The passing of Affirmed Success last week was a profound change, the going of one of the foundations of Old Friends. It wasn’t just that he’d been with us since 2007. Or that he was the last of Affirmed’s greatest sons. It was who he was.
I have been in awe of Affirmed Success, from his racing days when I never missed a race of his on TVG, through his early retirement when he greeted every tour in the paddock now belonging to Arson Squad and Fightingcityhall, through his long, courageous battle against the persistent foot infections that finally claimed his life. Not that he was ever demanding. That wasn’t his way. He was a good looking horse, but not flashy except for the rich red in his coat. He was a true liver-bay. During races he was a pro, businesslike, efficient and incredibly fast. When the really, really good ones are on their game—and Affirmed Success stayed on his game year after year—watching them win is like the pleasure of a foregone conclusion confirmed.
On his retirement, owner Albert Fried, Jr., placed him down the road from us at the Kentucky Horse Park, where he took part in the breeds parade representing the Thoroughbred. Later, Mr. Fried judged that the lifestyle at Old Friends would be a better fit for his status and temperament, so Affirmed Success came to live with us in September 2007.
I was thrilled but wondered how he’d do with children and such, since he had a bit of a reputation. Like many forward, speedy horses he was said to have an edge. Though at the Horse Park he’d been called Yankee for his achievements on the New York circuit, on the track he’d had the nickname Gator, and for exactly the reason you’d think. But he got off the trailer, took a look around, and from that day was mannerly, kind, and wonderful at meeting and greeting his tours. There was a matter-of-fact quality about him, and a self-containment, as if he had plenty of thoughts and opinions about everything that happened around him but would keep those to himself, thank you. He did let us know without reservation, though, that he liked the lazy pace of his new life, and enjoyed the attention and treats from his visitors.
But he demonstrated one thing dramatically. He did not like his first paddock mate, Futural. That feeling was mutual. They didn’t just ignore each other, they quarreled aggressively. When they seemed unable to settle their differences they were separated. They were put with different horses in neighboring paddocks. From the moment they were parted both began a campaign of protest, ignoring their new paddock mates to hang by the fences nearest each other and neigh back and forth. So, they were put together again and remained inseparable for nearly a decade.
Futural loved bananas. In those days many tour guides’ buckets contained carrots for most of the horses, a pear for Creator, and a banana for Futural. Affirmed Success didn’t care for bananas, but he’d demand a small piece of Futural’s. Buddies share.
To Affirmed Success, the best treat in the world was a peppermint. On one tour a very nice woman told me she’d really come to see just one horse, Affirmed Success, because her cousin, Richard Schosberg, had trained him. She’d brought him peppermints and told me that in his racing days her cousin gave the pony rider a small bag of them to slip to him during the post parade so he’d behave on the way to the gate. Of course, Richard Schosberg and his jockey, Richard Migliore, made visits to him over the years. So did many fans, the real race fans who would never forget his feats on the track.
Gator. Yankee. Funny thing about nicknames. At Old Friends he was always Affirmed Success. Even when we called him over across the paddock it rarely was anything else. It was a mark of both respect and love. Though friendly and usually patient with us, he cooperated because he chose to. That was clear. And, I think, because he liked life at Old Friends.
As the foot infections became increasingly problematic, it became in his best interest to move him into a less strenuous herd. Though this meant parting from his old friend Futural, Affirmed Success adjusted well, soon making best friends with Kudos, also a veteran of considerable accomplishments and like Affirmed Success, an intelligent, spirited horse who’d had to adjust to a more sedate lifestyle than he’d have liked (Kudos has survived two bouts of EPM). Though there are younger, more active horses in that herd, Affirmed Success and Kudos held sway over them all in some ways. The two usually grazed together and nobody dared mess with either of them.
Though Affirmed Success had debilitating bouts with his sore foot, his spirits and appetite remained good. He received special care over the years from equine podiatrist Dr. Bryan Fraley and his team, and Dr. Scott Fleming. Watching their skill and ingenuity with him was amazing. It is a tribute to them, as well as to the willpower and patience of the horse himself, that the infections were overcome for long periods when Affirmed Success would graze at ease and come cantering up with the herd at meal times. That photo of him cantering happily along in the slide show isn’t from early days. It’s from 2020. Looking into his eyes made two things clear. His strength. And his ability to take each day as it came. Does it make any sense to call a horse a realist? Because that’s what Affirmed Success seemed to be.
In his senior years, besides the companionship of Kudos, Affirmed Success got particular care and love from stallion manager Antonio Marin as well as volunteer Joyce Patci, whose affection he returned.
It was Affirmed Success himself who decided when it was time to let go. Horses can’t talk, but they manage to communicate pretty well. Characteristically without fuss, Affirmed Success did things on his own terms. He let us know the time had come. His leaving took from us one of the most constant and courageous presences that has ever graced us.
Remembering Affirmed Success
Affirmed Success wins the Carter H (G1) at 8 years old
(watch the red silks in stalking position)