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Authentic targets Preakness after 'crazy' Kentucky Derby win

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Trainer Bob Baffert congratulates Jockey John Velazquez after Authentic won the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Trainer Bob Baffert congratulates Jockey John Velazquez after Authentic won the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 6 (UPI) -- The morning after winning the Kentucky Derby for a record-tying sixth time, the word at the tip of trainer Bob Baffert's tongue was, "crazy."

It was clear as he stood in the early-morning sunshine outside his barn on the Churchill Downs backstretch that Baffert was having trouble turning the page on the bizarre chain of events that included Authentic winning Kentucky Derby 146, even as he looked ahead to the Preakness Stakes four weeks away in Maryland.

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"That's the craziest 30 minutes I've ever had in racing," Baffert said of his late Saturday afternoon in Louisville.

It started with one of the silver-haired guru's runners, Thousand Words, rearing and falling on his side in the paddock as assistant Jimmy Barnes tried to saddle him. Barnes suffered a broken arm and Thousand Words was scratched.

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Then Authentic, the last hope for the Baffert barn after months of disappointments, did what even Baffert didn't think he could do -- lead virtually all the way in the 1 1/4-mile Derby and repel the stretch bid of the odds-on favorite, Tiz the Law, to get home first.

The weirdness wasn't done then, either. Authentic acted up in the winner's circle, spinning around and knocking several celebrants, including Baffert, to the turf. The trainer wasn't injured, but reported Monday morning that Authentic had stepped on a foot of one of his owners.

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"I actually lost my footing. I saw him coming around and it was crazy. But what happened is, this horse is just keyed up all the time. ... He just flipped around and bowled us all down. Crazy," Baffert said. "There was a lot of carnage in the humans. The horses are fine."

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In a way, it was a fitting, if crazy, culmination of a long string of events stretching well back into the year for Baffert and his owners.

In the springtime, the trainer's barn was chockablock with promising 3-year-olds -- Derby contenders, all. One by one, they fell by the wayside through injury or otherwise with the winners of both divisions of the Arkansas Derby among the casualties.

"Before May, I was looking so strong, and then everything just went wrong," Baffert said. "And to pull it off like that was really exciting. Winning the Kentucky Derby is the biggest moment in a trainer's life. When you win it, it erases everything that has gone bad."

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For the record, a couple more odd elements thrown into the mix of an odd Kentucky Derby in this oddest of years: One of the doctors who treated Barnes also was co-breeder of Midnight Lute, Baffert's two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint -- and Sunday was Barnes' birthday.

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As Baffert noted, Authentic and Thousand Words were, in fact, in good shape Sunday, the latter not even suffering a scratch in the paddock incident. He said both will stay at Churchill Downs and, all being well, will be considered for the Preakness.

With the normal Triple Crown pattern scrambled this year by COVID-19 pandemic concerns, the Belmont Stakes started the series and the Preakness will be the final leg.

Since there is no possibility of a Triple Crown sweep, the question is whether Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law will be wheeled back on four weeks' rest -- especially as only another four weeks exist between the Preakness and the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

Tiz the Law's trainer, Barclay Tagg, said Sunday he was eager to get out of Louisville and dodged the question of sending Tiz the Law to the Preakness.

"Well, I don't want to put that in the paper too much," Tagg said. "I just have to see how he is, that's all."

Tagg said Tiz the Law's failure to run by Authentic in the stretch apparently resulted from a simple dislike of the Churchill Downs racing surface.

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"The jock said when he really had to get down and run, he was kind of swimming on that track. He just doesn't like the track. You could see it in the stretch.

"It looked like he was going to go right on by and win easy," Tagg said. "If you want to make an excuse, that's probably an excuse. I don't know."

Tiz the Law has lost only two races, both at Churchill Downs.

None of the 13 other starters in the Kentucky Derby was put forward immediately as a Preakness contender, although several trainers left the possibility on the table.

Derby third-place finisher Mr. Big News, whose 46-1 odds inflated payoffs on exotic bets, "gave us a big thrill," trainer Brett Calhoun said. But he said no plans are in place for the colt, who has significant turf influence on the bottom of his pedigree.

Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. finished fourth after a bad start and was headed back to California. Trainer John Shirreffs said, "I haven't even thought about" his next race.

Authentic wins Kentucky Derby in race without spectators

Jockey John Velazquez (L) celebrates with trainer Bob Baffert after their horse Authentic won the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday. It was Baffert's sixth Derby win. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

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