OCEANSIDE, NJ – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert earned his record ninth victory in Saturday’s $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park when Authentic barely held on at the wire over a game Ny Traffic.
The Haskell is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Authentic receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Classic at Keeneland this November.
Authentic broke alertly from post 2 under Mike Smith as the 3/5 favorite, Authentic strode forward to take command and raced inside of Ny Traffic heading into the clubhouse turn.
Running solo on the backstretch, Authentic posted opening fractions of :23.60, :47.52, and 1:11.50. Ny Traffic made a failed bid in the far turn and Authentic emerged onto the front stretch looking like a clear winner.
Smith kept Authentic under a vigorous hand ride until Ny Traffic returned with renewed energy, making it a match race to the finish. Though Ny Traffic gave it his all, Authentic prevailed by a nose in a final time of 1:50.45 for the 1 1/8-mile fast main track event.
“He’s a colt with an abundance of talent,” Smith said. “Ability is something he does not lack. He’s got a lot of it, but what he is lacking right now, he’s learning. He’s growing up. He sees things. Down the backside, if you get a chance to look at the head-on, there are a lot of shadows back there from the sun at this point. He looked at every single one of them and he wouldn’t let me get him down close to the fence because he was looking at them too much.”
Paco Lopez, aboard Ny Traffic, was incredulous that he did not make it to the wire first.
“I was sure I got him – 100 percent,” Lopez said. “I can’t believe it. I’m surprised we didn’t win. I really thought we got him.
Dr Post, the 9/5 second choice who was returning from a runner-up effort in the Belmont Stakes (G1), was uncharacteristically toward the rear early and could not make up enough ground to do better than third, beaten 4 1/2 lengths.
Jesus’ Team, Fame to Famous, and Ancient Warrior completed the order of finish.
The Haskell is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Authentic earned 100 points for the win, with Ny Traffic receiving 40 for second, Dr Post 20 for third, and Jesus’ Team 10 for fourth.
Authentic’s win was a return to form after suffering his first career defeat last time out in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt improved his overall record to 5-4-1-0 with $1,011,200 earned for Spendthrift Farm, MyRacehorse.com, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing.
“I’m just so proud of him, but I was like everybody else, telling Mike, ‘You better stay after him, you’d better keep busy,’” Baffert said. “(Authentic) looks at everything, as we’ve seen in his past races. I could tell he wasn’t focused going down the stretch, but he held on. He saw that horse coming to him and he took off again.”
Authentic returned $3.20 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.10 to show. Ny Traffic brought back $4.20 to place and $2.40 to show, while Dr Post paid $2.10 to show.