KENTUCKY DERBY: AUTHENTIC FENDS OFF TIZ THE LAW
Authentic was fast early and resolute late, and the result was a triumph in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, the 146th running of the Run for the Roses.
It was the third Kentucky Derby win for Authentic’s rider, John Velazquez, and the sixth for trainer Bob Baffert.
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“It’s definitely not old,” Velazquez said of his now-hat trick of Derby titles.
Velazquez, like all riders, needed to undergo a quarantine period to ride at Churchill. He is based in New York and had to endure the time without his family, a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They’re here every year with me,” Velazquez said. “I know they’re happy, praying. It was worth it.”
All eyes were on Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law entering today’s Derby. For one thing, the New York-bred son of Constitution was the only runner in a field that, after scratches, numbered 15 who had a shot at a Triple Crown. For another, Tiz the Law had laid waste to his Belmont and Travers Stakes rivals with such aplomb that he’d cloaked himself in an aura of seeming invincibility.
Tiz the Law, trained by Barclay Tagg for Sackatoga Stables, was made the 3-5 morning line favorite, the shortest a.m. choice in more than three decades. He went off at 3-5, as well.
Under Manny Franco, Tiz the Law had a comfortable enough trip, three wide into the first turn and in the clear throughout. He reached even terms with Authentic at the quarter-pole, but Authentic fought back gamely and was pulling away late to win by just over a length.
Authentic broke from the outside stall under Velazquez, who rode him for the first time. Mike Smith, who’d ridden Authentic to a win in the Grade 1 Haskell in August, picked the John Shirreffs-trained Honor A. P., who rallied from well back to finish fourth. Longshot Mr. Big News made an eye-catching move, circling rivals on the turn and looming a threat before flattening out somewhat to finish third.
Authentic, who paid $18.80 to win, broke alertly from the far outside, and Velazquez quickly put the speedster on the lead. He carved out fractions of 22.92 for the quarter, 46.41 for the half, and 1:10.23 for three quarters.
“Johnny V gave him an incredible ride,” Baffert said.
Authentic, an Into Mischief colt, was bred in Kentucky by Peter Blum Thoroughbreds LLC. He sold for $350,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale and is owned by a partnership of Spendthrift Farm LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC, and Starlight Racing.
Authentic now has five wins and a second from six career starts, including four graded victories. The winner’s share of the $3 million purse will push his career earnings to nearly $3 million.
The win capped a rollercoaster of a visit to Churchill Downs for the California-based Baffert. On Friday, he’d sent out McKinzie, the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Alysheba, and Gamine, the 7-10 favorite in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. They had finished fourth and third, respectively.
On Saturday, Baffert was slated to have two runners in the Derby, with Shared Belief Stakes winner Thousand Words 15-1 on the morning line. But Thousand Words flipped in the paddock and had to be scratched; in the hubbub, Baffert’s assistant, Jimmy Barnes, broke his hand and was taken to the hospital.
That helped make it an emotional race to watch for Baffert.
“We were yelling, ‘Do it for Jimmy’ the whole way,” Baffert said afterwards.
Authentic may not have known he was doing it for Barnes, but you can believe his win will work better than any painkiller for the assistant.
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