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Authentic retired to stud following Breeders’ Cup Classic glory

Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic has been retired to stand at Spendthrift Farm.

Owned in a partnership by the farm which included the MyRacehorse syndicate, the Into Mischief colt also won the Grade One Haskell Invitational and finished a narrow second in the Preakness Stakes.

Authentic made all in Saturday’s Classic at Keeneland, beating his Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Improbable by two and a quarter lengths in the hands of John Velazquez.

He will stand for a fee of $75,000.

“Authentic is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse, and Mr. (B. Wayne) Hughes (Spendthrift owner) is very proud that we are able to share him with 5,300-plus MyRacehorse owners through what has been an incredible run,” said Ned Toffey, general manager of Spendthrift, in a statement.

“That alone made this decision different and very difficult. Ultimately, we just felt there wasn’t a lot more to accomplish for a Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, so we have made the decision to retire Authentic to stand alongside his champion sire Into Mischief.

“We believe in the sire line and feel Authentic is a big part of its future. It is very rare that you come across a three-year-old as well-bred, talented and accomplished as Authentic.

“We cannot wait to see his contributions to the breed, and we’re thrilled to continue his journey with all of the 5,300 MyRacehorse owners from the racetrack to the breeding shed.”

Authentic on top in Classic showdown

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.

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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.

John Velazquez with Authentic following Breeders' Cup Classic glory
John Velazquez with Authentic following Breeders’ Cup Classic glory (Michael Conroy/AP)

“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.”

Improbable heads Baffert bid for fourth Classic at Keeneland

Bob Baffert will play a particularly strong hand in pursuit of a fourth Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Saturday.

The Hall of Fame trainer has three victories in the $6million spectacular to his name – dominating from 2014 to 2016 with Bayern, American Pharoah and Arrogate.

All eyes will be on his team this year in a high-class renewal – with the betting headed by Improbable, who will be joined by Maximum Security and Authentic.

Improbable lowered the colours of Maximum Security in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in September, while Kentucky Derby hero Authentic was last seen going down by a neck to top-notch filly Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness Stakes.

Baffert said of Improbable, who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr: “He always showed a lot of talent as a three-year old, but, you know, he wasn’t really mentally mature, physically mature. We always refer to him as a ‘Little Justify’ because he’s a beautiful mover – (his) athleticism is just, the way he goes over the ground and his mechanics, but what a difference a year makes.

“He’s just really finally put it all together and I’m just happy they kept him in training an extra year and dealing with Elliott Walden and WinStar Farm – we set up a little schedule for him and it’s worked out perfectly.”

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Authentic quashed any stamina concerns when digging deep to repel Belmont winner Tiz The Law in the Kentucky Derby, and while he could not quite edge past Swiss Skydiver, Baffert feels there could still be more to come from John Velazquez’s mount.

He said: “He actually came out of it (Preakness) really well. He was a late foal and he would make a wonderful four-year-old, but you never know what’s going to happen.

“I was disappointed in his Preakness run. I think he’s a horse that’s still a little bit green and he can be tough to ride sometimes – like sending him to the Derby, he got behind there a little bit and then wouldn’t engage in it. He’ll do that. He did that at the Haskell where he was running really well – he shuts himself down.

“It’s hard to get him going again and so I think he ran a good race, but the mare, she got the first move on him and he just couldn’t get by her. So he’s going to have to improve and I think he will, but he needs to be ridden aggressively away from the gate.”

Luis Saez was reunited with Maximum Security last time out, having been his regular partner in finishing first past the post in last year’s Kentucky Derby, only to be disqualified for interference, and winning the Saudi Cup in Riyadh in February.

Baffert, who took charge of Maximum Security following the Saudi success, said: “I think last time we were sort of chasing some speed that we knew was not really solid and I think post position and the break is going – that’ll tell the story. These riders are going to be on their own. They know their horses well.

“Saez knows Maximum Security better than anybody and he told me when he rode him last time, he was chasing and struggling, and if it could have been over, we would have just taken it back a little bit.

“It was a crazy pace and Improbable you know, Drayden (Van Dyke) saw what was happening, he just let them go, and then he came and got him. So I think it’s going to be these jockeys, they know their horse and they’re going to ride the way they feel, play the break.”

Tiz The Law has been one of the standout three-year-olds in America this year and looked to be doing everything right under Manny Franco in the Derby, looming alongside Authentic seemingly full of running – but the Baffert runner refused to buckle.

Jack Knowlton, operating manager of owners Sackatoga Stable, said of Barclay Tagg’s colt: “We’re obviously thrilled to have a horse of Tiz’s stature and accomplished what he’s accomplished. There are some other horses in there that you look, like Tom’s d’Etat, that you know are outstanding horses as well.

“So I think on paper, and obviously we don’t run the races on paper, but on paper, I think it looks like a tremendous race. Given the circumstances, the pandemic and all that, for the 35 partners and Tiz the Law and Barclay Tagg and his team, it’s been a rewarding year to have the horse.

“It’s been an incredible year and we’ve got one more race that we’re looking forward to.”

Swiss Skydiver edges out Authentic to win Preakness

Swiss Skydiver won a titanic duel with favourite Authentic to seal Preakness Stakes glory at Pimlico.

Barely a head separated winner and runner-up at the line as 9-1 shot Swiss Skydiver held on with great determination to see off a renewed challenge from the Kentucky Derby hero – clear of 66-1 outsider Jesus’ Team, in third.

She therefore became the sixth filly, and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009, to win the Grade One – run this year as the third leg of the US Triple Crown.

For jockey Robby Albarado, it was a second Preakness success, while trainer Kenny McPeek was winning it for the first time.

McPeek described Albarado’s decision to sweep past Bob Baffert’s 6-4 favourite into the lead and bag the rail before the home turn as a “genius move” – and it was one which paid off as Swiss Skydiver eventually just denied the rallying Authentic.

The winning trainer told NBC: “I’m just really proud of Robby – we had to call him into the game at the last minute.

“He did a great job, and I’m really proud of her and him. It’s just a real honour to be around a horse like this – it’s a special moment.”

Albarado was riding Swiss Skydiver for the first time – in place of Tyler Gaffalione, who was on board when she was second in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs last month.

McPeek added:  “It was a genius move by Robby, coming up the fence.

“He saw a hole, and he went right at it. Well, it looked to me like she took him there.

“I think she should have won the Oaks – maybe if she’d stayed inside, Oaks day, we’d win that one too.

“But it is what it is, and she’s just really neat to be around. This is a lifetime experience for both of us [trainer and jockey], and we hope we’re back.

Explaining his mid-race manoeuvre, Albarado said: “(I thought) make that move now, or wait and you’re smothered.

“(But) she knows where she’s at.”

Baffert confident of another big effort from Kentucky Derby hero Authentic in Preakness

Bob Baffert believes Kentucky Derby winner Authentic is in similar form heading into the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday as he was before his victory at Churchill Downs.

The Into Mischief colt dug deep to beat odds-on favourite Tiz The Law at Churchill Downs, and in this strangest of years now bids for another leg of the Triple Crown.

Whereas in normal years the races come thick and fast for the Classic generation, Baffert feels the longer gap between the Derby and Preakness can only benefit his charge, who will again be ridden by John Velazquez and is drawn in stall nine.

“Authentic has breezed really well. He’s coming into this race as good as he was going into the Derby. I think the break is going to be very important on Saturday,” said the Hall of Fame trainer.

“He’s a very energetic horse, he always wants to do a little bit more, so breezing by himself he’s more controllable. He wants to get out there and be very aggressive.”

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Baffert also runs Thousand Words, who was denied his Derby chance when rearing over in the paddock before the September 5 showpiece, leading to long-time assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes suffering a broken hand.

“Thousand Words had a mind-burst last time and now he’s doing well again. In any case, no one would’ve beaten Authentic that day,” said Baffert.

“I don’t think the distance will be a problem for him and I expect him to run a good race.

“I enjoy Baltimore, unfortunately there are no fans (this year), so you don’t feel it so much. But once the gate comes open, I’ll feel it.”

Kenny McPeek has opted to run the high-class filly Swiss Skydiver, who was second in the Kentucky Oaks last time out and earlier in the season had been considered for an ambitious trip to Britain for the 1000 Guineas.

The daughter of Daredevil will become the 55th female to run in the Preakness, with the most recent of the five winners being the brilliant Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Naturally, a key victory against the boys would greatly enhance Swiss Skydiver’s quest for year-end honours. In her first attempt against males, McPeek’s charge was second to fellow Preakness hope Art Collector in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

She will be ridden by veteran jockey Robby Albarado, who won the Preakness in 2007 aboard future Hall of Famer Curlin.

“I know she will make the distance without any problem,” said McPeek, whose stable star will break from gate four.

“I think she will like that racetrack. Of course, she has raced everywhere. Whatever racetrack she has raced over she has handled great. It was a tough call between racing against straight three-year-olds or older fillies and mares or turf, which was briefly thought about. I think she will handle it fine.

“There are no three-year-old filly Grade Ones. She gets a little bit of weight off and she’s continuing to do good.

“I think if she wins a race like this, you’ve got to include her as a possible Horse of the Year, she’s danced every dance and she’s been hickory – and she has entertained the fan base like probably no filly in years.

“I think it’s a chance to make history.”

Authentic to race from stall nine in Preakness

Kentucky Derby winner Authentic has been allotted stall nine of the 11 runners for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

The Bob Baffert-trained colt, ridden by John Velazquez, will bid to follow up his Churchill Downs success – having lowered the colours of Belmont Stakes scorer Tiz The Law there.

Authentic pleased connections in his final serious exercise at Churchill Downs on Monday morning, with jockey Martin Garcia aboard. He worked four furlongs in 47.60 seconds, and completed the six-furlong gallop in one minute 13.40 seconds.

“He’s such an amazing horse,” said Garcia.

“He worked awesome. I’ve worked a lot of nice horses for trainer Bob Baffert in California, and this horse is just as special. He’s doing amazing for the Preakness.”

Authentic is scheduled to fly from Louisville to Baltimore on Tuesday, along with other Preakness contenders.

Baffert also has Thousand Words, who was a late withdrawal from the Kentucky Derby. He will be in gate five on Saturday.

Also among Authentic’s rivals are Bret Calhoun’s Mr Big News, who was beaten three and a quarter lengths in third place in the Kentucky Derby. He has drawn gate two.

Art Collector, trained by Thomas Drury Jnr, has gate three. He missed the Kentucky Derby because of a foot problem.

Belmont Stakes third and Kentucky Derby fifth Max Player, trained by Steve Asmussen, is in gate eight – while stablemate Pneumatic, who was fourth in the Belmont, is in 10.

The filly Swiss Skydiver, trained by Kenneth McPeek, will start from stall four.

Monday Musings: Weird Ky Derby Looks Authentic!

It’s been a topsy-turvy world for everyone this year, writes Tony Stafford. I bet the connections of Tiz The Law, 7-10 favourite for Saturday night’s re-scheduled Kentucky Derby, run in 2020 as the second rather than first leg of the Triple Crown, wished the race had simply been erased from the schedules. Instead it took place in September rather than the first Saturday in May and the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic outstayed the favourite for a memorable sixth win in the race for his silver-haired trainer.

The Americans have not found it within their powers to re-write the programme books as their European counterparts did to keep their Classic races, if not to the normal schedule, certainly in the prescribed order.

The Stateside authorities changed the distance and position of the Belmont Stakes, but kept it in June, racing having resumed over there a good deal earlier in some jurisdictions than others and well before France, the UK and Ireland in that order.

The Belmont, normally the last leg and over a mile and a half of the biggest oval in North America was reduced in distance to nine furlongs. The Barclay Tagg-trained Tiz The Law was untroubled to beat nine rivals there and extend his career stats to five wins in six starts. He embellished it further with a facile win in the Travers Stakes – normally the August date which identifies the summer champion among the three-year-old colts – two months and more after the Belmont.

By the time the three-race, five-week war of attrition is concluded on that June afternoon in New York, normally most of the Classic generation that managed to keep all three dates are on their knees. It takes a good one to survive it.

Two years ago, Justify was Baffert’s fifth winner of the race and his second to complete the generally-elusive Triple Crown. The Belmont, following the Preakness two weeks after the Derby and then the race in New York three weeks further on, proved to be within Justify’s capabilities, but no more. His career came to a full stop after a training injury soon after, but at least he could be retired as an unbeaten winner of the Triple Crown with six out of six on his scorecard.

Three years earlier Baffert was immediately denied an unbeaten campaign for American Pharoah once he was beaten on debut in a maiden the previous autumn. But by the time he’d won his Triple Crown, his tally was seven for eight, with all bar one of the wins in Grade 1 company – the exception a first-time three-year-old cruise in a Grade 2 to get the competitive juices flowing again.

He was tough, too. He won the Haskell Invitational in early August at Monmouth Park, but then as so many before him, got beat in the Travers at Saratoga, for good reason known as the Graveyard race for Triple Crown race winners or Horse of the Year candidates. He bounced back after a sensible break with an impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic before drawing stumps and preceding his younger fellow TC hero into stud duties at Ashford Farm.

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I was on hand – for the only time - to see Baffert’s third Kentucky Derby win in 2002 with War Emblem in the green and white stripes of Prince Ahmed Salman’s Thoroughbred Corporation. That 20-1 chance made all the running.  Baffert had already sent out Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet the following year to score. I’ve no doubt that having put away Tiz The Law in a thrilling set-to up the Churchill Downs home straight, many would have been hoping to see them do battle again at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for the Preakness, but immediate post-race reaction suggested one or even both might miss the final leg.

That race, normally run two weeks after the Derby but this year four, unlike the Belmont but in common with the Derby, has retained its traditional distance of one mile and three-sixteenths. This was the course and distance over which California-based Seabiscuit memorably beat the East Coast champion War Admiral, the 1937 Kentucky Derby winner, in that famed match race. This of course was made doubly treasured by Laura Hillenbrand’s book and the film in which Tobey Maguire and Gary Stevens – as good and natural an actor as he has been for so many years an outstanding jockey – played the roles as the great underdog’s jockeys.

As they turned for home in that 1938 race, the big favourite War Emblem had drawn upsides and most of the massive crowd expected him to pull away. Instead it was Seabiscuit, who had become a much-loved symbol of the American working class in those Depression years, who gained the upper hand: courage and toughness outpointing class and evidently superior breeding.

Saturday’s Classic was virtually a re-make of the Seabiscuit film. Two horses came around the long turn between the back stretch and the home run with the favourite poised on the outside and the rest clearly irrelevant. Authentic had moved quickly from an ordinary start into an early lead from his wide position, so it was reasonable watching live to think he could be swamped when Tiz The Law, always well placed, came with his customary wide run to take his rightful place at the top of the podium.

But as with Seabiscuit, this relative underdog, third favourite at a shade over 8-1, kept going much the better for a length and a quarter success.

Going into the race, Authentic, like the favourite, had suffered only a single reverse, in his case behind Honor A P in the Santa Anita Derby, turning over an earlier result between the pair. Understandably, Honor A P edged him for second best in the Derby market, but there can be no doubting the pecking order now, as Honor A P finished five lengths behind the winner in fourth.

A smaller-than-usual field contested the race this year. Normally it’s a bun-fight to qualify for one of the 20 available stalls. This time, only 15 turned up, reflecting that there are fewer untested dreams at this stage of the season from later-developing horses than is customary. What I did notice, possibly because of the smaller field and the fact that the runners have had more racing experience than is customary, hard-luck stories seemed minimal.

Also it was one of the fastest-ever Kentucky Derbys, the winner clocking 2 minutes 0.61 seconds. Secretariat in 1973 still holds the all-time best with 1 minute 59.4 seconds in his Triple Crown year. Monarchos in 2001 has the fastest electronic time, while in 1964 Northern Dancer, the ultimate sire of sires, most significantly the direct line, from his son Sadler’s Wells through to Galileo and then Frankel and the rest, clocked an even 2 minutes.

Other fast times were Spend A Buck, 2.00.2 in 1985 and Decidedly 2.00.4 in 1962.  Authentic, with only five faster than him is right up there in historical terms, certainly in front of Baffert’s previous quintet, the less attritional, more even-tempo nature of the race – on a track that was riding fast – doubtless contributing.

Many times, beaten Kentucky Derby runners avoid the Preakness entirely. This year, of the nine horses beaten by Tiz The Law in the first leg of the Triple Crown, only two – neither in the shake-up on Saturday – tried again.

It would be eminently understandable should either or both the big two miss the Preakness in four weeks’ time. A great shame too as if they did clash they would surely provide another proper shoot-out. Considering, though, how much money is on offer for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the autumn and how easily future stallion fees can be affected by reverses, maybe it’s more likely that we’ll have to wait for a definitive verdict of the Horse of the Year - Covid19 edition!

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While the Kentucky Derby was taking all the attention over the water, Enable was fulfilling presumably her last public duties in the UK (she still has entries on British Champions’ Day – here’s hoping) before embarking on her final act of an epic career when easily landing the odds (1-14 are hardly odds!) in the September Stakes at Kempton Park.

She was quickly into the lead under Frankie Dettori and won easily from Kirstenbosch, owned by Luca Cumani’s Fittocks Stud. Lightly-raced and on the comeback trail after an interrupted career, Kirstenbosch looks sure to win more races for the James Fanshawe stable.

Meanwhile Enable will be preparing for her ultimate quest, aiming to add a third Arc win after last year’s agonising second to Waldgeist, interestingly on the same weekend as the Preakness. Dettori has been a fitting co-respondent in the mare’s final glorious chapter along with trainer John Gosden. How typical in sport that a younger rival has come along from out of nowhere – well, Ballydoyle! - to make this possibly the toughest of all her four challenges for the famed French race that has become the true European championship.

Love stands in her way, gloriously after three authoritative and sometimes wide margin wins at Group 1 level in the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks. I suppose there will be other challengers, but nobody loves a two-man (or woman) sporting tussle more than the viewing public. I’d love Enable to win but I don’t think Love will enable her to do so. If you see what I mean!

On an otherwise quiet weekend domestically, Haydock Park’s Group 1 race, the Betfair Sprint Cup, developed into a battle of the six-year-old geldings. The 5-2 favourite Dream Of Dreams, ridden by Oisin Murphy for the Sir Michael Stoute stable, got up in the closing stages to beat the Archie Watson-trained and Hollie Doyle-ridden 25-1 chance Glen Shiel, the pair leaving the three-year-olds Golden Horde, Art Power and Lope Y Fernandez well behind. The same went for two previous winners, The Tin Man and Hello Youmzain.

https://twitter.com/RacingTV/status/1302253464068788231

A race with rather more significance for the future was Yesterday’s Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on the first weekend since the racing roadshow decamped back from Deauville and its chewed-up terrain to the capital. Only six turned out, but it was a high-class affair. The Andre Fabre-trained Persian King (by Kingman) turned away Pinatubo by just over a length, with Circus Maximus a long way back in third but still ahead of Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Siskin who seems a shadow of the early-season version.

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Persian King had been three lengths in arrears to Circus Maximus when they were third and fourth behind unbeaten Palace Pier in the Prix Jacques le Marois (also Group 1) three weeks earlier over the same trip at Deauville. This performance requires some re-alignment among the division, but it is clear that Palace Pier stands alone at the top of the mile rankings. Those three Irish fillies, Fancy Blue, Alpine Star and Peaceful, who dominated the finish of the Prix de Diane over the extended mile and a quarter at Chantilly, might prove more of a test to Palace Pier than any of yesterday’s Moulin contestants should they be given the opportunity to tackle him.

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