in the Suburban Handicap.

Whirlaway won the Triple Crown in 1941 and was voted Horse of the Year that season and the following year.

5. The Blood-Horse magazine wrote in 1943: "If Count Fleet is the spectacular comet in the racing skies of 1943, then Blue Swords is the comet's tail."

As a juvenile, Blue Swords faced Count Fleet three times. He lost by a neck to the Count in an allowance race, finished third to him in Washington Park Futurity, and second to him in the Champagne Stakes.

The following season, Blue Swords finished a non-menacing second to Count Fleet in three consecutive races - the Wood Memorial Stakes at Jamaica Race Course, the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness Stakes. By the time the Belmont Stakes came around, Blue Swords was a no-show, having simply run his heart out to no avail.

Before Blue Swords ran into Count Fleet, he had taken down three stakes as a juvenile - the Eastern Shore, Ardsley, and Remsen handicaps. He would win no more.

Blue Swords finished his career with five wins in 22 starts and earnings of $58,065.