Kentucky Derby hero Authentic gave Bob Baffert a fourth Breeders’ Cup Classic success at Keeneland.
The three-year-old made virtually all the running and dug deep when needed to hold his year-older stablemate Improbable in the closing stages.
John Velazquez – celebrating his first win in the Classic – soon had Authentic in pole position, but he was shadowed by another stablemate, Maximum Security, with his old adversary Tiz The Law not far behind.
There was all to play for at the top of the straight, where Authentic pulled out more when challenged by Improbable and would not be denied. Global Campaign was third.
Baffert – recording his 17th career Breeders’ Cup victory – said: “It was really disappointing about the Preakness (second to Swiss Skydiver), he’s a quirky individual but Johnny knows him so well and the horse is getting better and better. He’d been working unbelievable and Johnny knows him well and got him in a rhythm.
“After two races, the Santa Anita Derby and the Preakness, he came back blowing, and I didn’t have him as sharp as he should have been and we needed to tighten the screws. I was proud of my horses in the race and it was a good run from Improbable, but I think you saw the best Authentic today.
“I told Johnny ‘that is the horse you rode in the Derby’ – he’s spring-loaded and you can ride him with confidence and be aggressive. He’s getting better and better. He’s caught up with the older horses.
“I knew I had him right back to his best, as he’d matured and was making right, but for some reason when I looked at the Tote board he was showing 5-1.
“He’s just an unbelievable horse and I’m so happy for the connections, especially Wayne Hughes. Those are his colours. We were hoping those colours would be in the Kentucky Derby, but it’s great the way it’s ended. We would have loved a one-two-three.
“I was proud of my horses and what a way to end after what I’ve gone through this year. I love this sport and it’s just a great day.”
Asked about the future for Authentic, Baffert said: “I would love to have the horse back in the barn, but unfortunately I don’t get a vote on that one. Whatever happens he has been a saviour.”
Velazquez said: “We talked about tactics and agreed to take advantage and get him to the rail in front. After that he did everything I wanted him to do.
“I didn’t think there was too much speed in the race and once I got him running past the wire for the first time it was looking good for us. The horse came back (from the Preakness) and sealed the deal – he was the best horse in America today.
“I’ve been chasing this race for quite a while and to have the opportunity to do it and to win it is incredible. What a feeling.”