06/09/2011 6:11PM

Top Belmont Stakes rides: No. 2


2. Steve Cauthen, Affirmed, 1978

Steve Cauthen was barely 18 and a riding sensation when trainer Laz Barrera entrusted him with the mount aboard the great horse Affirmed. In hard-fought victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness over archrival Alydar and jockey Jorge Velazquez, Cauthen rode flawlessly. But, in the Belmont Stakes, Cauthen performed well beyond his years, repelling Alydar’s determined challenge through the final mile of a historic duel. When Alydar edged Affirmed slightly as they approached the final eighth of a mile, Velazquez had Cauthen pinned tight against the inside rail. The young rider responded by switching his whip to the left hand with less than 100 yards to go, and Affirmed responded with one last burst of energy to take a narrow advantage. Through the final strides, Cauthen used only his hands and arms in perfect rhythm to win the coveted Triple Crown – the last one in 33 years. Cauthen’s quick thinking under pressure made the crucial difference.

1. Angel Cordero, Bold Forbes, 1976 >>