It’s been an elusive dream for all but one owner over the last 40 years. Horse racing’s Triple Crown saw three winners in the 1970s but only American Pharoah in 2015 has accomplished the feat since. Trophies awarded to the owners of those special animals were handed out beginning in 1950 and one of them is on the auction block.
Heritage Auctions is offering a personal version of the Triple Crown trophy given to Affirmed trainer Laz Berrera in 1978. The value of the rare trophy, signed on the bottom by jockey Steve Cauthen, is estimated at $250,000 and up. Heritage calls it “Unquestionably one of the most significant horse racing pieces ever made available to the collecting public.”
The rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar was a dominant story on the sports pages 41 years ago and is considered one of the greatest rivalries in racing history. In the Kentucky Derby, Affirmed would win by one and a half lengths. In the Preakness, Alydar shaved the margin to a neck. Finally, the Triple Crown would come down to a near photo-finish, with Affirmed nosing out Alydar in the final stride at the Belmont Stakes in June of ‘78.
It was the second straight year the sport had seen one horse win all three race and came just five years after Secretariat dazzled the world with his record-smashing wins.
In 1950, a trophy was commissioned to recognize the crowning achievement in the “sport of kings.” Renowned jeweler Cartier created the trophy, which listed each winner. Smaller individual trophies were given to the owner, jockey and trainer of each Triple Crown horse. The trophy up for auction was given to Barrera, who was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame in 1979. He passed away in 1991 and his widow died in 2012. The name of the consignor isn’t being revealed.
The seven-inch high trophy is a unique triangular sterling cup engraved with details of the horse’s three victories. A silver and gold base carries the Thoroughbred Racing Association’s logo. Each edge measures 10 inches.
Cauthen’s neatly penned Sharpie script adorns the bottom along with his notation “1978 Affirmed.” The trophy also includes the original velvet bag in which it was issued. A pair of white Cartier gloves for handling remains in the lot as well.
The trophy is being sold this weekend as part of the Heritage February Platinum Auction.