John Velazquez, the all-time leader in earnings among jockeys with more than $425 million, gained the breakthrough victory he had yearned for with his first Classic triumph. He had succeeded in numerous other Breeders’ Cup races, ranking second to Mike Smith with 17 victories and over $28 million in purses, and yet the centerpiece of the season-culminating event had been maddeningly elusive.
“For me, it’s incredible. God, what a feeling. I don’t know what to say,” he told NBC as he and Authentic made their way to the winner’s circle.
Authentic will always hold a special place in Baffert’s pantheon of stars. He gave the trainer his record-tying sixth Derby triumph and allowed him to extend his record with his fourth Classic triumph, all with 3-year-olds. He previously rattled off three in a row with Bayern (2014), Triple Crown champion American Pharoah (2015) and Arrogate (2016).
Baffert, who is based in Southern California, is grateful he reached out to the opposite coast to tap Velazquez to ride Authentic, a colt he described as “quirky.”
“Johnny really knows him well,” Baffert said. “Once he got him in that rhythm, he’s just getting better and better. He’s caught up with the older horses. He’s just an unbelievable horse.”