08/17/2008 11:00PM

Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk dies at 31


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Hall of Fame runner Genuine Risk, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby and the 1980 champion 3-year-old filly, has died in Virginia at age 31.

Genuine Risk died Monday morning at owner Bert and Diana Firestone's Newstead Farm in Upperville, Va., according to Bert Firestone.


"She never had a sick day in her life, and she was fine this morning," Bert Firestone said. Firestone said Newstead manager John Moore fed Genuine Risk as usual Monday morning before turning her out for the day.

"She jogged away and ate a couple of bites of grass, then she turned around and started to come back and laid down," Firestone said. "She tried to get up a couple of times, then just put her head down and went to sleep. She lived a very long life and a great life, and we were glad that it was so easy and peaceful."

Trained by LeRoy Jolley, Genuine Risk won the Kentucky Derby by a length in 1980, joining 1915 Derby winner Regret as the second filly to win the Derby. Winning Colors became the third in 1988.

Genuine Risk, who finished second in the Preakness and Belmont, remains the only filly to finish in the money in all three Triple Crown races. Her defeat in the Preakness was controversial, coming after jockey Angel Cordero Jr. allowed eventual winner Codex to drift out, carrying Genuine Risk wide on the turn for home just as she was challenging. She lost by 4 3/4 lengths.

Adding to the controversy, Genuine Risk's rider, Jacinto Vasquez, lodged a foul against Cordero, claiming that Cordero also had hit Genuine Risk on the head while whipping Codex right-handed. But the stewards let the order of finish stand.

"It's hard to say whether she'd have won," Jolley said. "Obviously, Codex ran very well that day, and she certainly didn't benefit from the incident. It had to cost her a pretty good amount. But whether she could have won or not, who knows? I would like to have seen it done in a normal manner, and we'd have had a lot better answer."

Bred by Mrs. G. Watts Humphrey Jr. in Kentucky, Genuine Risk sold to the Firestones as a yearling for $32,000 at Fasig-Tipton's 1978 summer yearling sale.

The Firestones initially did not have her on their list until their son Matthew, 14 at the time, told them he thought she deserved a look. Matthew helped break Genuine Risk later that year at Newstead.

"He said, 'I found one I think you'll like,' " Firestone recalled. "We looked at her and liked her. He asked if he could bid on her, so we said, 'Yes, go ahead.' We told him how much to go up to, and we got her."

In addition to her Derby win, the blaze-faced chestnut filly also won the 1980 Ruffian Handicap and the 1979 Demoiselle and Tempted stakes. In 1980, she also finished second in the Maskette and third in the Wood Memorial, in the latter race competing against colts. She won 10 of her 15 lifetime starts and never finished worse than third. She earned $646,587.

Genuine Risk was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986.

"She was just extremely determined, and she was like that in every race, whether she ran against colts or fillies or whatever you might lead her up against," Jolley said. "She had tremendous determination and gave everything she had every time."

Genuine Risk produced only two live foals during her time at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky. The first was the colt Genuine Reward, by Rahy, in 1993, and the second was the Chief Honcho colt Count Our Blessing in 1996. Both were unraced. Genuine Reward has become a successful polo sire in Wyoming, while Count Our Blessing is a show hunter in New York.

The Firestones moved Genuine Risk from Three Chimneys to Newstead Farm in 1998. They pensioned her in 2000.

Genuine Risk has been buried on a patch of lawn surrounded by flowers across from the Firestones's house at Newstead. Bert Firestone said the family will plant a horseshoe of roses around or over the grave.