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Year in Review
Jockey John Velazquez aboard Authentic after winning the Kentucky Derby
The 146th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve was contested on the first Saturday in September, the date moved due to coronavirus restrictions in May, however racing in Kentucky continues to be run without spectators, with just essential officials, horsemen, and a very limited number of media allowed to attend. Conditions were excellent at the historic Louisville track with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's. The Derby usually kicks off the Triple Crown but this year is the middle jewel, after the Belmont was run in mid-June and the Preakness scheduled for early October.
A field of 18 (2 below the limit) made final entry for this 1 1/4 mile classic, however, Finnick the Fierce and King Guillermo were scratched before the Friday deadline, and Thousand Words was scratched by the veterinarian after he reared up and fell in the paddock, breaking assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes' arm. This left a field of 15 to go to post in the custom-built 20-stall gate which eliminated the need for an auxiliary gate. As expected Tiz the Law was sent off as the 7-10 favorite off his 4 race win streak including the Holy Bull (G3), Florida Derby (G1), Belmont (G1), and Travers (G1). In to challenge him included 15-2 second choice Honor A. P., 2nd in the Shared Belief after winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1), and 8-1 third choice Authentic, winner of the Haskell (G1) after finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby.
Authentic leads over Tiz the Law as they turn into the stretch.
Authentic winner of the Kentucky Derby
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 18 Authentic Velazquez 18.80 6.00 5.00 17 Tiz the Law Franco 3.40 3.20 9 Mr. Big News Saez 16.80 Winning Time: 2:00.61 $2 Exacta 18-17 41.00 $1 Trifecta 18-17-9 1,311.38 $1 Superfecta 18-17-9-16 51,400.10 $1 Super Hi-5 18-17-9-16-2 77,251.20 $1 Oaks/Derby Double 7-18 161.10
Left: Authentic knocks people over acting up in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "Unbelievable. I'm worried about Jimmy (Barnes). He broke his arm, what happened. All I can say is this horse ran out of his mind. Johnny V. –perfect ride. I owe it all to my crew. Jimmy, poor guy is in an ambulance right now, can't enjoy it. This is so emotional the ups and downs in this game. Unbelievable. I have a lot of emotions running through my mind right now with Jimmy not able to be here. We knew that horse (Thousand Words) could be a problem. Jimmy has a broken arm."
Right: Authentic parades with the Garland of Roses. Baffert added, "The key to this race was the break. We've been planning this out the last couple of nights at Jeff Ruby's. We knew we had to get away from there. We talked about where certain people would be. Johnny is a world class jockey and knows where everyone should be. I told him what I thought and he told me what he thought. I said ‘I like your plan.' I told him what the horse likes and what he can do. I've been fortunate to have some great jockeys, this race was won by Johnny, just the way he handled the horse and how he finished. He earned this. He beat a really good horse. Tiz the Law is a top notch horse. I feel bad for the connections. I've been there. But, this never gets old. We just feel so fortunate and blessed."
Left: Authentic in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "It's always a concern that you let the horse do too much early in the race. You like to save ground and save some horse for the end. Bob (Baffert) was pretty certain the horse was ready today. I let him get loose and get comfortable. I waited until the horses got to him to get after him and he responded right away."
Right: Authentic heads out for the post parade. Velazquez added, "Bob kept telling me to make sure I saved that last eighth of a mile. I want that eighth of a mile. He said I want you to hit left-handed and he responded. It worked out the way we had planned it. Very proud of the horse."
Left: Authentic returns after the race. Baffert added, "As a trainer, all you want is for your horse to show up. You want him to run to his best capability. And when they turn for home, we just want something to be able to cheer for. There's nothing than a worse feeling when they turn for home and they're not running. You're thinking, Oh, I thought he was doing better than that or whatever. But these good horses, they have such a will to win. And that horse, he just dug deep and you got the best jockey in the world on him."
Right: John Velazquez sprays everyone with champagne in the trophy presentation. Velazquez added, "We see he's a little quirky. I don't worry about those things. You got to get on the horse. I don't know. For me, I get on the horse, I'm confident I can do the job once you have the horse. That said, you got to feel confident on the horses, so the horse feels confident with you, though, that you can handle that. If you show the horse that you're scared, they're going to take advantage of you. If the horse feels that you're scared or that you don't feel comfortable, you have to let the horse know that you're confident, you are a partner. And I think that showed today. I never rode him before. I saw all the races and so on. I let him know that I was comfortable with him and he showed. So we go from there."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Tiz the Law races in second in the stretch. Trainer Barclay Tagg said, "We didn't win it. Baffert's hard to beat. I thought he would (pass Authentic), because he usually moves away from them. What can you do? It's a horse race." Jack Knowlton of ownership group Sackatoga Stable added, "I'm the only person who returned from the Funny Cide days, so we had a whole new group of people, their first experience in the Kentucky Derby. Even though it didn't turn out the way we hoped it would, certainly no shame in the race he ran. He'll be back. At the top of the stretch, the way he's been running all year, basically Manny (Franco) hasn't had to ask him. Manny was asking him and he was trying. As long as he comes out of it healthy and sound, let's go to Baltimore. Let's go to the Preakness."
Right: Third placed finisher Mr. Big News races in third around the final turn. Trainer Bret Calhoun said, "He ran huge. Quite a thrill. Going to the three-eighths pole, I thought we had a chance to win the whole thing. They didn't quite come back to us. Just an incredible race on his part. I kind of planned this thing a month before when it didn't look like it would be a full field and I knew it was going to be an option. We were able to train on the grass a couple of times and it was very wet, soft and it didn't really look like it was going to work for on this course. 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. It was worth taking a swing."
Left: The clubhouse turn with the empty stands in the background and Authentic on the lead (outside) and eventual 6th place finisher Storm the Court (4, inside) in second. Storm the Court's trainer Peter Eurton said, "I was extremely proud of his effort and that is my first and foremost thought."
Right: The start of the 2020 Kentucky Derby, with Honor A. P. (16) slowest away but rallied to finish fourth. Jockey Mike Smith said, "I was proud that he still put in an effort and ran OK. It wasn't his best race by no means. I never dreamed he would struggle with the track. When we saw him train over the track this week, he was bouncing over it, but it was sloppy. He seemed to like that. His deepier, cuppier track – he has a big ‘ol flat foot. He just couldn't get a hold out of it. He spun out from the word go. Really did."