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EXCERPT | May 11, 1987
Alysheba overtook Bet Twice to win a stirring Derby
The winner of just one of 10 previous career starts, Alysheba went off at odds of 8--1 in the 113th Kentucky Derby. William Nack reported for SI.
Turning into the top of the stretch, jockey Chris McCarron had Alysheba lying third and in quick range of Bet Twice and On The Line, who were bobbing heads apart on the lead. Then On The Line began to fold, and all there was left for McCarron to do was run down Bet Twice. He was doing precisely that, driving Alysheba toward Bet Twice's right flank, when jockey Craig Perret whipped his colt lefthanded and Bet Twice veered suddenly to the right, away from the sting of the stick and into Alysheba's path.
Alysheba's front hooves clipped the leader's heels. The bay son of Alydar stumbled badly, appearing almost to go to his knees. Behind him were some 10 tons of Derby horses, and had Alysheba fallen, sending horse and rider sprawling, there is no telling the tragedy that might have played out in the upper stretch at Churchill Downs. "At that point I didn't think I was gonna win it," said McCarron.
But win the Derby he did, even though a tired Bet Twice, staggering around the homestretch like the town drunk, drifted in front of him a second time, forcing Alysheba to swing out and go around him. McCarron beat a tattoo on his colt to keep him running, furiously whipping lefthanded, and in the final 70 yards Alysheba surged past Bet Twice to win by three quarters of a length. It was a remarkable performance, the centerpiece of a show that made for one of the most chilling, dramatic finishes in the recent history of the Derby.
Alysheba, who died in 2009, won the Preakness but lost to Bet Twice in the Belmont. He retired after winning the 1988 Breeders' Cup Classic.
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Needles, whose name referred to the many injections he received as a sickly foal, followed up his Derby win with a second-place run at the Preakness, then ran to victory in the Belmont.
Spectacular Bid, winner of the Derby and the Preakness, went on to become one of history's best racehorses. He won all nine of his starts in 1980 and set a record at 1¼ miles.
Smarty Jones, the first unbeaten horse to win the Derby in 27 years, lost the Belmont after winning the Preakness. He was retired due to a chronic injury later that summer.
Photograph by JERRY COOKE
DUEL IN THE SUN Alysheba (center)—a son of three-time Triple Crown--race runner-up Alydar—gamely fought off a late stumble to get by Bet Twice (far right).
DRAWING BY ROBERT RIGER
BRAD MANGIN (HEYWARD)
ROBERT BECK (SEDIN)
DAVID BERGMAN (WILLIAMS)
DAVID BERGMAN (GOODELL)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (DURANT)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (MILLER)
BOB ROSATO (SINGLER)