Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry
By: Linda Carroll and David Rosner
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 2014
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
The rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar is the sort of competition the ‘King of Sports’ has not seen in a very long time. Indeed, the drought in Triple Crown winners has left racing fans reminiscing for days of old when two great thoroughbreds sped through the history books with their amazing speed, ability, and desire to win.
The battle to the 1978 Triple Crown was more than a simple contest between various horses, and the top breeding farms in Kentucky. This was the year that saw two royally bred colts, one by Raise a Native (THE sire of winning race horses in the late 60s and 70s), and the other a grandson of the illustrious sire, challenge each other all the way to that May day at Churchill Downs. Both horses were bred to be champions, but only one would win it all.
Alydar, the son of Raise a Native, was born at Calumet Farm, and while the famous facility was not enjoying the wealth of winners it once had, it was still considered racing royalty. Alydar was the chosen one, the one who would bring the farm back to prominence. Affirmed, meanwhile, was a Florida boy, born at a new farm, founded with “new” money. He, nor the farm’s owner, Lou Wolfson, were what the Kentucky racing aristocracy considered part of the in-crowd. They would have to prove themselves every step of the way and Alydar would be there each and every time to challenge the upstart.
Duel for the Crown is a true gem for racing fans. More than a synopsis of the races, this book details the lives of all those involved, from Raise a Native to the young phenom Steve Cauthen. The authors, one a sportswriter, the other a writer and horse trainer, show their familiarity with the world of racing as they chronicle the events that led up to Affirmed winning the Triple Crown. The look into the life of Raise a Native at the start of the book supplied the needed background to understand just what the owners and trainers saw in these two horses before they hit the racetrack. Lots of quotes from those involved help spice up the telling. The book covers everything involved in the build-up to the '78 Triple Crown, including the history of Calumet, the strategies of trainers and jockeys, and the temperaments of the horses. After reading this book, you will have a new appreciation for both Affirmed and Alydar. The only thing that would have made this book an even more enjoyable read would have been more photos; there are very few in this book.
Quill says: A fantastic read for racing fans that brings the rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar to life.