Louisville: Authentic held off heavily favored Belmont Stakes winner Tiz The Law to capture the 146th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, giving trainer Bob Baffert a record-equalling sixth victory in the Run for the Roses.
Johnny Velazquez piloted Authentic to the victory at Churchill Downs, ensuring that a topsy-turvy Triple Crown year will not produce a 14th winner of US flat racing’s coveted treble when it concludes with the Preakness Stakes on October 3.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, US racing’s most prestigious event was held not on the first Saturday in May but on the first Saturday of September.
Instead of more than 100,000 spectators jammed into the grandstands and infield, no more than 1,000 essential personnel, owners and trainers were on hand.
Despite the lack of fans, there was a heavy police presence outside the racetrack.
Louisville was the site of daylong protests demanding for justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old local paramedic killed in her own home after police mistakenly burst into the apartment in March.
There were tense stand-offs with right-wing counter-demonstrators but no violence, despite heavily armed supporters on both sides.
Protesters outside Churchill Downs chanted Taylor’s name as the race prepared to get underway, the Courier Journal newspaper reported. Overhead, a plane flew over the track trailing a banner: “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”
On the track, front-runner Authentic set the early pace as expected under Velazquez, who claimed a third Kentucky Derby victory.
Tiz The Law, who won the belated Triple Crown opener at Belmont on June 20 and went off as the prohibitive 3-5 favorite, settled into a comfortable fourth position under jockey Manny Franco and challenged for the lead as they swept through the final turn.
But Authentic, who went off at 8-1, held on to win ahead of the Barclay Tagg-trained Tiz The Law with 46-1 longshot Mr Big News third.
“I’m not taking the credit,” said Puerto Rico’s Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Always Dreaming in 2017 to Kentucky Derby wins.
“Give it to the horse,” Velazquez said. “Every time I asked him for more, he gave me more.”
Baffert tied legendary trainer Ben Jones for most Kentucky Derby wins for a trainer and said he wasn’t surprised to see Authentic hang on to the end.
“The training was lights out,” he said.
“Johnny V gave him the most incredible ride,” added Baffert, who also won the Derby with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.
American Pharoah and Justify went on to win the Triple Crown.
“I feel very blessed and fortunate,” Baffert said.
Just moments before the start, Baffert’s other entry, Thousand Words, was scratched after he reared in the paddock and fell.
Baffert said after the race that assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes had suffered a broken arm in the incident.
“He’s in an ambulance,” an emotional Baffert said.
It was just another twist in the 2020 season for the Hall of Fame trainer, who is contesting a suspension meted out after two of his horses tested positive for the pain reliever lidocaine at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas in May.
That included Arkansas Derby winner Charlatan - who was taken off the Kentucky Derby trail with an injury after highly touted Baffert-trained colt Nadal was retired with a fetlock fracture.