Making the Grade, which will run through the 2020 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on the Triple Crown races. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.
Last week I profiled Independence Hall, a lightly raced rising star with some maturity issues and a ton of potential. This week’s 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve contender fits a very similar profile as Authetic was impressive in winning the Grade 3 Sham Stakes by 7 ¾ lengths in his second start despite zig-zagging through the final eighth of a mile. Let’s take a closer look at this promising prospect.
Ability: Authentic was a $350,000 purchase by the partnership of SF Bloodstoock and Starlight West at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale during the eighth of 13 sessions – a bit of a diamond in the rough deep in the auction and the second-highest-priced yearling of that session.
The Into Mischief colt made his debut for the partnership of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John D. Fielding, and Golconda Stables Nov. 9, 2019, at Del Mar.
Authentic looked like he was pinched back just a bit at the start of his first race but utilized his speed under Drayden Van Dyke to draw alongside the pacesetter before settling nicely into a pressing position in second. He seized command leaving the turn in the 5 ½-furlong race and finished powerfully to win by 1 ½ lengths with little urging.
Authentic had a couple of challengers move into striking range at the top of the stretch, but he had plenty of gas in the tank despite pressing a half-mile in a sprightly 45.68 seconds and earned a 97 Equibase Speed Figure for the win.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert brought Authentic back eight weeks later for the $100,5000 Sham Stakes. The jump from a maiden race to a graded stakes is a significant test for a 3-year-old; however in this case only one of the other five runners had previously raced in a stakes race so the field was pretty level.
Authentic was sent off as the 6-5 favorite for the one-mile race, which also was his first try navigating two turns, and he went right to the front under Van Dyke while opening a clear lead through a quarter-mile in :23.87. Authentic increased his lead to 2 ½ lengths with a quarter-mile remaining and pulled away powerfully in the stretch in what looked like a cakewalk. He then ducked in sharply in midstretch before Van Dyke was able to get him corrected and did the same thing again shortly after in what was an eventful, if not competitive, final furlong as Authentic won by 7 ¾ lengths.
“I think the noise from the crowd made him react the way he did there in the stretch,” Van Dyke said. “His ears went toward the crowd, so I think that’s what caused it, but then when he got down to the rail, he spooked himself again.”
Baffert said he might consider blinkers for the gifted but green Derby prospect.
“When I ran him the first time at Del Mar he was a little bit green that day, because I was debating whether or not to put blinkers on him,” the trainer said. “I didn’t, but he may need something to keep him more focused.”
While Baffert has plenty of time to develop Authentic mentally, the stretch antics are something to keep in mind down the road considering the Derby draws a raucous crowd that has exceeded 150,000 every year since 2005.
The positives, of course, far outweigh the negatives when evaluating Authentic, who received a 110 Equibase Speed Figure, a 90 Beyer Speed Figure and a 97 BrisNet speed rating, all three of which were higher that the figures Independence Hall earned for winning the Jerome Stakes on Jan. 1.
It’s especially encouraging to see a 3-year-old colt move forward when stretching out in distance rather than taking a slight step back or pairing figures. The Equibase jump from a 97 for his debut to a 110 leads me to believe he’s a bona-fide two-turn horse who won his debut sprinting based on natural talent.
Heck, if Authentic is not weaving his way through the stretch he probably wins the Sham by 10-plus lengths.
“I told Bob when he broke his maiden [Nov. 9] he was my favorite 2-year-old,” Van Dyke said. “He’s very talented.”
Connections: Authentic is owned by the partnership of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John D. Fielding, and Ben Goldberg and Elliot Friman’s Golconda Stables.
In 2018, Starlight purchased an interest in future Triple Crown winner Justify and future Florida Derby winner Audible from SF Bloodstock. Jack and Laurie Wolf founded Starlight in 2000 and raced champions Ashado and Shanghai Bobby in addition to Justify. Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners also was a co-owner of Justify.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has amassed four Eclipse Awards and won 15 U.S. Triple Crown races during his illustrious career. Baffert’s five Kentucky Derby winners were Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018). The final two went on to win the Triple Crown. Baffert also won two legs of the Triple Crown with Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Point Given, and War Emblem.
Drayden Van Dyke has become a primary rider for Baffert in recent years and guided 2020 Longines Kentucky Oaks hopeful Bast to multiple Grade 1 wins in 2019. The 2014 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding apprentice, Van Dyke earned his first graded stakes win in September 2014 on Sistas Stroll and his first Grade 1 win in the 2015 Frank E. Kilroe Mile aboard Ring Weekend. Van Dyke finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby in 2018 on Instilled Regard.
Pedigree: Authentic is from the eighth crop of Into Mischief, the leading general sire of 2019 with $18,916,923 in progeny earnings. A 15-year-old by Harlan’s Holiday, Into Mischief ranked fourth on the general sire list in 2018.
Into Mischief won three times and finished second three times in six career starts, including the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in 2007.
He got off to a very nice start at stud and ranked third on the first-crop sire list in 2012, the first year his younger half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) Beholder won her first of four Eclipse Awards. Another half-sibling, Mendelssohn, subsequently won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and suddenly Into Mischief not only had the on-track results as a sire but a very fashionable pedigree.
Into Mischief is the sire of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, 2019 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Covfefe, 2018 Xpressbet Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Audible, multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke, and Canadian champions Conquest Enforcer and Miss Mischief. Other Into Mischief runners that enjoyed success on the Triple Crown trail include 2019 Preakness third-place finisher Owendale, 2017 Southwest Stakes winner One Liner, 2014 Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s in Trouble, and 2013 Gotham Stakes and Jerome Stakes winner Vyjack. The stallion is also represented on the 2020 Kentucky Derby points leaderboard by Remington Springboard Mile winner Shoplifted.
Authentic is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless, who won her career debut at seven-eighths of a mile and then ran second in her second and final race going a mile. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Oyster Baby, was unraced, while his third dam (maternal great-grandmother) was Grade 3-winning sprinter Really Fancy, by In Reality.
Authentic is the only stakes winner in the first two generations of his pedigree, but there are some interesting names once you delve a little deeper.
Really Fancy produced a stakes winner and three stakes-placed winners. Another one of Really Fancy’s daughters, Dixie Holiday, is the grandam of Grade/Group 1 winners Reynaldothewizard and Seventh Street.
As with many Kentucky Derby hopefuls in this era, there are some stamina concerns when evaluating Authentic’s pedigree, but the way he handled his two-turn debut assuages much of that, as he sure looked like a racehorse best suited for two-turn races.
The talent is there, and Baffert is a master at developing 3-year-old horses for the Triple Crown series, which makes Authentic formidable early on the 2020 Derby trail.