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Horse Racing: Cauthen reflects on great rivalry

Sunday, April 27, 2003

By Pohla Smith, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Retired jockey Steve Cauthen remembers the Triple Crown duel between his champion mount, Affirmed, and three-time runner-up Alydar as a battle of opposites.

"Alydar was the blue-blooded superstar horse, while Alydar was sort of from the other side of the track," Cauthen said in a teleconference with racing writers Tuesday. "I was an 18-year-old kid who had never been there before." Alydar's jockey was seasoned veteran Jorge Velasquez. "In my mind, it's probably the greatest rivalry that's existed in this country," Cauthen added.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Affirmed's Triple Crown triumph, which is why Cauthen, now 43 and a breeder in Verona, Ky., was asked for some of his memories of Affirmed.

"He was the best horse I ever rode," Cauthen said. "He was a very intelligent horse. He was unique in many ways. He was one of those creatures -- he'd walk around the track like a puppy dog. Pretty much people didn't notice him.

"But when he saw something he didn't know or that was unusual, he was catlike in his reactions. He was quick. He knew he was good. He liked to pose for photographers.

"He was very maneuverable in a race. I could put him up front or tuck him in behind the leaders. I could switch him off to get position then switch him on again. I could switch him on yet again. That's the kind of horse he was."

Pass the cigars

Roy Davis' Sharky Spur had a milestone day April 12. In the morning, Davis mare Sable Spur delivered a foal. Later in the day Sharky won the $200,000 Dan Patch Pace at Hoosier Park as a 13-1 long shot.

With the breeding of harness horses via artificial insemination, there is less chance horses will be injured in the process. That makes owners more willing to send stallions to stud while they continue racing.

"I haven't done this before with any of my stallions," Davis said. "To tell you the truth, I didn't want to walk away from the money Sharky earns from racing."

Sharky has won 55 times in 139 starts, has a lifetime mark of 1 minute, 49.4 seconds and career earnings of $853,293.

"We started to breed our own mares to Sharky last year, and some other people got interested," said Davis' driver, Dick Stillings. "He had a book of 12 to 15 mares. We're doing the same thing this year, and we're getting more and more inquiries."

Sharky's stud fee is $1,000, payable in advance. Sable Spur has produced such performers as January Spur (1:52.0, $256,067) and Cougar Spur (1:55.0, $142,898).

Purse cut

The Meadows announced a "modest" 6.5 percent cut in weekly purses beginning April 15.

"The cut in our purse system is a predictable decline that is directly related to increasing competition from the West Virginia slot business, the war, less-than-desirable winter weather ... and declining revenues for our business relationship with YouBet," General Manager Drew Shubeck said.

And a purse increase

The Hambletonian Society and the Meadowlands have signed a letter of agreement to increase the total value of the Hambletonian to $1.7 million, beginning with the 80th edition in 2005. The purses of the companion race for fillies, the Oaks, will have a total value of $850,000.

Campbell recovering

Paula Campbell said her husband, John, harness racing's all-time money-winning driver, should be back in the sulky about 2 1/2 months from the date of his March 23 accident at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. Campbell, 48, has a broken right elbow and needed pins and a metal plate implanted to help the healing process.

Attention kids

A Harness Racing Youth League sleepaway camp will be held for the second consecutive year at The Meadows. The camp is for boys and girls ages 11-13 and runs from June 22-26. At the camp, the kids learn to care for and jog horses.

For an application and more details, go to the Internet at www.hhyf.org or call director Ellen Taylor at 317-867-5877.

Pohla Smith can be reached at psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.

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