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1980 Preakness Ended in Controversy

May 18, 2000 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was pleased to receive a bag full of telegrams at the Pimlico stable gate the day after he won the 1980 Preakness with Codex.

``I thought they were all congratulatory,″ Lukas recalled. ``Not many of them were.″

Codex’s victory was one of the most controversial in the history of Triple Crown racing. The colt had the temerity to beat the filly Genuine Risk, the betting and sentimental favorite and the first of her sex to win the Kentucky Derby in 65 years.

Many people were upset about the upset. A lot of them were outraged by the manner in which jockey Angel Cordero Jr. engineered the victory.

Cordero and Lukas were greeted by shaken fists, boos and curses.

``I told Angel if I take a bullet, I want it in the arm, not the chest,″ Lukas said Wednesday after watching the gallop of High Yield, the trainer’s 26th starter in his 18th Preakness. He has won four times.

The focal point of the outrage was Cordero, who later received threats against his life and threats to burn his house for forcing the filly extremely wide in the stretch and shaking his whip in her face.

Cordero had Codex in the lead on the final turn, while Genuine Risk, the 2-1 favorite ridden by Jacinto Vasquez, was fourth, 3 1/4 lengths behind Codex.

Genuine Risk then moved to join Codex on the outside entering the stretch.

Let footnotes on the Daily Racing Form chart of the race tell what happened next:

``Cordero looked back entering the stretch, angled extremely wide, intimidating and lightly brushing Genuine Risk in early stretch . . .″

A Baltimore Sun photo of the bumping was captioned: ``Was it a bump or a kiss?″

Codex finished 4 3/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Genuine Risk.

Vasquez claimed foul against Codex and Cordero for interference in the stretch, but the claim was disallowed.

Vasquez complained, ``I thought this was a race track, not a rodeo.″

Mr. and Mrs. Bert Firestone, Genuine Risk’s owners, appealed to the Maryland State Racing Commission, but after a three-day hearing the result was allowed to stand, and Lukas had his first winner of a classic race.

A winner of a Triple Crown race has never been disqualified for a race infraction.

The Preakness win followed victories in the Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Derby for Codex, who did not run in the Kentucky Derby because of an oversight.

Now horses are nominated for all three Triple Crown races at the same time. Back in 1980, nominations were made for each race on an individual basis.

Lukas was on a pony when a representative of Churchill Downs handed him a list and asked him to check the horses he wanted nominated. He checked some, none of which ran, but neglected to check Codex.

After Codex won the Santa Anita Derby on March 30, Lynn Stone, president of Churchill Downs, presented the trophy.

``He said, `It’s a shame that the horse is not nominated for the Derby,‴ Lukas recalled. ``I almost fell over. I was sick it was my first chance to run in the Classic. I still think he would have been my fifth Derby winner.″

Codex, indeed, could have been the first of five Derby winners for Lukas, who first saddled a Derby starter in 1981.

There still are people, however, who think Codex should not have been the first of Lukas’ five Preakness winners.