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Is Nyquist the new Seattle Slew or the next Affirmed?

 Affirmed, my favorite, at Spendthrift Farm in 1981.

Affirmed, my favorite, at Spendthrift Farm in 1981.

Just when I said that Nyquist reminded me of Seattle Slew, lo and behold some of the experts come along and agree. Like Slew, Nyquist is dark, underrated and a prodigy, becoming a champ at 2. Like Slew, Nyquist came into the Kentucky Derby undefeated. And like Slew, Nyquist has captured the Derby, the first jewel in the Triple Crown and now moves on to the Preakness May 21.

There are those like Thoroughbred aficionado and art collector Thomas DeChiara who see the hard-charging Exaggerator’s second-place Derby finish to Nyquist as a kind of Affirmed-Alydar rivalry. Could be. Alydar is the only horse in history to finish second in the three Triple Crown races, always to Affirmed, who succeeded Slew as Triple Crown champ in 1978. But for Affirmed, Alydar would’ve won the Triple Crown. But Exaggerator – 0-4 against Nyquist thus far – hasn’t yet established the kind of intense rivalry that Affirmed and Alydar had and that is captured so brilliantly in the juicy “Duel for the Crown.”

That could develop with time. There are two ways of looking at rivalry, the subject of my debut novel “Water Music,” about two tennis players and two swimmers and how their professional rivalries color their personal relationships.

 Alydar’s grave at Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky.

Alydar’s grave at Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky.

The longer you lose to someone, the closer you are to beating him. That’s the law of averages.

Except there is no law of averages. And there may just be a reason that you always lose to a particular rival. Maybe he’s just better.

Alydar defeated Affirmed three times, including the controversial Travers Stakes in which Affirmed was DQ-ed due to a new jockey. Affirmed won their other seven contests, including the three that mattered most. Alydar would die under mysterious circumstances – some still hold he was murdered for the insurance money – while Affirmed succumbed to laminitis.

But Alydar would prove the greater stud. They live now in the imagination, while for Nyquist and Exaggerator it’s all still unfolding….