Codex won the Preakness. Genuine Risk was second. Chivalry was last.
The lady was mugged today. Just as the filly Genuine Risk seemed ready to add the Preakness jewel to the glittering crown she won in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, the rude colt Codex jostled and bumped her.
Not only that, but Genuine Risk's rider, Jacinto Vasquez, said Codex's jockey, Angel Cordero, hit the filly in the face with his whip.
These are grounds for disqualification.
But Pimlico's stewards saw no evil.
They disallowed a claim of foul by Vasquez.
No contact when everyone with eyes saw contact? No contact when ABC-TV's slow-motion replays showed Codex throwing a cross-body block that would have knocked over Franco Harris?
"I could not see that at all," said J. Fred Colwill, the chief steward.
Next time you rob a bank, do it in front of the Maryland stewards.
"One steward is blind, another is deaf and the other one has been drinking too many daisies," said John Nazareth, the assistant trainer of Genuine Risk. Daisies, in this case, are really those drinks called Black-Eyed Susans. Susans in which rum and vodka share a glass with citrus juice and strawberries.
When the stewards' decision was announced to the record crowd of 83,455, many customers who had given their hearts to the chestnut filly were moved to boo. Even as the boos and curses came down on Cordero -- "Take the train back to Aqueduct, you crook," someone shouted -- the jockey leaped into the arms of Codex's farm manager, Johnny Nerud, and said, "I never touch her, never."
Oh, but he did.
Had this been a lesser race, a race not of the Triple Crown series, Cordero likely would have been disqualified for his act of calculated intimidation around that last turn. But never in 106 years has a Derby been decided by a foul . . . never in 105 years has a Preakness winner done it on a foul . . . never has the Belmont winner -- you get the idea. These races are too big, too historic, to sully with something as messy as justice delivered swiftly.
It is argued by those who liked the steward's ruling today that they did the right thing because, after all, the best horse won. They say that Codex made a strong move down the backstretch to break contact with the opposition. They say that Codex, in a big run to the finish line, would have beaten the filly no matter if he had stopped to whisper sweet nothings in her ear instead of his jockey whacking her upside the nose.
The argument is beside the point.
If there was a foul, there was a foul. As Pete Rozelle's zebras don't decide the Steelers are better than the Rams, it is not the job of racing stewards to decide which horse is best. They are there to enforce the rules -- and it is illegal, as well as impolite, to conduct a mugging in broad daylight.
"I made a move on the turn," said Vasquez, "and we were side by side with Cordero."
What jockeys do on a turn, most of the time, is turn. They turn the horse left. They stay as close to the rail as they can. It's a shorter distance to the finish line that way.
What Cordero did on this turn was go straight.
He went straight for longer than he needed to.
He did this because, having looked over his shoulder an instant before, he knew Genuine Risk was making the same big on-the-turn move that won the Derby for her.
"Never make your move on the turn," said Eddie Arcaro, the old jockey who made a million dollars by steering his horse wide on the turn, forcing the outside horse even farther out, forcing it to use even more energy. f
Which is what Cordero had in mind.
Few jockeys today are more cunning, or more outrageous than Cordero. He was suspended for 20 days in New York once when, coming down the stretch nearer the outside rail than the inside, he went diagonally across the track to collide with a horse ridden by Braulio Baeza. In last year's Triple Crown series, Cordero and Ronnie Franklin, Spectacular Bid's rider, were so angry at each other's tactics that they fell to a fistfight in the jocks' room.
It was no surprise, then, that Cordero, seeing his chance, let Codex run wide through the turn, forcing Genuine Risk outside. Nor was it a surprise -- to Vasquez, anyway -- that Cordero began whipping furiously -- whipping both horses, his own and the filly.
"I make my move on the turn," Vasquez said, "and then Cordero turned his horse straight to the outside. He bumped me, he turned me sideways, he hit my horse over the head with his whip."
Because horses run so close together, it is possible to whip the other guy's horse by mistake.
Not Cordero, not today.
"Sure, he do it on purpose," Vasquez said. "Cordero not a bugboy." A bugboy is an apprentice jockey likely to do dumb things, such as mistakenly whip another horse. For a master rider such as Cordero, he likely would whip the wrong horse the same day Baryhnikov steps on someone's toes.
Cordero denied all. He was innocent. No bumping, no jostling, no whipping the filly across the face. "It was the angle of the camera," he said, which may not prove he didn't do it but certainly shows he has heard all the instant-replay arguments.
"I don't want to see the replay," said Nerud, the farm manager. "We got the money."
The owners of Genuine Risk, on the other hand, spent an hour looking at films of the race.
"I didn't agree with the stewards," said Bert Firestone."But I don't want to be a bad loser. We have rules and we abide by them. I'm just glad she didn't get hurt. She could have had an eye knocked out, or she could have gotten thrown down."
Diana Firestone said the trainer, LeRoy Jolley, showed her a mark on Genuine Risk's face where Cordero had slapped her. "LeRoy's very mad about it, and LeRoy thinks very highly of Cordero," Mrs. Firestone said. "I'm afraid I don't think highly of him."
Jolley, while praising Codex, said, "They did brush or bump and Codex continued while our filly didn't continue."
Because the margin of victory was virtually five lengths, some race trackers say the bump-a-bump didn't make that much difference. Codex would have won by two lengths without Cordero's foolishness, they say.