06/30/2015 12:59PM

Genuine Reward, son of Genuine Risk, to Old Friends

Barbara D. Livingston
Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk, seen here before finishing second in the 1980 Belmont Stakes, produced only two live foals - one of whom, Genuine Reward, will be pensioned at Old Friends.

By Joe Nevills and Nicole Russo

Genuine Reward, one of only two live foals produced by Kentucky Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk, will become one of the newest residents of Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky.

The 22-year-old son of Rahy began his stud career at a Thoroughbred farm in Virginia, but later moved into other disciplines. He most recently stood as a polo stallion in Sheridan, Wyo., with the American Polo Horse Association listing Perk Connell as his owner.

The horse has been pensioned from stallion duty and, late last week, was listed on the Fort Collins, Colo., Craigslist site, with the ad stating, “We haven't used him for a few years, so we're looking for a retirement home for him.” Noted author Laura Hillenbrand was among those to spot the listing, which was brought to the attention of Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen.

“On Sunday I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I saw a stranger's post about Genuine Reward being for sale,” Hillenbrand said. “I clicked on the link and saw the price: $500. That distressed me, because it's a price low enough to draw killer buyers who would whisk the horse off to a slaughterhouse. That very second, I grabbed my phone and called [Blowen]. I told him whatever it cost, I'd pay to purchase the horse, vet him, and ship him to Old Friends, if they could take him. Michael was happy to say yes.”

Blowen also credits Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen with helping to secure the horse.

“One of the great coincidences of all of this is Corey Johnsen from Kentucky Downs was visiting some friends in Sheridan, Wyo., which is where this horse is, and one of his best friends out there is the vet for the farm,” Blowen said. “He went to see the horse, and he told her that it would be really great for the horse and her and everybody else if they sent him to Old Friends.”

Blowen said he anticipates Genuine Reward’s arrival within the next two weeks.

“One thing that should be mentioned is that the horse was reportedly very well cared for and very loved at his farm in Wyoming,” Hillenbrand said. “It appears that the owner was trying to find a happy retirement home for the horse, and just didn't know that a $500 price tag put the horse at risk. You can look at the photo of the horse to see he's in lovely condition.”

Genuine Risk, campaigned by Bert and Diana Firestone, won 10 of 15 starts, never finishing worse than third, during her own racing career. She earned her way into the Kentucky Derby by finishing third in the Wood Memorial, then became the second filly – and first since Regret in 1915 – to win the classic the following month. She finished second in a controversial edition of the Preakness Stakes behind Codex and was also second in the Belmont Stakes, becoming the only filly to compete with distinction in all three Triple Crown races. The four-time stakes winner was honored with the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly of 1980 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.

Genuine Risk was bred to Secretariat for her first mating – the first pairing ever between Kentucky Derby winners – but delivered a dead foal in 1983. The mare was barren during four of her next five seasons – the exception being 1986, when she was not bred – and aborted four consecutive times from 1989 to 1992.

Finally, she delivered Genuine Reward to great fanfare on May 15, 1993. But the colt was similarly star-crossed from the beginning, undergoing colic surgery as a foal. Sent to trainer Bill Mott, he had breathing problems as a juvenile and bucked his shins multiple times, never making it to the races.

Genuine Reward initially stood at Meadowville Farm in The Plains, Va., and later at Eagle Point Farm in Ashland, Va., before eventually heading west. He sired 47 Thoroughbred foals in eight crops; of those, 24 raced, with 13 winning for total progeny earnings of $446,175. His most successful runner was Maximum Reward, who won 7 of 64 starts and placed in three minor stakes in Massachusetts.

Genuine Risk was barren the following two seasons before producing Count Our Blessing on Feb. 21, 1996. The son of Chief Honcho never raced, and was eventually gelded and became a show hunter.

The mare produced another dead foal in 1997, then was barren three more seasons before being pensioned. She lived out the rest of her days at the Firestones’ Newstead Farm in Virginia, where she died at age 31 in 2008.

“Genuine Risk's Derby was the first major horse race I ever saw,” Hillenbrand said. “I was a little kid, and I was so enthralled I cut out all the newspaper articles I could find on her and papered my walls with them. Two weeks later I was at Pimlico, standing at the finish line, when she finished a gallant second in the Preakness. I've always had such a soft spot in my heart for her, and when she struggled to bear a live foal, I grieved for her. When Genuine Reward was born, her first live foal, I was overjoyed.”