Matched against a field that included numerous contenders for the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, Authentic lived up to his name with a genuine 2 1/4-length victory over Honor A. P. in the $400,000, Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Unable to keep pace with him late were such talented 3-year-olds as Storm the Court, Thousand Words, and Wrecking Crew — plus distantly beaten longshots Fort McHenry and Swagsational .
Authentic took charge early, even though he bobbled slightly leaving the gate. Recovering quickly, he quickly shot forward to lead, and after setting quarter-mile splits of :22.84, :46.71, 1:11.32 in the 1 1/16-mile race, had plenty left to outlast his rivals.
Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
Though Honor A. P. loomed in early stretch with a wide charge, Drayden Van Dyke still had not asked his colt for his best. He pulled away comfortably thereafter while not as green as he had been in prior races.
“I kept him going a few times, just to keep him focused, but he got off amazing and it seems like there is more in the tank,” his rider said.
Competing for SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables, the Into Mischief 3-year-old colt is perfect in three starts, having also won a maiden race and the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Jan. 4. He earned 50 qualifying points for the Derby in winning the San Felipe, improving his tally to 60, placing him first on the leaderboard.
He completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.56, paying $4.40 as the favorite in the field of seven.
“He’s a special horse and this was probably one of the toughest prep races that we’ve seen so far. Those were really good horses in there,” winning trainer Bob Baffert said.
The San Felipe continued a dominant winter for Baffert-trained 3-year-olds in California. Since the Breeders’ Cup, every major stakes race in the state for Derby hopefuls has been won by one of his horses. Besides the victories from Authentic, Thousand Words won the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Nadal took the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, and Azul Coast captured the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
The San Felipe gave Baffert a record seventh victory in the race. Yet, none of his other six San Felipe winners went on to win the Kentucky Derby, a race he has won five times.
Baffert said the Authentic would remain in California for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby April 4 to complete his Kentucky Derby preparation, though Thousand Words and other top 3-year-olds he trains could head out of town.
He felt Thousand Words, who was beaten more than 10 lengths in fourth, might have been too close to the pace after stalking in third. The colt’s rider, Flavien Prat, said his mount simply did not fire.
Authentic was bred in Kentucky by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds. He is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless, a homebred for Blum. SF Bloodstock and Starlight West bought Authentic for $350,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The connections of Honor A. P. were excited with their colt’s performance in his first start since a maiden victory in October. Trainer John Shirreffs was forced to miss an intended start in January with the colt after he bruised a foot over the winter.
“So, we missed some time with him, but I thought if I could finish within a couple of lengths of whoever won it today, then that would be a really good effort,” said his jockey, Mike Smith.
TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2019 champion 2-year-old male Storm the Court turned in a steady effort to settle for third, 5 ¾ lengths behind the winner. That came after a fourth-place finish in the San Vicente Stakes in his season debut.