Unbeaten Authentic Looks to Give Baffert Another Win in the Santa Anita Derby

Posted on: June 6, 2020, 11:08h. 

Last updated on: June 6, 2020, 04:34h.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby goes through Southern California on Saturday for the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. The winner, which receives 100 qualifying points, will almost assuredly secure a spot in the Sept. 5 race in Louisville.

Santa Anita Derby
Authentic, seen here winning the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 7, returns to the California track Saturday as the morning-line favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby (Image: Santa Anita Park)

Trainer Bob Baffert, whose horses have won the last two Santa Anita Derbies and nine overall, once again has the favorite in the race with Authentic. The colt, who has won all three races in his career, is coming off a three-month layoff after winning the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

The layoff was because of Santa Anita shutting down for 50 days in late March after Los Angeles County officials required the track to close and abide by the state’s COVID-19 order. That forced the rescheduling of the race originally set for April 4.

Baffert told BloodHorse his horse did well during the break.

I backed off him a few weeks after the postponement, and I think it helped him a little bit,” Baffert said. “He came back and jumped right back into the training like it was nothing. I think he’s pretty fit.”

COVID-19, of course, forced a dramatic change in the Triple Crown schedule. The Grade I Kentucky Derby was pushed back four months, the Grade I Preakness Stakes nearly five, and the Grade I Belmont Stakes, which should have been run on Saturday, was switched to June 20.

It’s still possible Saturday’s winner may find themselves in New York for the Belmont in two weeks. The Belmont will run at the same 1-1/8 mile distance as the Santa Anita Derby, rather than its traditional 1-1/2 mile distance. Also, the two-week layoff is the same period between the traditional dates for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Honor A.P. Gets Another Crack at Authentic

Authentic’s prime challenger Saturday will likely be Honor A.P. The two squared off in the San Felipe and Authentic, under Drayden Van Dyke, was able to withhold a gamely charge down the stretch by the John Shirreffs-trained colt and pull away at the end for the 2-1/4-length win.

The two horses will be on the outside Saturday, as Authentic will break from the far gate, and Honor A.P., who will be ridden by Mike Smith, will go from the sixth. Authentic is the morning-line favorite at 4-5, with Honor A.P. next in line with morning-line odds of 9-5.

Santa Anita Derby
Santa Anita Park
Posttime: 4:09 pm PT
No. Horse, Jockey, M-L Odds
1. Friar’s Road, Geovanni Franco, 20-1
2. Rushie, Flavien Prat, 8-1
3. Shooters Shoot, Abel Cedillo, 8-1
4. Anneau d’Or, Victor Espinoza, 15-1
5. Azul Coast, Umberto Rispoli, 15-1
6. Honor A.P., Mike Smith, 9-5
7. Authentic, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-5

Of the remaining horses, Shooters Shoot has won two straight races and has finished in the top four in all six career starts. Rushie has two wins in his last three starts. However, both horses will be making the first start in a graded stakes race.

Besides the 100 points for the winner, the second-place horse will earn 40 points, the third-place horse gets 20, and the fourth-place finisher will receive 10.

Stormy Period for Baffert

It’s been a tumultuous couple weeks for Baffert. At one point, it looked like the legendary trainer had two of the top contenders for the Kentucky Derby in Nadal and Charlatan, both of whom won the two divisions of the Grade I Arkansas Derby last month.

However, on May 26, reports circulated that Charlatan failed a drug test for lidocaine. Arkansas officials are reviewing the case, and if a second test confirms, the horse could see his win and 100 qualifying points go off the board.

Then, just days later, Nadal suffered a career-ending injury while training at Santa Anita.

With Nadal out and Charlatan uncertain for now, Authentic, who enters Saturday already with 60 qualifying points, may become Baffert’s best hope to get back in the winner’s circle of a Triple Crown race.

Whoever makes it to New York for the Belmont in a couple weeks will likely get the chance to square off against Tiz the Law. The Barclay Tagg-trained colt has four wins in five starts, including three graded stakes races. While he hasn’t raced since March 28, he dominated in both the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes and Grade I Florida Derby.