SANTA ANITA-BASED AUTHENTIC BECOMES 18TH RUNHAPPY SANTA ANITA DERBY GRADUATE TO WIN KENTUCKY DERBY AS BAFFERT TIES LEGENDARY BEN JONES BY TAKING HIS SIXTH RUN FOR THE ROSES
ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2020)–Despite breaking awkwardly, Santa Anita-based Authentic went to the front and then withstood a furious quarter mile challenge from heavily favored Tiz the Law to win Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby by 1 ¼ lengths, thus providing Bob Baffert with his record-equaling sixth career triumph in the Run for the Roses.
In a race replete with pre and post race drama, Authentic, a winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 7 and a second-place finisher behind Honor A.P. in the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on June 6, also became the 18th horse to use the Santa Anita Derby as a springboard to victory in America’s most prestigious race, which was run without fans and had been delayed four months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pre-race drama began when Baffert’s other Derby entrant, Thousand Words, leapt in the air and spun in the Churchill Downs paddock, sending Baffert’s primary assistant Jimmy Barnes to the ground and writhing in pain.
“He broke his wrist in eight places,” said Baffert by phone from Louisville this morning. “Thousand Words, he’s always been so difficult to saddle. We’ve saddled him on the walk and we thought we could do it inside the stall (yesterday) and we almost had him. Jimmy was saddling him…but by that time, the horse was getting mad. He’s a kind, gentle horse, but you gotta watch him closely. He got mad and he went up and Jimmy fell backward…He’ll need surgery. He’s on his way back (to Southern California), he’s in good spirits. When he gets back to Scripps (La Jolla) they’re going to go ahead and do surgery on his wrist.”
With a desperate nose victory going a mile and one eighth with Mike Smith up in the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 18, Baffert took Authentic back to Del Mar, knowing there were many people who questioned the colt’s ability to get the demanding mile and one quarter Derby distance.
Breaking from the far outside and ridden for the first time by eastern-based Johnny Velasquez at odds of 8-1, Authentic, a horse who needs to race on the lead, was away awkwardly, but with Velasquez ridding him aggressively, enjoyed a half length advantage over New York Traffic heading into the Clubhouse turn.
“Once he had the lead, he was going right along,” said Baffert. “…After that, Tiz the Law, he had the perfect trip he was stalking right there. He came to us and Manny Franco looked over his shoulder and I thought, ‘Uh oh, he must have a lot of horse.’ But Johnny, he just waited and I told him, when you turn for home now, you’ve gotta get after him left handed and he will find another gear.
“You make a lotta sacrifices. I’m there every day. I’ve got a great staff, everybody that works so hard…I love the sport and the Derby is what we live and breathe…That was the most emotional, I felt like it was the first Derby I’ve won in my life. That’s the way I felt yesterday. Going in, I really didn’t think I could beat Tiz the Law…And then after watching Jimmy break his arm, (Thousand Words) getting scratched and then (Authentic) pulls it off like that…”
Following the race in Churchill’s Infield Winner’s Circle, it was Baffert’s turn to hit the deck as Authentic wasn’t content to idle in “park.”
“The flowers, for some reason they added ribbons to the bottom of it and they came apart…Authentic, he’s a high strung horse anyway, he’s always on his toes…(The ribbons) wrapped around him and it just scared the hell out of him. And he whipped around there and he just bowled us all down.”
A 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Into Mischief, out of the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless, Authentic, who was also a romping 7 ¾ length winner of Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes in his second career start on Jan. 4, is owned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm, LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables, LLC and Starlight Racing, now has five wins from six starts and earnings of $2,871,200.
With his sixth Derby now in-hand and thus a hallowed position in turf history alongside the legendary trainer Ben Jones, Baffert says that both Authentic and Thousand Words will remain at Churchill Downs for the time being prior to both horses shipping to Pimlico Race Course and a run at the third jewel in racing’s 2020 Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, Oct. 3.
Baffert’s other Kentucky Derby winners are Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015) and Triple Crown Champion Justify in 2018.