The Pimlico official closest to the last turn in the Preakness Stakes thought Genuine Risk had been deliberately interfered with by Codex, it was revealed today. But the track stewards never considered his opinion in declaring Codex the winner.
Chief Steward J. Fred Colwil testified at the Throughbred Broad of the Maryland Racing Commission's hearing on the foul claim by Genuine Risk's owners that Coley Blind, the patrol judge stationed near the head of the stretch at Pimlico told stewards over an intercom immediately after the May 17 race, "(Jockey Angel) Cordero looked back, knew she was coming and carried her wide."
Commission Chairman Robert W. Banning said the hearing hopes to resolve the appeal before Saturday's running of the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. Both Codex and Genuine Risk, winner of the Kentucky Derby, are running in the Belmont.
The hearing was told today that, two days after the race. Blind filed a routine report in which he said, "It appeared that 6 (Codex) took No.5 (Genuine Risk) wide on purpose."
But the stewards never asked the patrol judge to amplify his observations as they deliberated the foul claim by Genuine Risk's jockey, Jacinto Vasquez.
"I don't think Coley's ever even ridden a horse," Colwill said. "I don't want Coley Blind's conclusion -- I wanted my own. I've been around four or five times as long as he has."
Vasquez had claimed that Cordero interfered with his horse, forcing the filly to run wide on the turn into the stretch. He also accused Cordero of hitting Genuine Risk on the face with his crop and of bumping the filly, causing her to break stride. After about 10 minutes of deliberating and reviewing film of the race, track stewards disallowed the foul claim.
At today's hearing all three stewards, Clinton Pitts Jr., Edward Litzenberger and Colwill, told the commission they were confident they had made the correct call. Genuine Risk was not bumped, they said, although all three added that there was a possibility she was brushed. A brush Litzenberger said, is contact so slight "that it wouldn't break an egg."
Henry Lord, the lawyer for Genuine Risk's owners, Bertram and Diana Firestone, insisted that Cordero had committed a premeditated foul.
"Mr. Cordero knew where to expect the filly," Lord said. "He steered or moved Codex to a point beyond the middle of the track, keeping the filly out and causing her to break stride. Whether you call it a light brush or a jostle, it certainly was contact and it prevented her from holding the course she had intended to hold on her run to the finish.
"We think Genuine Risk would have won the Preakness just as she won the Kentucky Derby," Lord said. But in asking for the disqualification of Cordex, he argued that "It is not necessary for this commission to speculate as to whether the filly would have won absent these fouls."
Arnold Weiner, lawyer for Mr. and Mrs. James Binger, owners of Cordex, argued that the real issue before the commission was the "presumption of the correctness of the stewards' decision." The appeal should be allowed "only on the strongest showing that the stewards were clearly wrong," Weiner said.
"This would have been just another case of a disallowed objection had it not been for the hoopla of network television entertainment," Weiner said, referring to the ABC-TV telecast of the race.
Those films appeared to some viewers to show clear evidence of a foul, but Weiner argued today that the cameraangle had produced a distorted and misleading image on the television screen.
"It's an optical illusion," he said.
Weiner said "this appeal has within it the seeds of destruction of horse racing as a sport. It has the seeds of destruction of horse racing as an industry. And it has the seeds of destruction of horse racing as an American institution."
To allow the appeal, Weiner said, would shake the confidence of racing fans in the industry inasmuch as pay-offs on pari-mutuel bets on the Preakness were made on the day of the race, based on the results as of that day.
But Lord said that only by allowing the appeal and disqualifying Codex could the commission "uphold the traditions of the historic sport of horse racing.
"If this had happened in an alley instead of a race track, it would not only have been a purse snatching, it would have been a mugging," Lord said.