By Richard Rosenblatt
Authentic is for real.
Taking the lead from the start, and easily holding off a brief challenge by Honor A.P., Authentic cruised to victory in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
Authentic, trained by five-time Derby winner Bob Baffert, punched his ticket to the Derby on May 2 by earning 50 points and soaring into first-place on the leaderboard with 60 points. The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief is now a perfect 3-for-3, having broken his maiden in November and winning the Sham Stakes (G3) on Jan. 4.
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, Authentic broke sharply, with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Storm the Court and Baffert-trainee Thousand Words just off the pace.
But as a talented field of seven came off the turn, and with Honor A.P. moving up to make a bid, Authentic pulled away and won by 2 1/4 lengths.
“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.”
Honor A.P., trained John Shirreffs, finished second and earned 20 Derby qualifying points, while Storm the Court was third for 10 points (moving up to 32 Derby points and No. 6 on the leaderboard), and previously unbeaten Thousand Words was fourth for four points (25 total Derby points).
Baffert has no less than six Derby contenders, and Authentic may not even be his best prospect. We’ll know a lot more by the end of next weekend when unbeaten Nadal runs in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
For now, though, Baffert is taking aim on winning his sixth Derby and matching Ben “Plain Ben” Jones for most victories in America’s greatest race.
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Authentic returned $4.40 on a $2 win bet. Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.56.
King Guillermo pulled off a huge upset at 49-1 odds, extending his lead in the stretch for a 4 3/4-length victory over 7-5 favorite Sole Volante. Texas Swing was third, with Relentless Dancer fourth.
Owned by Victoria Ranch and trained by Juan Carlos Avila, King Guillermo, a son of Uncle Mo, raced behind pacesetter Relentless Dancer until the field made the turn for home and then the colt just took off under jockey Samy Camacho.
Payoffs were big: King Guillermo, who is not an early nomination for the Derby but can still get in as a late nominee or supplemental entry, returned $100.40, $38.20 and $17.80. Second betting choice Chance It was fifth in 12-horse field.
Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.63.
Derby-winning trainer John Servis (Smarty Jones, 2004) may have himself a starter on the first Saturday in May in Mischevious Alex.
Ridden superbly by Kendrick Carmouche, the son of Into Mischief moved from nearly five wide down the backstretch and found room close to the rail and took charge in the stretch for a 2-length victory over Untitled.
Attachment Rate was third, and Montauk Traffic fourth in the field of 11. Since being fitted with blinkers, Mischevious Alex is 3-for-3.
“It was a great day for us,’’ Servis said, adding that the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct on April 4 is a possibility. “He handled the next step up really well and gave us a solid effort today. We’ll see how he comes out of this and (owner) Chuck (Zacney) and the other partners and I will discuss what’s next. Ever since we put the blinkers on him, everything that we’ve handed him, he has handled very well.”
Winning time for the one-mile was 1:38.80.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.