Sired by Raise A Native, who the New York Times called “the most influential sire of American Thoroughbred stallions over the last 20 years”, and with a pedigree that could be traced back, on both sides, to the Darley Arabian, Alydar was bred to be a champion. However, despite winning 14 of his 26 starts – including 11 stakes races – and over $950,000 in prize money, Alydar is best remembered as the only horse ever to finish second in all three American Triple Crown races.
Bred and owned by Calumet Farm and trained by John Veitch, Alydar was named in honour of Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan, also known as Aly Khan. Lucille Markey, owner of Calumet farmer, always addressed His Highness as “Aly Darling”, so Alydar was a contraction of her playful term of endearment.
A big, muscular chestnut, who stood a little over 16.1 hands high, Alydar was renowned for his generous disposition on, and off, the track. In fact, trainer John Veitch said of him, “From a standpoint of heart, no other horse I ever [trained] had as much.” Alydar would probably have been a champion at two or three years had he not been born in the same generation as Affirmed.
In 1977, as a two-year-old, Alydar actually beat Affirmed twice, in the Great American Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, both at Belmont Park. He would have to wait until what turned out to be their tenth, and final, meeting in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga the following season to do so again. Even then, Affirmed beat him by 1¾ lengths, but was disqualified after jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. was deemed to have caused interference on the far turn.
In the interim, Affirmed had beaten Alydar into second place, albeit by ever dwindling margins, in all three Triple Crown races. Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby by 1½ lengths, the Preakness Stakes by a neck and the Belmont Stakes by a head – that is, an aggregate of less than 2 lengths – to become the eleventh horse in history to win the Triple Crown Trophy.
At the time of his death, in 1990, Alydar was the top North American sire. He was humanely euthanised after being found in his stable with a broken hind leg and fracturing another bone in the same leg 48 hours later.