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Blog - LEGENDS

No filly has done it better.

None in history can match Genuine Risk’s performance in the toughest, most grueling three races on the American calendar - the Triple Crown series. On a bright spring day in 1980, Genuine Risk challenged a dozen colts in the 105th running of the Kentucky Derby. They weren’t good enough to catch her. At the finish it was all Genuine Risk — only the second filly, since Regret in 1915, to ever win the Kentucky Derby.

Two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, the blazed-face chestnut was making her move coming into the final turn when jockey Angel Cordero Jr. allowed eventual winner Codex to drift out, carrying Genuine Risk almost to the middle of the track on the turn for home just as she was challenging. The filly's jockey and owners screamed bloody murder.

Three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes, Genuine Risk took the lead in the stretch, but was passed near the finish line by Temperance Hill. She was beautiful, classy and tough. She remains the only filly to finish in the money in all three Triple Crown races.

Geniune Risk

Born: February 15, 1977

Died: August 18, 2008

Owner: Diana Firestone

Trainer: LeRoy Jolley

Accomplishments:
1980 U.S. Champion 3-year-old filly
Won 1980 Kentucky Derby
Second in 1980 Preakness
Second in 1980 Belmont 
Inducted in Hall of Fame (1986) 

Recognized as one of the top fillies in American horse racing history, Genuine Risk was a genuine champion. She raced 15 times and was never worse than third. She won 10 races, was second three times and third twice. She won the Eclipse Award as the champion 3-year-old filly. Genuine Risk was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1986.

Bred by Mrs. G. Watts Humphrey in Kentucky, Genuine Risk was sold to Bert and Diana Firestone as a yearling for $32,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of 1978. Actually, it was their 14-year old son Matthew who convinced his parents to purchase the filly after spotting her impressive pedigree. She was by Exclusive Native (1963), whose son Affirmed (1975) had only a few weeks earlier won the Triple Crown. The filly bore an uncanny resemblance to her sire in color and markings, right down to a common, right hind stocking. 

Genuine Risk was broken at the Firestones' 400-acre Newstead Farm in the classy Upperville section of Virginia, snugly set into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains about 45 miles from Washington, D.C. With much anticipation the chestnut filly hit the training track during the winter of 1978-79 in Florida. She was conditioned by the great LeRoy Jolley.

“She was great to be around,” Bert Firestone said. “From the time we broke her, to her time at the track, you couldn’t ask for a better horse. She did everything the right way and had a lot of ability.”

An attractive filly, tall and a little on the light side, Genuine Risk came to hand during the summer of training in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in 1979. She broke her maiden in her first outing at two on a sloppy track at Belmont in September, and completed her juvenile season with back-to-back victories in the Tempted and Demoiselle stakes at Aqueduct.

GENUINE RISK WINNING AT SARATOGA

Genuine Risk Hero

Photo by HorsePhotos

Her 3-year-old campaign kicked off with victories at Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct, prepping her for her first competition versus males in the Wood Memorial. Unbeaten in six starts, Genuine Risk finished a solid third, beaten by a length and a half.

Trainer LeRoy Jolley gave Genuine Risk a couple days off after the Wood and returned her to the Belmont main track for a gallop with Jacinto Vasquez aboard.

“Well, she tried to run off with him and Jacinto is an extremely good rider in the mornings,” said Jolley. “For her to even try to run off with him was something, and she had to be feeling pretty good.”

The Firestones, who had finished runner-up in the 1979 Derby with General Assembly, shipped Genuine Risk to Kentucky. They had out-voted their conservative trainer to send Genuine Risk to Louisville. It was the first time since 1959 a filly had attempted the Derby.

Jolley was born in Hot Springs, Ark., within earshot of Oaklawn Park racetrack where his father, trainer Moody Jolley, was running a string of horses. In 1980 he was as fit as the horses he trained and almost as powerfully built. A balding blond, Jolley patrolled the shedrow dressed in a polo shirt, twill trousers and tasseled loafers.

"All I ever wanted to do was train horses," said Jolley.  "My dad was and still is one of the great horsemen in America. I began walking hots for him at the age of 7 and then started an apprenticeship as an exercise rider. It's the only world I know."

At Churchill Downs Genuine Risk was sent away at 13-1 odds. Jockey Vasquez allowed her to settle off rolling along in mid-pack of the 13 horses before taking command at the quarter pole racing on the outside to stay clear of traffic. She opened daylight on the colts and hit the wire a one-length winner. She ran the last quarter mile of the race faster than any other horse ever had, except the great Secretariat.

“It was an amazing day for us, and you have to understand that her pedigree said she would go any distance,” Jolley noted.

After winning the 1980 Santa Anita Derby, D. Wayne Lukas was nearly catatonic when he learned for the first time that Codex had inadvertently been left off the list of nominations for the Kentucky Derby. He brought the big, rangy chestnut to Baltimore.

That Preakness turned into a two-horse race as Codex took the lead entering the far turn and was a length in front of Genuine Risk at the top of the stretch. Racing outside of Codex, the filly appeared to be making the same sweeping late move that had won her the Derby.

But Cordero had other ideas. He shrewdly began drifting Codex to the outside. They drifted more and more carrying Genuine Risk with them. By mid-stretch, both horses were in a scrum in the middle of the racetrack. To top it off Cordero, one of racing fiercest competitors, whacked Genuine Risk across the nose several times with his crop, according to several track-level observers.

The upshot: the filly's momentum was compromised.

The Daily Racing Form's chart footnotes, rarely subjective, were specific that day: "… Cordero looked back entering the stretch, angled extremely wide, intimidating and lightly brushing Genuine Risk in the early stretch …"

The stewards didn't flash their inquiry sign. A livid Vasquez lodged a foul claim. It was disallowed. Then Diana and Bert Firestone lodged an appeal. After a three-day hearing conducted by the Maryland Racing Commission the appeal was denied. 

"We have always thought that Codex should have been taken down," Bert Firestone said. "We did what we thought was the right thing to do. It did not work out." 

GENUINE RISK ON THE BACKSTRETCH

Genuine Risk Inside

Photo by HorsePhotos

Genuine Risk completed her three-year old season with a victory in the Ruffian Handicap and was named champion three-year old filly in the Eclipse Award voting.  At four, she won her debut and then finished third in a pair of allowance races. She entered the starting gate for the final time in August winning an allowance in Saratoga by eight and a quarter lengths.   

A freak accident ended her racing career. One morning she got loose at Belmont Park and ran into a fire hydrant, which damaged her left front knee. Genuine Risk had won or placed in all 15 starts and earned $646,587. Genuine Risk will be forever remembered for her tremendous performances in the Triple Crown.

“In her races she gave everything she had,” said Jolley. “For her to recover quick enough and go and do it again, and then to come back in the Belmont and really run a winning race again was a very remarkable thing. It was all her. All she knew was to try as hard as she possibly could.”  

Epilogue

It was widely assumed that Genuine Risk would pass her superlative talents on to her offspring. Initially, she was bred to Secretariat - the first time that two Kentucky Derby winners had ever been mated.  The foal, a colt, was stillborn. She was bred back to Secretariat. Again she failed to produce a live foal.

No matter what was tried over the years, "Jenny," as she was called at the barn, never produced a live foal after her retirement from the track. Then the birth of her chestnut colored son of Rahy in the spring 1994 was such a happy miracle that the farm was flooded with cards, letters, balloons, flowers and phone calls. The foal tugged at people's hearts all over America the way no horse had since Secretariat won the Triple Crown.

Sadly, Genuine Reward had no racing ability, so he was sent to a stud farm in Wyoming where he sired polo ponies. Three years later in 1996, Genuine Risk produced her only other living foal, named Count Our Blessing, but he also lacked racing ability and was gelded before being trained as a show horse.

Genuine Risk was retired from breeding in 2000 but her motherly ways continued as she often acted as mentor for young racing fillies that had recently come off the track. Grazing in a lush paddock with another mare at the Firestones' Newstead Farm, Genuine Risk was doted over by the Firestones and the farm staff at Newstead. She was fed as many peppermints as she wanted. Her favorite treat was Tic Tacs. Until the end her only physical problem was the arthritic knee she banged up on that fire hydrant at Belmont.

She died “peacefully” the morning of Aug. 18, 2008 in her paddock. The 31-year-old daughter of Exclusive Native was the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner.

Image Description

Terry Conway

Terry Conway has been a regular contributor to the Blood-Horse magazine since 2003.

He is a racing correspondent to ESPN.com, and his work has also appeared on PaulickReport.com and Equidaily.com.

Conway is the longtime racing writer for Pennsylvania Equestrian magazine. In addition, he writes about the art world, business entrepreneurs, historical topics and travel destinations for a variety of national and regional magazines as well as prominent daily newspapers and websites.

Conway, his wife, Jane, and their Toller Retriever Smarty reside in Wawaset Park in Wilmington, Del.  From the 1880s to 1918 Wawaset Park was the state fairgrounds and regularly hosted Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It was also home to a top-tier racetrack that attracted famous trotters such as Wert Willis and Stoeckles. A couple of hitching posts still remain and occasionally, a time-worn horse shoe is dug up in the neighborhood. Wawaset was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Image Description

Terry Conway

Terry Conway has been a regular contributor to the Blood-Horse magazine since 2003.

He is a racing correspondent to ESPN.com, and his work has also appeared on PaulickReport.com and Equidaily.com.

Conway is the longtime racing writer for Pennsylvania Equestrian magazine. In addition, he writes about the art world, business entrepreneurs, historical topics and travel destinations for a variety of national and regional magazines as well as prominent daily newspapers and websites.

Conway, his wife, Jane, and their Toller Retriever Smarty reside in Wawaset Park in Wilmington, Del.  From the 1880s to 1918 Wawaset Park was the state fairgrounds and regularly hosted Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It was also home to a top-tier racetrack that attracted famous trotters such as Wert Willis and Stoeckles. A couple of hitching posts still remain and occasionally, a time-worn horse shoe is dug up in the neighborhood. Wawaset was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

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