Affirmed began his career with a victory in Belmont on May 24. Not wanting to waste time, trainer Laz Barrera entered the young colt in the Youthful Stakes, where he would race quality horses. Affirmed came from behind, crossing the finish line for a victory by a neck.
In the Great American Stakes, Affirmed met his rival: Alydar, who won their first race together. Next, Affirmed headed west to win the Hollywood Juvenile by seven lengths before returning east to win the Sanford Stakes with his new jockey, Steve Cauthen.
Ten days later, he met Alydar in the Hopeful Stakes, this time winning by half a length. A few weeks later, they met in the Futurity. The pair battled down the homestretch until Affirmed came out victorious by a nose.
Next came the Champagne Stakes. The track was sloppy, and Affirmed didn't notice that Alydar had passed him until he was too far gone, winning by one and one-quarter lengths.
Steven Cauthen explains what had happened when he said, "My horse had plenty left, but he was too busy playing games with Darby Road Creek he never saw Alydar until it was too late."
One last time that season, the two raced, battling for victory in the Laurel Stakes and the Champion Two-Year-Old Colt title. They fought long hard down the homestretch at a tremendous speed, with the third place horse some ten lengths behind them. At last, Affirmed won by a neck, earning the title of Champion Two-Year-Old Colt.