This compelling Saratoga Race Course official finish line camera photo, documents one of the most controversial and debated racing contests in the sport’s history.
The August 19, 1978 Travers Stakes marked the 10th and final clash between Calumet Farm’s Alydar and Harbor View Farm’s Affirmed. Through the course of their previous nine meetings over two racing seasons, the two titans of the turf accounted for perhaps the greatest Thoroughbred rivalry ever. During this time, the pair staged a series of showdowns best remembered for Affirmed's trio of thrilling victories over Alydar in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes to become America's 11th Triple Crown champion.
The Travers Stakes, the oldest stakes race in the country, took place two months after the arch-rivals’ epic performance in the Belmont Stakes. Following that riveting race, both of the courageous colts had continued to demonstrate their immense talents separately through the summer with Affirmed taking the Jim Dandy Stakes while Alydar won the Arlington Classic and then dominated older horses in the Whitney Stakes, leading his trainer John Veitch to note, "Alydar came out of the Triple Crown better than he went in."
The prestigious Travers stirred the interest of the nation and hordes of reporters and national media began to descend upon upstate New York to cover the event that was being billed along regional alliances of East (Alydar) versus West (Affirmed). As Daily Racing Form writer Ryan Goldberg noted, "For two months Saratoga had readied itself for the 109th Travers, the anticipation bubbling and then bursting to the surface like the mineral springs that rise through limestone and shale to give the town its name. In 150 years of races on Union Avenue, none has been anticipated more…"
The running of the race in front of the massive crowd of more than 51,000 led to one of the most controversial and inconclusive results ever witnessed in modern day racing and perpetually elicits unyielding opinions from the respective camps of each horse’s loyal fans.
With the front-running Affirmed leading the race coming into the stretch turn with jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. aboard and Jorge Velasquez aboard Alydar stalking in second and advancing on the leader along the rail and drawing within a half-length of his nemesis, Affirmed came back over toward the inside, cutting off Alydar’s path. The maneuver set forth a series of near catastrophic events with only Velasquez’s reflexive reactions and Alydar’s athletic ability combining to keep the troubled colt from falling. The incident caused Alydar to drop back six lengths before recovering his stride and, remarkably, make yet another assault on Affirmed only to come up short and finish second. However, with the blatant interference an inquiry was immediately posted, resulting in Affirmed being disqualified to second and Alydar officially elevated to the winning position. Thus ended this great rivalry but initiated the conjecture that to this day continues to stir emotions and fuel debate as to which horse would have won in a cleanly run race.
Manifesting the memory of the historic race is this amazing and unique display featuring the official finish line photo of the race. Official finish line photos are an industry standard for documenting the final results for every horse race in America, displaying the mirror image of the contestants for maximum viewing perspective as well as the information of the race date, and track location along the margins for proper identification and official designation. The photo, one of only two ever produced from the track’s original negative in the large format 16” x 20” size, is displayed along with an original mint condition track program from the day and replica interior entry page on a backdrop of black linen matting and mounted within an elegant black wood frame measuring 27.5 x 26.5" in total and adorned with engraved brass nameplate.