Authentic proved he is the real deal with a powerful front-running 2 ¼-length victory against stablemate Improbable in the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Keeneland Race Course.
The Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner had been barely outdueled by the brilliant filly Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness Stakes, the final leg of this year’s pandemic-impacted Triple Crown. But he rebounded strongly to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his fourth Classic victory and 17th Breeders’ Cup win overall. Earlier on Saturday, Baffert prevailed in the Filly and Mare Sprint when Gamine smashed the track record.
John Velazquez, 48, 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 (boosted by Gamine's win earlier), 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, sent off at odds of 4.20-1, blazed the mile and a quarter in 1:59.19, breaking the track record of 2:00.07 set when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah completed the first and only Grand Slam in 2015.
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), American Pharoah (2015) and Arrogate (2016).
Global Campaign ran third followed by Tacitus, Baffert’s Maximum Security and favored Tiz the Law. Baffert was so pleased with how his three starters were training that he harbored hopes of a one-two-three finish.
Maximum Security did not have the closing punch he needed, however.
“He was right there,” said jockey Luis Saez. “We came to the stretch and the winner was rolling. It was very impressive. But he tried. He ran a good race.”
Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law, the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Runhappy Travers Stakes winner, broke from post two and appeared to be hurt by that position.
“I was down inside. My horse never settled for me. He was pulling me the whole way hard,” said jockey Manny Franco. “When I sent to looking for him, he was done.”
When asked if he found himself trapped inside, Franco said, “I was inside looking for a way to get out to a clear run. I had to wait longer than I wanted to. It is what it is.”
Trainer Barclay Tagg admitted that he had expected much more from Tiz the Law.
'“I was happy with the way he came into the race,” he said. “I thought he would run his race but (Franco) said he was just too keen and didn’t run.”
Title Ready, By My Standards, Tom’s d’Etat and Higher Power rounded out the order of finish.
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.”
Although Authentic had been “quirky” in the past, he displayed maturity when it counted most as he shot to the front from an outside post and never faltered. He easily turned back a bid from Global Campaign on the far turn.
“It worked out perfect,” Velazquez said. “Bob said to take him to the lead so he doesn’t wander so much and keep his mind on running. It worked out. He did everything I wanted him to do.”
Authentic won for the fifth time in seven starts this season. The winner’s share of $3.3 million spiked his career earnings to $6,371,200. In addition to his narrow defeat in the Preakness, he was a runner-up to since-retired Honor A. P. in the June 6 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.
With his commanding Classic score, the Into Mischief colt ensured the Eclipse Award as 3-year-old champion and almost surely will deliver Horse of the Year honors for his owners, Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables and Starlight Racing.
“He sealed the deal. It’s not a fluke,” Baffert said. “He’s the best horse in America.”