When the race began, Avila, as he had done in the Preakness, elected either to go with the pace deliberately or let Canonero run there if he wanted to. Eddie Belmonte on Twist The Axe went right after him, and so did Walter Blum on Pass Catcher. Bold Reason was right up there, followed by Salem. Jim French was hanging back in seventh place, and none of the others really got in the act at all. After Canonero had cut out fractions of 1:12[2/5] for the first six furlongs and 1:37 for the mile, it became apparent that Avila (or Canonero) had been overly ambitious. This was not a mile and [3/16]ths, like the Preakness, and the colt was tiring. Blum, meanwhile, had given Pass Catcher a bit of a breather on the backstretch. Midway around the final turn he said, "I really got into him, and he took off. At the quarter pole I took the lead from Canonero and opened up five lengths. I lost my whip in the stretch, but I knew we were home free." Jim French, old reliable that he is, charged through on the inside to be a fast-closing second, less than a length away from the winner, while Bold Reason came up to edge a dead-tired Canonero (No. 8, see cover) by a neck for third.
At the postrace party almost the first person to reach Kissel's side was Canonero's owner. "Congratulations," Pedro Baptista said warmly. "Thank you," replied Kissel, "but it is you who should be congratulated. You have a wonderful horse. I feel awful about Canonero and I am sorry for you, and I genuinely feel it's a shame to break up a Triple Crown. Believe me."
Even in defeat Canonero stole much of the limelight. Baptista continued to ponder offers to buy or lease his horse, though he was not too busy to console Trainer Arias. "Be cheerful!" he said. "We have become rich and famous, the horse is all right and the future is ahead of us."
Arias finally admitted that Canonero was only 75% of himself going to the gate, and that there had been reason to take him out of the race. "If I had to do it again I probably would not run him," he said, "but we felt we owed him the chance to consecrate himself in racing history. I still feel he is a good horse and that I trained him well. My horse ran in glory."
True enough. Canonero was beaten, yes, but far from disgraced. The Venezuelans had courage before the race and they had grace in defeat afterward. The only jarring note was that the gullible betting public was misled. But if he never runs in this country again, and no matter what he does for the rest of his career, Canonero brought a bright, cheerful light into U.S. racing that can never be fully extinguished.