Authentic's a real-deal Sham Stakes winner on the Derby trail

Authentic's a real-deal Sham Stakes winner on the Derby trail
Photo: Benoit

Authentic, a mere one-turn maiden winner entering Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes, more than answered the distance question in his debut along the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail.

The Into Mischief colt out of the Bob Baffert barn set all the fractions and drew away in the Santa Anita Park stretch, rolling to an eye-catching mile in 1:37.57 under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.

"Going in," Baffert said, "we knew he was a pretty nice horse when he broke his maiden and the way he'd been working here...Once he got away clean down the backside, no excuses for him. He does everything effortlessly. He's real leggy and just bounces off the top."

The only negative to Authentic's performance was some green behavior in the lane, where Authentic threw his head about, coming under a hold from Van Dyke. By then, however, he was some eight lengths in front and gearing down toward the wire.

"The main thing was getting out of the gate," Van Dyke said. "From then on, it was a nice trip. I was going to let him do his thing down the lane until he heard the crowd. But I think he'll get over that. He's a good one."

Breaking from the rail in a field of six, Authentic clicked off the opening fractions of a quarter mile in 23.87 seconds and half in 47.94. A 1 1/2-length lead began to grow through the far turn before it became clear he had this field completely out-classed.

"I actually quite watching him turning for home," Baffert said.

That's because Baffert also had the eventual runner-up, Azul Coast, ralling in mid-pack. The crowd's reaction to Authentic turned the trainer's attention back to Authentic.

Behind Azul Coast, the longshot Zimba Warrior ran third and Taishan fourth. Each earned qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Authentic, whose initial victory came on Nov. 9 at Del Mar, was away as the 6-5 favorite.

"It's good experience for him," Baffert said. "When I ran him the first time at Del Mar, he was a little bit green that day also. I was debating whether to put blinkers on him...

"He might need something maybe to keep him a little bit focused, but we've got a big crowd today."

Authentic's campaigned by the same group as the Baffert-trained Grade 1 winner Eight Rings: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables et al. Along with Eight Rings, he has on the Derby trail, among others, Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) winner Thousand Words.

With five Kentucky Derby wins, Baffert sits second all-time behind only "Plain Ben" Jones, who won the race six times.

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