Steve Cauthen Reflects on Derby Win
LOUISVILLE – On the 35th anniversary of the last Triple Crown winner, Steve Cauthen was at Churchill Downs on Saturday reliving Affirmed’s win in the Kentucky Derby while also trying to predict who would win the 139th Run for the Roses.
With track conditions deteriorating as the day went along, Cauthen was taking more of a liking to Revolutionary.
“The one horse that I’ve heard that has worked real well in the slop is Revolutionary. Sometimes horses that haven’t run in it love it so you never know. It makes it more difficult to have confidence in them,” Cauthen said Saturday afternoon while he was serving as a guest handicapper for Derby Experiences. “Orb and Itsmyluckyday are the two horses that I had at the top of my list at the start of the week followed by horses like Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, Verrazano. Most of the trainers and the people you talk to love Orb because he is going to be hard to beat. I think his Florida Derby was strong. Itsmyluckyday ran second and might have bounced off his previous race and could challenge.
“It’s tough to pick the Derby. On the day if things go their way they win but as we well know getting past the first turn is the thing. If you can survive that you have a chance.”
Affirmed and Alydar’s 1978 duel during the Triple Crown ended up being the best rivalry the sport has seen. After beating Alydar by 1½ lengths in the Derby, Affirmed held off Alydar by a neck in the Preakness and by a nose in the Belmont as horse racing got its 11th Triple Crown winner.
Since then 12 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown but have faltered in the Belmont. Last year I’ll Have Another looked to be on the verge of capturing the Triple Crown but suffered an injury the day before the Belmont and was scratched.
In the ’78 Derby, Affirmed went off as the second choice in better while Alydar was the favorite. Affirmed ran third through the first three quarters of a mile before making his move in the far turn and winning.
“It is a challenge to win this race. With the field sometimes you get into a boxing match in the first turn but luckily for me Affirmed was a talented horse with a lot of speed and I was able to position him in the right spot,” Cauthen said.
Cauthen’s fondest memory of the Derby though was the night before. His dad had been late in booking a hotel room and there five sleeping a room. Cauthen said he took the floor and slept like a baby.
“I was living my dream to come back to Kentucky and win the biggest race in racing. I knew I had a great chance but I certainly had all the respect for Alydar. We beat him as a 2-year old and he beat us a couple times. Everyone was anticipating what was going to happen and it turned out to be a great 3-race series that luckily went my way,” he said.