Put to the test Saturday in the Santa Anita Park stretch, Authentic didn’t dip, duck or dodge as when last seen on the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail. The Bob Baffert trainee proved he’s the real deal by winning the Grade 2, US$400,000 San Felipe Stakes.
Aside from a mild bobble at the start, the Into Mischief colt, now 3-for-3 in his young career, led the entire way, finishing up 2 1/4-lengths in front after turning back a mild bid from Honor A. P. Storm the Court was another 1 1/2-lengths back in third and Thousand Words completed the superfecta.
“Turning for home I saw Mike Smith coming with that good horse [Honor A.P.] and I said, ‘We’ll see what he’s made of.’ I was hoping he wouldn’t do his shenanigans.”
With Drayden Van Dyke aboard, Authentic completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.56.
“Beautiful trip,” Van Dyke said. “He took a tiny little stumble out of the gate, but it wasn’t enough to cost us. I was just in cruise control. I was seeing if anybody was going to test me to make me pick it up.”
It was in stark contrast to when Authentic won the local Sham Stakes (G3) with ease, despite swerving in the stretch. Baffert called for some mild equipment changes, mentioning earplugs to dull the roar of the crowd, and they paid off handsomely.
“That’s what calmed American Pharoah down,” Baffert said of earplugs. “He was the same way. Some horses are just really delicate with sound, so we put them in. A lot of the horses, they go to the gate with them and we take them out. It seems like it worked.”
Authentic clicked through fractions of 22.84 and 46.71 while Storm the Court stalked a length back in second. Authentic continued to motor on the lead through six furlongs in 1:11.32 and in the stretch, under left-handed urging from Van Dyke, dismissed the late bid from Honor A.P., who was making his first start since October.
Behind the top two, Storm the Court and previously unbeaten Thousand Words also earned Derby qualifying points out of a race that allotted them on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
“Thousand Words, he was pretty keen today,” Baffert said. “He was pretty close hope, but I told (Flavien Prat) to just ride him how you want. We’re learning about these horses, and Thousand Words probably wants to be farther back.”
Authentic’s 60 qualifying points in all will send him on to Churchill Downs after one more prep, which Baffert said from the winner’s circle will “for sure” by the April 4 Santa Anita Derby (G1).
“He’ll stay here and run in that and I’ll figure something out with Thousand Words,” Baffert said.
A partnership including SF Racing, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables campaigns Authentic, a former US$350,000 yearling purchase. Authentic won on debut at Del Mar going 5 1/2-furlongs on Nov. 9 and came back to win the one-mile Sham by 7 3/4 lengths despite the “shenanigans.”