Genuine Risk got her revenge against her arch-rival Codex today -- but it was a hollow trimph. Temperence Hill, a 53-to-1 shot with minimal credentials, surged past her in the stretch and won the 112th Belmont Stakes by two lengths.
The colt had been completely ignored this week amid the continuing controversy about the bumping incident in the Preakness. But an animal whose principal claim to fame was a slow victory in the Arkansas Derby would have been ignored anyway.
His chemistry was probably just right today, and he probably had been waiting for the Belmont's demanding mile-and-one-half distance. But Temperence Hill's mediocre time of 2:29 4-5 suggests that he won because none of his principal rivals ran a best race.
The muddy track couldn't have helped, either.
Certainly, the colts who were supposed to have been Genuine Risk's principal opponents did not run their races. Codex gave up after a mile and one quarter and finished seventh, suggesting that he couldn't handle the Belmont distance or else needed the drug Butazolidin, which is illegal here. Rumbo, the second choice in the betting, never got into contention and wound up fifth.
For a while though, the Belmont looked as if it were going to be the classic battle of the sexes between Codex and Genuine Risk. Even in the early stages of the race, when they were merely stalking the leaders, jockeys Angel Cordero Jr. and Jacinto Vasquez seemed to be playing a game of cat and mouse.
While long shot Comptroller raced in front, Cordero was keeping his eye on Vasquez and trying to keep his rival pinned along the rail, presumably the deepest and most disadvantageous part of the Belmont racing strip.
Rockhill Native went up to challenge Comptroller first, but Codex looked as if he was ready to make a bold move to the lead at any moment.
When the field had gone nearly a mile, he made it. He moved up along the outside, while Vasquez had finally gotten off the rail and was moving behind him. As this drama was unfolding, the 58,090 spectators at Belmont Park saw some unfamiliar yellow-and-brown silks coming into the picture.
Eddie Maple, aboard Temperence Hill, clearly had a horse eager to run, and he swung the stretch runner to the outside on the best part of the track.
Suddenly it became apparent that the Codex-Genuine Risk, confrontation was not going to materialize. Codex drew abreast of the leaders for a few strides and then started to fade. "He just didn't handle the track at all," Cordero said. "He was running on his class for most of the race."
Genuine Risk moved outside Rockhill Native as they turned into the stretch, and looked for a moment as if she were going to become the first filly to win the Belmont since 1905.
But Temperence Hill was accelerating strongly now, and by midstretch had collared Genuine Risk. They battled for only a few strides. Then the longshot began to pull away.
Temperence Hill paid $108.80, $32.80 and $15.20. Genuine Risk returned $7.80 and $5.20, while Rockhill Native, who finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the filly, paid $10.40 to show.
If Temperence Hill had seemed an implausible Belmont winner before 5:40 p.m. today, he seemed even less likely months ago. Last year, trainer Joe Cantey conceded, the Loblolly Stable's colt "never showed anything." Since he had finished out of the money in all three starts, Cantey didn't even consider nominating him for the Kentucky Derby.
He regretted that decision in the spring, after Temperence Hill blossomed at Oaklawn Park and rallied to win the Arkansas Derby. But the colt's subsequent performance suggested that the reason he won was the ineptitude of his opposition. Temperence Hill was whipped in the Withers Stakes, humiliated in the Pennsylvania Derby and beaten in an allowance race on the grass at Belmont Saturday.
in view of those performances, many people thought Cantey was crazy to have owner John Ed Anthony post $20,000 to make Temperence Hill a supplementary nominee for the Belmont. Nobody thinks he is crazy now.
But while Temperence Hill took home the winner's purse, it was Genuine Risk who emerged from the Triple Crown series with great distinction.
She was the first filly ever to compete in all three races, but her achievements had to do with much more than her sex.
While Temperence Hill may prove to be a one-race wonder, and Codex looked either inconsistent or unversatile today, Genuine Risk gave solid, gutty performances every time she ran. Even in defeat, her sometimes sullen trainer LeRoy Jolley could only express admiration today. "I am very happy with her race," he said. "She ran great."
Because of the consistency of her performances this spring, Genuine Risk has earned a ranking as the top 3-year-old in America. And she will be remembered long after Temperence Hill is a subject of racing trivia quizzes.