Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Authentic held on through deep stretch Saturday to upset heavy favorite Tiz the Law and win the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby, ending a year-long roller coaster ride for his trainer, Bob Baffert.
The outcome also ended hopes that Tiz the Law, winner of the Belmont Stakes and the Travers Stakes in his last two races, could go on to win a Triple Crown.
The events surrounding the race were as strange as the year itself.
Baffert won the Derby for the sixth time, tying the record held by Ben Jones, although it appeared through much of the year he would be doing well just to get a horse into the race.
One by one, his top hopes, including the winners of both divisions of the Arkansas Derby, succumbed to injuries.
With the Derby pushed back four months from its usual first Saturday in May, Tiz the Law was rolling from race to race, dominating all competition, while Baffert was left with Santa Anita Derby runner-up Authentic and Shared Belief Stakes winner Thousand Words.
Then the strangeness continued, nearly up to Saturday's 7:01 p.m. EDT post time as Thousand Words was startled in the paddock, reared and flipped.
He did not appear to be seriously injured but was scratched on veterinarians' orders. Baffert said his key assistant, Jimmy Barnes, broke his hand trying to restrain the colt.
In true "all's well that ends well" fashion, Authentic then made things right on the track.
With John Velazquez riding, he broke a bit awkwardly from the outside gate, starting behind Tiz the Law. But by the time the field passed the finish line for the first time, he was on a lead he would never surrender.
Jockey Manny Franco got Tiz the Law a nice spot behind the leading trio, made a move into the top of the stretch to challenge Authentic, but then could find no more. He settled for second, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Mr. Big News, an extreme long shot, was third with a late run. Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P., who finished second to Thousand Words in the Shared Belief at Del Mar, finished fourth after a rough start.
"It was crazy what happened in the last 20 minutes," Baffert said shortly after the finish. "The emotions that go through your mind. You go from the bottom to the top."
Then, in the winner's circle, Authentic acted up and Baffert, shying away from the colt, ended up sprawled on the turf.
"I'm OK," he said, ending just another strange chapter.
The trainer credited Velazquez's ride. "He rode the most incredible race. He had it all figured out but he had the horse to do it with," Baffert said.
Authentic, an Into Mischief colt, won his first three races, all in California, and then finished second behind Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby.
He returned from that to win the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park in his last start before the Kentucky Derby but nearly blew a big lead in the stretch run there, raising questions whether he could handle the 1 1/4 miles of the Run for the Roses -- questions he answered.
Another unusual note: Authentic is owned in partnership by Spendthrift Farm, owned by B. Wayne Hughes, a decades-long fixture in the sport, and Myracehorse.com, a syndicate with more than 4,000 members, each of who put up a few hundred dollars. Madaket Stables LLC and Starlight racing also have a piece of the colt.
With Tiz the Law winning the Belmont Stakes and Authentic the Kentucky Derby, there will be no Triple Crown winner this year. But those two look to be likely candidates for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic in two months time, down the road at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
Thousand Words' scratch left a field of 15, the smallest since 1998, to load into Churchill Downs' brand-new, 20-stall starting gate.
The Derby had been delayed four months because of COVID-19 protocols.
After trying for months to work out a plan to allow a limited number of spectators, Churchill Downs officials surrendered to the inevitable just weeks before the race and only essential personnel, owners and a few of their guests were on hand rather than the usual cheering throng of 150,000 or so.
There were crowds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators outside Churchill Downs, but the demonstrations appeared to be orderly. A large law enforcement contingent was present around the track.
Kentucky Derby runs without spectators