PLAUDITS FOR A BOLD RISK AND A TOP BID
An unusual year? You might say that. A filly won the Kentucky Derby, a dispute clouded the Preakness, a long shot upset the field in the Belmont, and the most successful horse of all time ended his career with a race that wasn't a race at all. Genuine Risk—so named because owner Bert Firestone purchased her only on the insistence of his 14-year-old son Matthew—became the first filly to win the Derby since Regret in 1915. Risk was in position to challenge in the Preakness, too, but after Codex carried her wide coming out of the turn for home, it was suddenly no contest. Codex steadily bulled away and beat the filly by 4¾ lengths, was it bump and run? Risk's backers and fans at Pimlico thought so, but Codex won both the race and the foul claim. Genuine Risk ran another strong race in the Belmont, but this time 53-to-1 Temperence Hill, a misspelled and unsung colt, surged past her to win by two lengths.
Spectacular Bid, a champion at 2 and 3, was named 1980 Horse of the Year as a 4-year-old. He won his last nine races under Bill Shoemaker and retired to stud with record career earnings of $2,781,608. Bid won 26 of his 30 races, set eight track records and had the highest winning percentage (87%) of the 25 runners who have earned $1 million or more. So feared was the son of Bold Bidder that all his rivals dropped out of his last race, the woodward Stakes, leaving him to race the clock alone. Shoemaker "walked" Bid around the 1¼-mile Belmont course in a brisk 2:02[2/5]. Actually, Bid was supposed to end his career in the Jockey Club Gold Cub two weeks later, but when his left front ankle acted up, Trainer Bud Delp held him out. The winner was Temperence Hill, later named 3-year-old Colt of the Year. But in one of the sport's strangest seasons, Genuine Risk was the prize jewel of the Triple Crown.
In harness racing, Niatross retired at the age of 3 after earning a record $2,019,212, winning 37 of 39 races and pacing the fastest mile (1:49[1/5]) ever. The sport lost one of its brightest young driving stars when Peter Haughton, 25, who had won 571 races and purses worth $6.4 million during a nine-year career, died in a car crash.
February 12, 1981
Niatross became the first North American standardbred to win $2 million.
A bargain buy for $5,000, Loto Canada won $179,600, a Coke and a smile.