05/05/2005 11:00PM

Genuine Risk, 28, doing great

Smarty Jones, at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., had plenty of visitors during Derby Week, a year after his Run for the Roses triumph.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - It has been 25 years since Genuine Risk became the second of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, but the thrill is fresh for the mare's many admirers and for owners Bert and Diana Firestone.

Genuine Risk, now 28 and the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner, occupies a paddock just outside the Firestones' house on Newstead Farm in Upperville, Va. The Exclusive Native mare has been retired from her troubled breeding career since 2000. But she still has a job babysitting yearlings that the Firestones bring home from auction and racehorses returning to the farm.

"She's pretty lively and feels good, and her health is fine," Bert Firestone said recently. "She goes out and eats grass every day in good weather. We get people who call and ask to see her quite a bit, and we try to help them.

"Her paddock is between the house and the office, and I walk past it every day on my way to the office. She'll come right over to the fence to see you, and she still likes her peppermints and carrots."

The Firestones bought Genuine Risk as a yearling from breeder Sally Humphrey at the 1978 Fasig-Tipton summer sale. They paid $31,500. The fact that they got her at all counts as something of a minor miracle. Genuine Risk was not on Bert and Diana Firestone's list of horses to consider at the auction. But their son Matt, then 14, spotted the blaze-faced chestnut filly out of Virtuous, a Gallant Man mare.

"I don't know why she wasn't on our list in the first place," Bert Firestone said. "Her pedigree was good enough."

The couple liked what they saw, and when Matt asked if he could do the bidding, they let him. "We were behind him, so I knew we could tell him when to stop!" Firestone recalled.

Genuine Risk went on to win all four of her races at 2. She won her first two starts at 3 but finished third in Plugged Nickle's Wood Memorial before tackling the Derby for trainer LeRoy Jolley.

"We didn't go to the Derby just to go," Firestone said. "We went because we thought we had a good chance."

Genuine Risk became the first filly to win the race since Regret in 1915. Winning Colors was the third and last to take the roses, in 1988.

In the Preakness, Angel Cordero Jr. steered eventual winner Codex out, carrying Genuine Risk wide and muscling in on her. Genuine Risk's rider, Jacinto Vasquez, claimed foul over the maneuver, which also had enraged the filly's devotees. But the result stood, even after a hearing with the Maryland Racing Commission.

Genuine Risk also finished second in the Belmont Stakes, behind Temperence Hill.

The only other disappointment in Genuine Risk's career was her difficulty in conceiving and carrying foals. She produced only two. The first, the Rahy colt Genuine Reward, was born to great fanfare at Three Chimneys Farm in 1993. He never raced and now stands at stud in Wyoming. The last, a 1996 Chief Honcho colt named Count Our Blessing, also is unraced.

Firestone said that veterinarians the family has consulted have not been able to determine why Genuine Risk has had breeding problems, but it doesn't seem to concern Firestone much.

"My feeling is, it's great to have a great broodmare," he said. "But I'd rather have a great racehorse."

Smarty Jones, one year later

A more recent Kentucky Derby winner, the much-loved 2004 victor Smarty Jones, returned to the headlines during Derby Week when Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., paraded the 4-year-old son of Elusive Quality for fans and media.

And there are still plenty of fans. At a recent open day, Three Chimneys owner Robert Clay estimated between 500 and 600 Smarty supporters showed up to see the Derby and Preakness winner.

Since owners Roy and Pat Chapman retired Smarty Jones last summer, Smarty-lovers also have made some strange requests of the farm. A group of daylily gardeners wondered whether the farm could provide them with some of the champion's composted manure. (Answer: no, the farm doesn't individually compost each stallion's manure.) Most of the requests are for halters and horse shoes, which the farm provides to charity auctions when it can. Whenever farm staff members pull or shorten Smarty Jones's mane, they send the mane cuttings to Pat Chapman, who distributes them.

Stallion manager Sandy Hatfield said that the farm also had found straw from Smarty's stall - the same one that the late Seattle Slew used to occupy - for sale on eBay.

Smarty's market appeal can now benefit the new Smarty Jones Foundation, a racing-related charity. Three Chimneys is offering three limited-edition Smarty Jones prints, priced at $425 each or $1,000 for the set, by renowned sporting artist Andre Pater to benefit the foundation.

Three Chimneys president Dan Rosenberg said Smarty Jones has covered 88 mares so far this season. The stallion will breed 111 mares this year: 110 as stipulated in the contract between the farm and the Chapmans, plus one additional mare whose $100,000 stud-fee payment will go to the stallion's Breeders' Cup nomination.

"We just hope he can go on and pass those wonderful characteristics on to all his offspring," Rosenberg said.