Key Takeaways from Kentucky Derby Weekend

Authentic crosses the finish line at Churchill Downs to win the 146th Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. (Coady Photography)

Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs and other major developments this weekend:

RAISING THE BAR: When Authentic shook off Tiz the Law in a compelling Derby stretch run, it gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his third victory in six years and allowed him to match Ben Jones’ all-time mark of six wins. Given his recent pace and the massive support he is receiving from deep-pocketed owners, there is no telling how many more he can win since Baffert, 67, shows no sign of retiring. “It’s taken me a lot of years to get to this point where it’s a lot easier,” he said. “Before, I used to have to buy a horse like Real Quiet (1998) for $17,000, Silver Charm (1997) for $80,000 and get lucky. Now, I make my job easier.”

Tagg and Franco post-Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

SECOND BEST: The Derby unfolded as planned for Tiz the Law as he sat in fourth in a perfect striking position to overtake front-running Authentic. The race was strikingly reminiscent of his decisive wins in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Runhappy Travers Stakes – until he could not surge past Authentic in the stretch run. “I had the trip that I expected. He just couldn’t go by the other horse,” jockey Manny Franco said. “The other horse fight so hard. He was ready for (Saturday), too.” Trainer Barclay Tagg also expressed no regrets, saying, “He’s run well every time. He ran a good race. He got beat.”

RIGHT CALL: Owner Chester Thomas and trainer Bret Calhoun debated long and hard whether to try Mr. Big News on turf or swing for the fences by entering him in the Derby. The latter was not an easy call because Mr. Big News had hardly made a splash in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, coming in sixth. But they opted for the big stage and were rewarded with a solid third-place finish that surprised most prognosticators. “We were able to get in the Derby at a mile and a quarter over a track where he’d been training really, really good,” Calhoun said. “It was worth taking a swing.”

Sittin On Go (Coady Photography)

ON TO JUVENILE: Albaugh Family Stables suffered a crushing disappointment when Thousand Words reared up and fell in the paddock, leading the former $1 million yearling to be scratched from the Derby. But not all was lost. Albaugh’s Sittin On Go lived up to his name when he won the Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford by 2 ½ lengths to earn fees-paid entry into the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare on Nov. 6 at Keeneland. The colt is by Brody’s Cause, who ran seventh for the Iowa-based racing operation in the 2016 Derby. “This horse reminds us a lot of his father,” said trainer Dale Romans. “We were pretty confident he would stretch out from his training and this race set up perfectly for us. We’re on to the Breeders’ Cup.”

GRADE 1 DEBUT: Global Campaign made his Grade 1 debut a winning one with a front-running effort for jockey Luis Saez in the Woodward Handicap that produced a 1 ¾-length victory against Tacitus at Saratoga. It was the sixth victory in nine lifetime starts for the 4-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, boosting his earnings to $781,080. Trainer Stanley Hough noted the winner’s penchant for getting brave on the lead. “One thing about this horse, if he’s ever got to the lead at some point or another, he’s won the race,” Hough said. “The only time he hasn’t won, he never got the lead.”

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