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Tiz The Law, Authentic made Derby exciting

Despite a late scratch of Thousand Words from a paddock fall, Bob Baffert’s remaining entry, Authentic, stood tall. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes broke his wrist, adding more trepidation to the 2020 Derby twist. Conducted four months later than the first Saturday in May, this year’s Derby winner was able to mature while munching on his hay.

Before the sixteen 3-year-old thoroughbreds even hit the track, Thousand Words got overly excited in the saddling area, reared and fell on his left side. Out of an abundance of caution, he was scratched, even though he was uninjured. Jimmy Barnes was not as fortunate, as he suffered a fracture and had to watch the Derby on his phone while riding in an ambulance to the local hospital.

Once the remaining 15 horses left the starting gate, NY Traffic created a roadblock for Honor A.P., which may have cost him a top-three placing in an otherwise safely run race.

Although off a step slow from his far outside post, Authentic was able to lead at every fractional call and held off heavily favored Tiz The Law’s challenge at the top of the Churchill Down’s homestretch to win the 146th Run For The Roses.

Pace and space made this race.

Once Authentic got to the lead, he was able to utilize his high cruising speed around the clubhouse turn, down the Backside, and was left mostly undisturbed until midway through the far turn. Anyone who understands pressure, or in this case the lack thereof, knows that less energy is used when left alone on the lead.

When Tiz The Law raced up alongside of Authentic at the top of the stretch, many thought the favorite would wear the front runner down. If this had been the first Saturday in May, that might have happened. All thoroughbreds technically turn a year older on January first of each year and the Derby is run while these 3-year-olds are still maturing.

Authentic, whose birthday is May 5, clearly benefitted from those extra four months. His final time of 2 minutes, 0.61 seconds was the seventh-fastest in Kentucky Derby history and the fastest since 2001. When last seen winning the 1 1/8th mile Haskell on July 18, Authentic was almost run down by NY Traffic in the final strides. Seven weeks later, Authentic was able to get that extra 1/8th of a mile that many thought he could not, winning by 1 1/2 lengths.

Tiz The Law had every chance, but may have needed a little more spacing in between races, having recently won the 1 1/4 mile Travers stakes on August 8. He just happened to run into the real deal in a maturing Authentic.

Surprising longshot Mr. Big News closed for third. Honor A.P., who handed Authentic his only loss in the Santa Anita Derby, did close from far back to get fourth. Max Player, who was also compromised early from his inside post, got up for 5th. With a total purse of three million, and over $1.8 million to the winner, fifth place was still worth $90,000.

Although Authentic is maturing, his young mind was almost undone when an excessively long ribbon attached to the garland of roses wrapped around his back legs in the winners’ circle. He spun quickly, knocking trainer Bob Baffert to the turf in the process. Fortunately, Baffert, like Thousand Words, was left unscathed.

A day earlier, Swiss Skydiver and Gamine finished second and third in the Kentucky Oaks when longshot Shedaresthedevil ran the best race of her career. With the Preakness scheduled for the first weekend in October and the Breeders’ Cup races for early November, there are plenty of exciting races left to be run in this unimaginable and unpredictable year.

And down the stretch they come.

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