Genuine Risk has already assured herself of a place in racing history and legend. Decades from now she will be remembered for winning the Kentucky Derby and for becoming the first filly to compete and finish in the money in all the Triple Crown races.
Posterity will not know or care how good she really was -- just as we don't know or care much about the legitimacy of Regret, the first filly to win the Derby. But to her contemporaries, Genuine Risk still has a lot to prove.
She will answer some of the remaining questions about herself at Saratoga in August, but her performances here may well be disappointing and anticlimactic. Genuine Risk is certainly not as good as her legion of admirers would like to believe. And she probably does not even rank among the best fillies of recent years.
There are two principal measurements of horses' ability: How fast did they run and whom did they beat? Genuine Risk's winning time in the Derby, 2:02, was quite respectable but hardly outstanding. But the subsequent performances of the colts behind her verifies the suspicion that she beat a very bad crop of 3-year-olds.
The five horses immediately behind her at Churchill Downs, were Rumbo, Jaklin Klugman, Super Moment, Rockhill Native and Bold N' Rulling. Since the Derby, only one of them has won a race.
Genuine Risk's performance in Kentucky was her best in the Triple Crown series. Her race in the Preakness will forever be a source of controversy, but the notion that she might have won if she hadn't been "mugged" by Codex can be dismissed as idiotic. Her race in the Belmont Stakes, which she lost in slow time to the undistinguished Temperence Hill, was obviously not a great one.
If Genuine Risk were a male, she would be regarded as the marginally superior member of a weak class of 3-year-olds. She owes her celebrity strictly to her gender.
In fact, other fillies of recent years have been much more deserving of such a lofty status. But they never were given the opportunities that Genuine Risk was.
Genuine Risk is not as good as Davona Dale, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1979, was at the same stage of her career. She is not in the same class as the great Ruffian, the champion of 1975. She probably could not have beaten Desert Vixen, the champion of 1973. If these fillies could have run in the Triple Crown series in 1980, they could have accomplished at least as much.
Although most of the evidence suggests that Genuine Risk is overrated, one strong argument can be made in her behalf. Angel Penna, the great horseman who has trained many top fillies to beat colts, suggested it.
The development of fillies does not run parallel to that of colts -- just as adolescent boys and girls spurt in growth at different ages. Penna observed that female thoroughbreds are comparable to colts as 2-year-olds, but in the spring and summer of their 3-year-old season the colts improve much more rapidly. The fillies don't catch up until the fall.
Experience confirms this theory. The equality of the sexes is commonly demonstrated by the excellent record of fillies in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's greatest race, which is run in October. But there are no stakes run in the spring and summer in which 3-year-old fillies have been similarly successful.
Genuine Risk may have been running in the Triple Crown series at a stage of her life cycle in which she had a disadvantage against colts. She may have her best performances ahead of her.
At Saratoga she will have ample opportunity to demonstrate if this is true.Trainer LeRoy Jolley has been characteristically irascible and uncommunicative about his plans for the filly, but he may put her on the path of greatest resistance.
He could have opted to run her in two relatively easy spots against other 3-year-old fillies this month. Instead, he may enter her against older females, among them Davona Dale in the Ballerina Stakes here next week. Jolley definitely is aiming to run his filly against colts Aug. 16 in the prestigious Travers Stakes.
Triumphs in races like these could bring Genuine Risk's level of achievement a bit closer to the level of her reputation. But it is unlikely that she will ever prove herself a truly outstanding horse. Her chief contribution to racing may be to show toher owners and trainers what fillies can do against colts, so that the truly great fillies of the future get a chance to prove themselves fully.