Authentic was the real deal after all

The coronavirus pandemic caused postponements of Triple Crown races and cancellations of meets like Keeneland in spring. But in the end ,COVID-19 may have been a key factor in helping Authentic clinch Horse of the Year honors with his victory in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Authentic is a May foal, which is late by horse racing standards, and he would not have been ready to take on the best of his generation if the Kentucky Derby had been held on the first Saturday in May. The Bob Baffert-trained colt returned from a three-month layoff to run second in the Santa Anita Derby in June, which he used as a prep to win the Grade I Haskell Stakes at Monmouth in July.

Authentic was fresh and fit when he upset Tiz the Law to win in the Kentucky Derby in September. After a neck defeat in the Preakness to the filly Swiss Skydiver, Authentic had caught up from a physical maturity standpoint. It enabled him to take on a deep field in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that included Horse of the Year candidates Improbable, Maximum Security, Tom’s d’Etat, and Tiz the Law.

Authentic was sent to the lead from the start, dictated the pace over a very fast Keeneland track and pulled away to win clear, clinching the three-year-old male title and making him the heavy favorite to win Horse of the Year.

It was announced on Monday that Authentic has been retired to stud at Spendthrift Farm. He will command a stud fee of $75,000.

Monomoy Girl caps unbeaten season

Monomoy Girl was unraced in 2019 due to colic and a pulled muscle, but completed an amazing comeback by capping off a perfect season winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff for trainer Brad Cox.

A winner of 13 races from 15 lifetime starts (one of her two losses came via disqualification), Monomoy Girl was shipped across town in Lexington Kentucky on Monday and was sold at auction for $9.5 million to Spendthrift Farm, who is also the majority owner in Authentic.

Monomoy Girl will be returned to the Brad Cox stable by her new owners with plans to race again in 2021.

Cox equals record

Brad Cox matched Richard Mandella as the only trainers to win four Breeders’ Cup races in a single year. Cox won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with Aunt Pearl, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Essential Quality, and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Knicks Go in addition to Monomoy Girl’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff victory.

Essential Quality’s Juvenile win makes him the winter future book favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, and the son of Tapit has a style that suggests he should handle the longer distances. He is a very exciting prospect.

Five track records

The Keeneland main track Saturday played more like Daytona Speedway, as there were no less than four track records set, including Nashville (six furlongs in 1:07.89), Gamine (seven furlongs in 1:20.20), Knicks Go (one mile in 1:33.85), and Authentic in the Classic (1 1/4 miles in 1:59.19).

There was also a track record set on the turf Saturday when Audarya won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at the seldom run distance of 1 3/16 miles in 1:52.72.

It is true Breeders’ Cup cards bring a lot of fast horses to town, but why do tracks like Keeneland change their surfaces for major race days? Championship races should be conducted under whatever the normal is for that particular track to try to avoid random results that appear to be a fluke over the long haul.

A perfect example is what occurred in 2019 at Santa Anita, when the Breeders’ Cup was held over an incredibly deep and loose dirt surface, likely a result of precaution after a rash of catastrophic injuries earlier in the spring. We heard very little from 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ British Idiom and 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ Storm the Court in 2020.

Trebek’s ties to racing

Alex Trebek, the beloved host of the popular television game show “Jeopardy!” who passed away last weekend after a long bout with pancreatic cancer, had ties to California racing.

In the late 1990’s, Trebek was the owner of the California thoroughbred breeding operation known as Creston Farms. I attended a horse sale with my trainer Bill Spawr, who purchased a yearling at the sale as we were seated together. While Spawr was signing the ticket, a man in a baseball cap came up to me, introduced himself, and thanked us for purchasing the horse.

It was Alex Trebek.

A genuinely nice and soft-spoken man who impacted the lives of many in a positive way.

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