LOUISVILLE, KY – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert saddled his record-tying sixth winner as Authentic proved that he could go the distance in Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from the far outside post 18 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Authentic bumped slightly with the 4/5 favorite Tiz the Law, who broke out slightly from his direct inside.
Halfway down the front stretch the first time, Authentic finally put himself on the lead but was still forced to run wide heading into the clubhouse turn while completing the opening 1/4-mile in :22.92.
Still running off the rail as he led down the backstretch, Authentic posted continued fractions of :46.41 and 1:10.23 while Tiz the Law raced outside of Ny Traffic behind him. The second choice, Honor A. P., lingered at the rear and was left with plenty of ground still to cover heading into the far turn.
Tiz the Law began drawing even halfway through cornering and straightened for home heads apart with the pacesetter, but Authentic still had plenty left in the tank and re-broke sharply at the top of the stretch.
Still maintaining a slim advantage as he passed the 1/8 pole, Authentic slowly pulled away from Tiz the Law, who was attempting to become the first Kentucky Derby winner to wear the #17 saddlecloth.
Tiz the Law fought his heart out but proved no match for Authentic, who conquered the 1 1/4-mile classic in a gate-to-wire score by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 2:00.61 – the fastest since Monarchos’ 1:59.97 in 2001.
“It’s always a concern that you let the horse do too much early in the race,” said Velazquez, who previously won the Derby in 2017 and 2011. “You like to save ground and save some horse for the end. Bob was pretty certain the horse was ready today. I let him get loose and get comfortable. I waited until the horses got to him to get after him and he responded right away. Bob kept telling me to make sure I saved that last 1/8 of a mile; ‘I want that 1/8 of a mile.’ He said, ‘I want you to hit left-handed,’ and he responded. It worked out the way we had planned it. Very proud of the horse.”
This marked Baffert’s third Derby win in the past six years and his sixth overall, tying him with Ben Jones for most all time among trainers. In the days and weeks leading up to the Derby, Baffert was one of the few who remained confident that Authentic could win at this distance.
“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 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.’ I told him what the horse likes and what he can do. I’ve been fortunate to have some great jockeys; this race was won by Johnny, just the way he handled the horse and how he finished. He earned this. He beat a really good horse. Tiz the Law is a top-notch horse.”
Tiz the Law, owned by Sackatoga Stable, suffered his first defeat of the year.
“Obviously we’d hoped to win,” said Sackatoga Stable’s managing partner Jack Knowlton. “He was a big morning line favorite, went off odds-on, but it just wasn’t to be. Authentic ran a tremendous race. It was a fast pace and he never came back. Tiz has been able to pass horses all year, and today, he ran into one he couldn’t get by.”
Mr. Big News, one of two in the field who made the gate despite earning 0 points from prep races, made a strong move in the far turn to put himself into third in the stretch. Though unable to get within 2 lengths of the top pair, he did finish 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Honor A. P., who was sluggish out of the gate and was forced to begin his rally heading into the far turn.
“He spun out from the word go,” said Honor A. P.’s jockey Mike Smith. “Really did.”
Max Player finished further back in fifth while making his first start for new trainer Steve Asmussen. The 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion Storm the Court and Enforceable finished close behind him for sixth and seventh, respectively.
Ny Traffic, Necker Island, Major Fed, Sole Volante, Winning Impression, Money Moves, Attachment Rate, and South Bend completed the order of finish.
King Guillermo and Finnick the Fierce were scratched in the days leading up to the Derby.
Baffert’s second entry, Thousand Words, was a late scratch after he flipped in the paddock (he returned to his stable unharmed). The incident left Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes with a wrist broken in eight locations.
” Jimmy, poor guy is in an ambulance right now, can’t enjoy it,” said Baffert, who nearly suffered a similar fate when Authentic acted up during the winner’s circle ceremony. “This is so emotional, the ups and downs in this game. Unbelievable. I have a lot of emotions running through my mind right now with Jimmy not able to be here.”
Authentic’s win was his second straight following the Haskell Stakes (G1) and improved his overall record to 6-5-1-0, with his lone defeat coming in June’s 1 1/18-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1). The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt has now earned $2,871,200 for co-owners Spendthrift Farm, Madaket Stables, Starlight Racing, and MyRacehorse.com, a microshare organization that bought into 12.5% of Authentic prior to his Haskell victory and has since sold over 4,600 shares.
“Really, it is a very surreal moment,” said CEO Michael Behrens. “I had a vision, a thought, four or five years ago that to provide ownership to everybody would give the sport its due in terms of what a great sport it was. … Right now, to know that there’s 4,600 or so people at home that literally own a piece of the Derby winner, I mean, it’s an ultimate thrill for me. I still can’t put it into good words.”
Authentic returned $18.80 to win, $6 to place, and $5 to show. Tiz the Law brought back $3.40 to place and $3.20 to show, while Mr. Big News paid $16.80 to show.