Bob Baffert victorious again at Kentucky Derby with Authentic
First, one of trainer Bob Baffert’s two horses took a tumble in the paddock before the start of the Kentucky Derby. Then, after the race, Baffert went to the ground after his other horse got fractious in the winner’s circle. In between was a history-making performance by front-running Authentic to win the 146th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
As the third choice and breaking from the farthest outside post, Authentic didn’t break immediately on top but conserved energy while getting to the lead by the clubhouse turn. He took to the front, but with Tiz The Law within striking distance. Exiting the far turn, the race was Tiz The Law’s to win, but Authentic dug in and even extended his lead to win by 1¼ lengths.
“It’s always a concern that you let the horse do too much early in the race,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “You like to save ground and save some horse for the end. … Bob kept telling me to make sure I saved [something for] that last eighth of a mile.”
And that’s what happened.
Authentic finishes ahead of Belmont Stakes winner Tiz The Law to win the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Here’s the latest from Churchill Downs.
It ended the second fairy-tale story of 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg and an ownership group called Sackatoga Stable. It was 17 years earlier that this combination went into the Derby and pulled a shocking upset with Funny Cide. This time, with an upside-down racing year, they had the winner of the Belmont Stakes and also the Travers Stakes, which is normally held after the Triple Crown races. But the Kentucky Derby was beyond their reach.
Saturday’s drama for Baffert started before the race when Thousand Words, the fourth favorite, reared up in the paddock and fell, hitting his head and shoulder. It’s an automatic scratch in those situations. During the incident, Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s longtime assistant also fell and injured his arm and hand.
“I have a lot of emotions running through my mind right now with Jimmy not being able to be here,” Baffert said, his voice cracking. “ … This is so emotional, the ups and downs in this game. Unbelievable.”
Authentic paid $18.80, $6.00 and $5.00. Tiz The Law was second, paying $3.40 and $3.20. Mr. Big News paid $16.80 to show. Honor A.P., after getting pinched at the start, might have had one of the best performances in rallying to fourth from the back of the 15-horse field.
The remainder of the field, in order, was Max Player, Storm The Court, Enforceable, Ny Traffic, Necker Island, Major Fed, Sole Volante, Winning Impression, Money Moves, Attachment Rate and South Bend.
Mean Sophia, 3-year-old filly trained by Peter Miller, suffered a fractured leg at the start of the seventh race.
“The key to this race was the break,” Baffert said. “We knew we had to get away from there. We talked about where certain people would be. Johnny [Velazquez] is a world-class jockey and knows where everyone should be. I told him what I thought, and he told me what he thought. I said ‘I like your plan.’
“Velazquez earned this. He beat a really good horse. Tiz The Law is a top-notch horse. I feel bad for the connections. I’ve been there. But this never gets old.”
It has been a difficult Triple Crown season for Baffert. If the Derby were held on its usual first Saturday in May, Baffert would have had two of the favorites in Nadal and Charlatan, but both were injured and taken off the trail when the race was postponed. Meanwhile, Baffert went through a series of exceptional colts, such as Uncle Chuck and Cezene, but both faltered. But, in the end, he still had Authentic and Thousand Words.
Authentic won the Haskell Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles at Monmouth, but gave up a huge lead in the stretch to win over Ny Traffic by a nose. It made most believe that Authentic could not handle the 1¼ miles of the Derby. Clearly, Baffert knew better.
The race was held without fans and under a cloud of protests in Louisville after police shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker, on March 13 after utilizing a no-knock warrant believing her home was used for selling drugs. No drugs were found at the home located six miles from Churchill Downs. One officer was fired, and two are still on the force. The case is still under investigation with no charges having been filed.
Protesters had called for the Kentucky Derby to be canceled. Churchill Downs issued a statement mid-week acknowledging their concerns and offering support of the cause. Before the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the track announcer referenced the “inequities” in society. The song was played with a lone bugler, and no words.
On Saturday, protesters and counterprotesters had verbal confrontations, but there were no immediate reports of physical altercations.
Back inside Churchill Downs, the only confrontation was a whirling Authentic in the winner’s circle. It sent Baffert to the turf but unhurt.
All considered, he was OK with it.
Cherwa reported from Orlando, Fla.
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