To start off with some positives points about Authentic's win in Saturday's Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park, the son of Into Mischief displayed a powerful turn of foot against a few decent runners to win by 7 ¾ lengths. He also initially broke well and set the pace.
In the more moderately paced points era of the Kentucky Derby, possessing early speed is a huge asset.
But there are multiple aspects to nitpick about Authentic. For one, Authentic secured the lead unchallenged, and most quality speed horses convert that kind of trip into a win. Authentic is not unique in that aspect.
The question is whether Authentic can repeat the performance every time, even if the lead is not perfect or a legitimate challenge comes early.
His trainer, Bob Baffert, supported that notion, saying Saturday that the break was key for a horse that entered having only run 5 1/2 furlongs on debut. How he'll handle sitting behind horses remains a mystery.
As for examples of how Authentic could go in the future, Maximum Security enjoyed an easy pacesetting win in the Florida Derby (G1) last year, but when surrounded by horses on both sides in the Kentucky Derby on the far turn, he responded under adversity.
Later in the season, Maximum Security proved his willingness to sit off other horses in the Haskell Stakes (G1), before reverting back to pacesetting.
To tell another story, Social Inclusion stirred up hype in 2014 by crushing the highly-touted Honor Code in a Gulfstream Park allowance race. After setting the pace on an easy, uncontested lead, the son of Pioneerof the Nile opened up in the stretch by 10 lengths. Visually, it looked powerful.
But Social Inclusion's big-margin allowance victory was set up by the easy first half. When forced to contest the lead in the Wood Memorial (G1), he faded to third late. He also tried stalking the leaders in the Preakness Stakes and finished third again after making a brief move.
What is Authentic made of if he does not secure the lead or faces legitimate mid-race pressure? Hopefully, that is a question he will answer before the first Saturday in May.
Besides the cushion trip, Authentic also acted green in the stretch by switching back to his wrong lead and lugging in. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke tried to correct him, but then Authentic came too far out before switching back to his wrong lead once more and lugging in. He was not professional.
Those kind of antics will not help him in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. Even a horse such as Maximum Security may accidentally cause trouble by shifting out. An already green horse such as Authentic might take out half the field in this form, unless he sharpens up those flaws on the trail.
With four months until the Derby and obvious problems present, it is too early to say whether Authentic is for real. Authentic also has plenty of time to improve.
Chance It fights back in Mucho Macho Man Stakes
From an adversity standpoint, Chance It showed more in his Mucho Macho Man Stakes win at Gulfstream Park. While he did not earn Derby points, he won respect and momentum moving forward, as did As Seen On Tv.
The race started off with Smash Factor sprinting off to a 2 ½-length lead in the opening quarter. As Seen On TV chased along in second, while Chance It took the inside in third, with Inter Miami right outside of those two.
On the turn Smash Factor folded, while the trio of As Seen On TV, Chance It and Inter Miami moved to the front. Inter Miami could not keep up.
For most of the stretch, it looked like As Seen On Tv held the upper hand, especially with the outside position. In a stretch battle, it is more stressful for the inside horse because of the enclosed space. But Chance It never gave up and As Seen On Tv drifted out, allowing Chance It some room.
Chance It took advantage of the mistake and came out along with As Seen On Tv. He took the lead at the last moment to win by a head over his stretch opponent. Sole Volante finished 2 ¼ lengths back in third.
Add Chance It's name to the list of Derby hopefuls. He needs points, but his effort in the Mucho Macho Man is strong enough to believe he could earn them moving forward. He owns tactical speed and showed real talent.
As for As Seen On Tv, he shows a great routing pedigree with Lookin at Lucky on top and a Pulpit mare underneath, and he might improve as well.
Sole Volante belongs on turf, although it was worth experimenting on dirt.
South Bend disappointed again, even with his mild stretch rally for fourth. Even though he won the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall with a perfect ground-saving trip, his last two starts prove he is not that talented or capable of handling different situations. Cross him off.
As a final note, Chance It earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, four points higher than Authentic, who earned a 90. That is one last reason to rate Chance It and As Seen On Tv higher at the moment.