Codex comes into his rematch with Genuine Risk as a certified triple threat. He has a brilliant trainer. He has the best jockey in America. And he has a terrific lawyer.
But when he runs in the $293,700 Belmont Stakes Saturday (5 p.m. WDVM-TV-9), the colt probably won't need outlandish assistance from Angel Cordero Jr., whose intimidation of Genuine Risk, the filly, triggered an unsuccessful foul claim and a nationwide controversy.
Nor is he likely to need any impassioned arguments from attorney Arnold Weiner, who persuaded the Maryland Racing Commission this week to uphold the results of the Preakness.
The key man for Codex today is D. Wayne Lukas, the ouspoken and unorhtodox Californian who trains him. For the key question about Codex is whether he is prepared to run the same caliber of race he did at the Pimlico.
Lukas has employed the same sort of unconventionally light training that raised so many eyebrows before the Preakness, despite the popular widsom that says the Belmont's demanding 1 1/2-mile distance is a whole different game.
To change his methods, Lukas said, "would be like running off tackle as your bread-and-butter play all season, and then getting to the Super Bowl and trying something different."
There is a more pertinent question about Codex's readiness for the Belmont. Butazolidin is banned in New York, and the colt will be racing without the painkiller for the first time in his career Saturday. Skeptical backstretch cognoscenti say the colt has looked stiff and choppy in his morning gallops here.
Lukas, responded, "Codex is an extremely well-muscled horse and he has to jog a lot to loosen up, just like Larry Csonka would. But when the gate opens, he's an athlete. I give Bute to all my horses all the time, and I'd like to use it in the Belmont. But we feel better about him this morning than any time since he's ready to run his top race."
If Codex does that, he is likely to shatter the hopes for revenge harbored by Genuine Risk's legion of fans, who feel that she was fouled and deprived of a fair chance to win when Codex carried her wide in the Preakness.
The filly, of course, became the sweetheart of America when she won the Kentucky Derby, something no member of her sex had done since 1915. She became a beloved martyr after the Preakness. Now she will make history as the first female ever to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and she could become the first one to win the Belmont since Tanya did it in 1905.
Even though the Preakness suggests strongly that Codex is the much superior racehorse, Genuine Risk does have some formidable virtues. She is consistent (something which cannot be said of the colt) having won seven of her nine lifetime starts. And at a distance where pedigree is sometimes a determining factor, Genuine Risk has mile-and-a-half credentials all through her bloodlines.
While all the attention in the Belmont has understandably centered on the Codex-Genuine Risk confrontation, the supporting cast in the 10-horse field is more than a bunch of spear carriers. It includes one colt who has never been beaten and another who may be strong second choice in the wagering.
Rumbo rallied to finish second behind Codex in two races on the West Coast, then rallied to finish second behind Genuine Risk in the Derby.
His stretch-running style will win him many backers at Belmont, but the lines in his Daily Racing Form past performances are slightly misleading. Codex was holding Rumbo at bay in the final yards of their meeting in California; Genuine Risk did the same in Kentucky. Nevertheless, Rumbo is a formidable contender.
Nobody knows if Pikotazo will be a formidable contender Saturday. He won all nine of his races in Mexico, including that country's triple crown. But there are no lines of comparison with any horses in his past performances to indicate whether he is the equivalent of an American stakes horse or an American $5,000 claimer.
The times of his races are slow, but his trainer, Claudio Hernandez, explained, "Our times are not comparable to American races because of the altitude -- he's been racng at 7,500 (feet)." That may be an edge for Pikotazo. Human runners benefit from training at high altitudes, as Canonero II apparently did. This is just another of the imponderable factors in Pikotazo's record.
The forgotten member of the Belmont field is Rockhill Native, who was the champion of his generation as a 2-year-old, and was favored in the wagering in the Kentucky Derby. But after the gelding tried to finish that day, he was totally eclipsed by the adulaton for Genuine Risk. Since there is not a shred of evidence that he wants to go a mile and a half, he is likely to remain eclipsed after Saturday.
The others in the field are Comptroller, Super Moment, Temperence Hill, Joanie's Chief and the maiden Bing. None of them is likely to interfere with the drama of the Codex-Genuine Risk confrontation.