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"I'll tell you what. If you can make the travel arrangements, go ahead."
So Lukas was off to Pimlico. The colt arrived on Tuesday night of Preakness week after a flight from L.A. to New York and a van ride to Baltimore, 12 hours in all. His racing and training schedule had been highly unorthodox, if not revolutionary. When Codex stepped onto the track on Saturday, he hadn't raced in 34 days, an extraordinarily long layoff before so demanding a race. Moreover, in that 34-day period Lukas had drilled him but three times, and only five furlongs at a pop. Surely that would not be enough to get him the mile and [3/16]ths of the Preakness. The colt wouldn't even get a chance to work hard and fast over the Pimlico surface before the race. On top of all that, he was racing 3,000 miles from home—in a different climate, in unfamiliar surroundings.
But Lukas was convinced that he had done right by the colt, that Codex had had sufficient work and would run his race. For the Preakness Nerud and Lukas replaced the 17-year-old Valenzuela, who is long on ability but short on experience, with Cordero, who has plenty of both. Coincidentally, earlier last week Cordero. Vasquez and Jorge Velasquez (who rode Colonel Moran) had been named by fellow rider Jose Amy as having taken part in conspiracies to fix the outcome of horse races in New York in the mid '70s. Amy's accusations came during testimony in the race-fixing trial of former jockey Con Errico in Brooklyn Federal Court. Amy also named eight other riders, and he admitted that he himself had stiffed horses for a fee.
As the gate opened for the Preakness, Knight Landing, breaking from the inside post, sprinted to the front and raced through an opening quarter in :23[3/5], honest enough, and the half in :47[4/5]. Colonel Moran tracked him around the turn, squandering nothing, while Codex, a 5-2 shot, stalked them both. Genuine Risk lay sixth the first quarter, then moved to fourth around the turn and into the back-stretch. Nearing the far turn, she bob-bled for an instant but collected herself at once and dug in again.
And there the real running began. Sweeping into the turn, Codex and the Colonel pounced all over Knight Landing, who excused himself, and Cordero, sensing his colt was ready, let him roll. Codex left the Colonel, opening sudden daylight, but now the filly was taking aim as they raced midway through the turn. She swallowed the Colonel as she swept the bend. Then she set sail for Codex. He was running strongly on the lead, several feet out from the rail. And now the filly was coming to him. A roar went up. She charged outside of Codex, to his flank, and as she came to him, Cordero looked over and saw her. Codex drifted off the turn. The horses brushed. "He kind of got spooked from the crowd along the rail and all the screaming," Cordero said. "I was there before the filly came to me. I don't think I carried her out. I couldn't. She's very heavy." Cordero, lashing his whip, might have caught her once in the head. By the time they straightened out, her run had ended, and the colt sprinted clear to win the race in 1:54[1/5] only a tick off Canonero's track mark.
Bafflingly, the stewards posted no inquiry, but Vasquez claimed foul. "He [Cordero] came out, he bumped me," Vasquez said. "He hit my filly over the top of her head with his whip." Cordero denied this, claiming that the two horses had never made contact and that his whip never hit the filly. The stewards agreed with Cordero. They saw nothing on the film. Colwill said, to substantiate Vasquez' claim that Cordero hit the filly. Nor would he concede that Cordero carried her wide. "I feel they were both out there when they neared the turn. I'm not saying this horse didn't drift out some, but I think both were well out on the track. No, I don't think he [Cordero] did it deliberately. I don't think there was any contact," Colwill said.
The official chart caller for the Daily Racing Form, Bill Phillips, saw it differently. In his official chart of the race Phillips wrote, "Cordero looked back entering the stretch, angled extremely wide, intimidating and lightly brushing Genuine Risk...."
Between phone calls, Litzenberger agreed that the colt had intimidated the filly. "Intimidation. If you want to squeeze it out of me, go ahead. I think there was intimidation. But not enough to disqualify," he said.
So the order of finish stood. And there were hoots and howls from all over the land and from some of the 83,455 present. But not from a subdued LeRoy Jolley, who trains Genuine Risk. "They did bump or brush," he said. "Codex continued on well through the stretch; my filly didn't. But, as far as I'm concerned, what's done is done."
Partly lost sight of in the disputed race was the fact that Codex proved himself to be an exceptionally gifted young horse. He performed brilliantly. That he was ridden as if he were in a demolition derby doesn't diminish what he accomplished. The rider is another matter. A solid case can be made that he was riding the best racehorse in the Preakness. That he took unfair advantage of his main opponent served in the end only to deny his horse the chance to prove it unqualifiedly. And that was a shame.