Jean Luc Godard once proclaimed that "Cinema is truth -- 24 times per second." But if the filmmaker had been a member of the Maryland Racing Commission today he might have amended this dictum to say, "Cinema is ambiguity."
When they began to hear the appeal of the foul claim in the Preakness, the commission members probably thought that the many films of the race would ultimately clarify what Codex did to Genuine Risk at Pimlico.
On the whole, the films have tended to indicate that the contact between the horses was much less serious than millions of viewers had thought after watching ABC's telecast of the race. In fact, there might have been no bumping at all.
After the Preakness, there was widespread belief that the stewards disallowed the foul claim against Codex because their film system didn't have the scope and sophistication that ABC's did.
This notion was erroneous, the commissioners learned on Monday. The stewards viewed the Preakness from five different camera angles. ABC used only three cameras two of which were side-by-side, all of which were virtually redundant to the stewards' film.
The stewards' film never strongly suggested that there was any serious contact between the two horses. When the stewards testified here, they had no difficulty justifying their position on the basis of these films.
ABC's telecast gave a different impression, not because of the camera angle but because the network employed slow motion and stop action, techniques which magnified every one of Genuine Risk's movements. Trainer LeRoy Jolley would watch these films today and say, "She's in the midst of her stride . . . now her leg is folded up . . . I think there was contact that interfered with her run."
Arnold Weiner, attorney for Mr. and Mrs. James Binger who own Codex, suggested that the ABC films convey "an optical illusion." He said the camera that produced the most damning shots of the incident was located at the end of the stretch, a quarter-mile away, and was equipped with a high powered telephoto lens. Weiner maintained that such a lens would distort distances.
Today he countered with evidence to demonstrate that the ABC films were distorted. Weyman Swagger, a photographer for the Baltimore Sunpapers, had taken a series of photos with a motor-driven camera from a point that gave a fairly direct view of the incident.
Weiner displayed the film that juxtaposed Swagger's still photographs with the ABC film when the horses were supposedly at the exact same points in the race. The presentation was astonishing.
At the point of the most serious apparent contact, where the filly's legs almost seemed to become tangled with the colt's, Swagger's photo shows that there was indisputably daylight between the two horses. There was, in fact, at least half a horse width between them.