August 24, 2009

Remembering ... Genuine Risk

I will never forget the moment when Angel Cordero perpetrated one of the greatest crimes against the fans of thoroughbred horse racing. Racing fans everywhere had adopted a new hero, or should I say heroine. Genuine Risk was everything the public wanted in a new star. She was elegant and fast, she was feminine and tough. A lovely filly who could fill the void left by Ruffian’s death five years earlier. Her win in the Kentucky Derby had been one of the most popular in history. Genuine Risk was a powerful example for women libbers everywhere. In Genuine Risk, Girl Power was alive.

Angel Cordero, one of the best jockeys of his time, was no stranger to controversy and he was not afraid to raceride. The race was the 1980 Preakness and it was a chance for everyone to see Genuine Risk march to immortality. The striking, chestnut daughter of Exclusive Native was peaking at just the right time. Her capable and experienced trainer Leroy Jolley saw to that. She entered the Preakness as the belle of the ball and the world was watching. Among the seven colts that lined up as her opposition that day was a California colt named Codex. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Codex was also peaking, having annexed the Santa Anita and Hollywood Derbies. Unfortunately for his connections, he had been unable to run in the Derby due to mistakenly not nominating him. They were ready and eager to take on the Derby winning filly.

Early on, the race was unfolding in a predictable fashion. Codex was in a perfect stalking placement and Genuine Risk was not far behind running in a similar position to her Kentucky Derby triumph. As Codex sprung to the lead, Genuine Risk followed. She quickly gained on the outside as they approached the homestretch. It was a two horse race and the filly had the momentum … and then … she was Corde-rode (verb - meaning to screw the filly). At the very least, Codex and Cordero carried Genuine Risk seven wide in an attempt to keep her from passing. I prefer to think of it as a deliberate mugging of America’s Sweetheart. Her rider, Jacinto Vasquez, claimed that Cordero had whipped her in the face as they came together. Cordero was less than apologetic.

In that Triple Crown series of 1980, Genuine Risk performed better than any filly ever has. She won the Kentucky Derby, defeating the rallying Rumbo by one length. In so doing, Genuine Risk became the first filly to win the Derby in 65 years and any Triple Crown race for 56 years. After her troubled 2nd in the Preakness, she came back to run a game 2nd in the Belmont to Temperence Hill, with Codex far behind.

During her illustrious career, Genuine Risk ran 15 times with 10 wins. She was never worse than third and the only time that she lost by more than two lengths was the infamous Preakness. She was named champion 3-year-old filly of 1980. Many felt that she should have been the 2-year-old filly champ of 1979 as well, based on her undefeated 4 for 4 record and by beating the filly, Smart Angle, who would win the award, in the Demoiselle Stakes. Following her rigorous Triple Crown, Genuine Risk was given a well deserved rest. She came back three months later to run two dynamite races against the best fillies and mares in the country in the Maskette and Ruffian. In both races, she was full of courage as she battled down the stretch to be 2nd in the Maskette by a nose and then to win the Ruffian, also by a nose.

Still with Bert and Diana Firestone, her owners since the age of one, Genuine Risk would live to the age of 31. She passed away almost exactly one year ago. To the dismay of millions Genuine Risk was not a producer of race horses, as her only two foals to survive never raced. How wonderful it would have been to see offspring with her characteristics on the racetrack, but it was not to be. Instead, she endures as a runner and what a runner she was. I remember you … Genuine Risk.


Celeste said...

Lovely tribute to a wonderful race mare. Thanks!

LDP said...

That was a great tribute. I wansn't around to see ruffian or GR, but thanks to writing like yours i can let my imagination take hold and trasport me back to see what i might have been like.