Since she became a national heroine in the 1980 Triple Crown series, Genuine Risk has been making more attempted comebacks than Muhammad Ali.
Today she launched what will surely be her final one. Against a field so weak that the race amounted to little more than a glorified workout, the filly won by 8 1/4 lengths, missing Saratoga's track record for seven furlongs by only one second.
"She ran super," trainer LeRoy Jolley said. "I couldn't be happier. We needed to run her now because we've been saving her for the big races in the fall at Belmont Park." He indicated that Genuine Risk would either take on the best males in the country in the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5 or face members of her own sex in the Maskette Stakes the next day.
Despite her auspicious performance today, it is no certainty that Genuine Risk will recapture the fitness and form that made her the second filly in history to win the Kentucky Derby. Her efforts in the Triple Crown were tough, enervating ones, and when she returned to competition in the fall she ran only twice before she was sidelined by an injury.
Genuine Risk came back in the spring, scoring an allowance-race victory similar to today's, then running poorly in her first attempt on the grass.After that she disappeared from competition again, with Jolley and owner Bert Firestone claiming that they were reserving her for a fall campaign. In fact, the filly has been plagued by various minor physical problems that have disrupted her training, plus whatever general problems have been responsible for the dismal performance of Jolley's whole stable this season.
At the start of the year, the trainer's barn included such brilliant performers as Cure the Blues, who looked as if he might be the best 3-year-old in the country; Jaklin Klugman, who might have been the best 4-year-old; and Genuine Risk. But Cure the Blues and Jaklin Klugman won one race between them and were retired prematurely.
Genuine Risk's career could conceivably end just as ingloriously, but her performance today did indicate that she retains some of her old sharpness. Under jockey Jeffrey Fell (her third rider in three starts this season), she broke sharply, raced alongside Samarta Dancer down the backstretch, then began to draw away as she approached the turn. She covered the half mile in 45 2/5 seconds, three-quarters of a mile in 1:09 and hit the wire in 1:21 2/5, far ahead of runner-up Clown's Doll.
The significance of her effort is hard to measure; almost any good horse will look good under such conditions. Only when (and if) Genuine Risk runs at Belmont Park next month will she indicate if she is still capable of recapturing the glory of the past.