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Regal, serene was Derby champion Genuine Risk

By Staff | Jun 30, 2017

After Regret won the Kentucky Derby way back when Noah was but a lad, no filly had achieved that feat again. As the 1980 Derby loomed ahead, one of the thoroughbreds to lead the parade was the glistening chestnut, Genuine Risk, a royally bred daughter of Exclusive Native and Virtuous, herself a daughter of Kentucky Derby champion, Gallant Man.

Even-tempered and always polite, Genuine Risk had won the Ruffian Stakes earlier in the spring and was horse racing’s budding new star. But could a filly beat the boys at a distance she had never run?

Trainer LeRoy Jolley had her prepped for the 10-furlong slog. If she were given ample “racing room” and could find the proper holes to weave her way through, her stalking style was almost perfect for the Kentucky Derby.

In the post parade just in front of the Derby, she looked the part of what could become a Cinderella story should she win.

Looking like an uncirculated copper penny, Genuine Risk drew pre-race attention and emotion her way. A white blaze extended from the forehead to the tip of her nose. She had one white stocking on a hind leg. Her longish, chestnut tail was an unneeded adornment to her unruffled beauty.

Could the princess become a queen in the two minutes it would take to run the Derby?

Well, she won the race . . . became the belle of the ball . . . and was taken to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes.

A smaller field contested the Preakness.

After settling into fifth place in the early going, she moved boldly toward the leaders maneuvering through the final turn.

She ranged up alongside leader Codex as the home stretch was just ahead. Codex was on the inside as she attempted to pass him. The leader moved abruptly toward her, bumping her and impeding her way.

History shows no thoroughbred has ever been disqualified that crossed the finish line ahead of the trailing field in the Preakness. One “winner” was disqualified long after the race had been run for using an illegal substance, but none had fallen in the same-day aftermath of the race. A foul claim was made against Codex. The stewards posted the “inquiry” sign.

History stood. It was quivering and being questioned from many angles. But it stood. Codex was the maligned winner.

Genuine Risk had finished second . . . and would do in the Belmont Stakes.

She became the only filly in history to finish in the money in all three Triple Crown races.

Attempts to breed her became a sad and at times a teary story.

The inner circles of thoroughbred racing awaited her first foal after she was bred to Secretariat in the first mating of Kentucky Derby champions. That foal was stillborn. Her second coupling with Secretariat did not produce a foal.

Later, she would loose several foals, have another stillborn colt and fail to get pregnant on other attempts.

She did have two live foals, the first named Genuine Reward. He never made it to the races, but was tried as a stud because of his flawless blood lines

Completely retired from efforts to produce an heir to her racing achievements, she went to Upperville, Va. to the Newstead Farm of Diana Firestone.

In 1986, she was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga. Her immaculate racing record showed her with 15 career starts and 10 wins. She finished either second or third in her other five starts . . . meaning she never finished out of the money in her career.

Her son, Genuine Reward, once faced the slaughterhouse. He wasn’t productive enough as a stud and had been advertised on Craig’slist, an almost-certain future where he would be slaughtered.

Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit and other books featuring thoroughbreds, rescued Genuine Reward and sent him to Old Friends Equine just outside Lexington, Ky. Old Friends takes retired horses and gives them a peaceful and mostly coddled life in their later years.

At age 31, Genuine Risk passed away at the Newstead Farm in Virginia. Her last decade was spent in excellent care and she provided much entertainment for those taking self-guided tours of stables, farms and hunt-country estates on Memorial Day weekends each year.

Always a genteel lady, Genuine Risk was one of the real credits to thoroughbred racing.