How Baffert got to 6

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Not even a global pandemic or the strongest favorite in decades could stop trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled Authentic for a wire-to-wire win in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday at spectator-less Churchill Downs.

It was Baffert’s sixth Derby victory, tying him with the legendary Ben Jones for most Derby wins ever by a trainer. He needed his very deep group of three-year-olds to pull it off.

If the Kentucky Derby been run on May 2 as originally scheduled, chances are Baffert may have saddled the winner, though the horse may have been Nadal or Charlatan. Those three-year-olds won split divisions of the Arkansas Derby on that very date, with Nadal running the faster race.

Nadal was hurt in a subsequent workout and has been retired, while Charlatan also came up with a problem and is sidelined. A return to racing is likely for Charlatan.

Eight Rings, who was a Grade I winner for Baffert as a juvenile, has not developed in his sophomore year. The $3.65 million purchase Cezanne, who won his debut in June, was unable to handle a compressed schedule to try to get him to the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert went back into his deep roster, pulled out Uncle Chuck, and won the Los Alamitos Derby in just his second career start. He found Tiz the Law and company too tough in the Travers Stakes, though.

Thousand Words, who tailed off during the spring, rebounded in winning the Shared Belief at Del Mar. He flipped while being saddled for the Derby, however, and had to be scratched. Baffert’s main assistant, Jimmy Barnes, suffered a fractured wrist in the process.

The bright light on Authentic dimmed when he was beaten by Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby. He came back to win the Haskell at Monmouth, but was giving up ground in deep stretch and was lucky to hold off NY Traffic by a nose. The popular opinion was Authentic would have trouble getting the longer Derby distance.

How did Baffert get Authentic to handle the 1 1/4 miles and run his best race on Derby day?

He made sure Authentic was fit. Given a brief freshening after his July 18 Haskell win, he worked Authentic six furlongs on Aug. 8, six furlongs again on Aug. 13, one mile on Aug. 25, and another six furlongs on Aug. 30. All of the workouts were on the deep Del Mar main track and Authentic galloped out a good quarter mile further than the listed workout distance each time.

Baffert and jockey John Velasquez, who was riding Authentic for the first time, also came up with the right game plan. Velasquez told Baffert he would stay away from NY Traffic after the start to avoid a pace duel. Instead, he would keep Authentic wide down the stretch for the first time and drop in entering the first turn and make the lead.

That is just what Velasquez did.

Baffert told Velasquez to make sure he had the whip in his left hand turning for home, and when he went to the stick left-handed Authentic would give him another gear. Mike Smith failed to do so in the Haskell.

When heavily favored Tiz the Law loomed outside of Authentic entering the stretch, Velasquez went to that left-handed stick and Authentic opened up a length on Tiz the Law. He was able to maintain that edge to the wire.

It is true Baffert gets an embarrassment of riches of top quality youngsters to train each year. But there is a reason — he delivers.

Kentucky Downs Open

Horseplayers looking for a change of pace should consider Kentucky Downs. Their short six-day meet kicked off Monday.

The undulating European style turf course with right and left-handed turns and a quarter mile stretch run makes for exciting racing. Best of all, Kentucky Downs offers full fields due to slot-infused purses and player friendly 14 percent takeout $.50 Pick Fours and $.50 Pick Fives.

Top jockeys like Jose and Irad Ortiz, John Velasquez and Joel Rosario have arrived from New York, while Mike Smith, Flavien Prat, and Umberto Rispoli are in from California. They will give leading local riders Tyler Gaffalione, Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux a run for the money.

Queen’s Plate Saturday

The first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown — the $1 million Queen’s Plate — will be run Saturday at Woodbine. While there are no real marquee standouts, there are 16 horses probable for what should be an excellent wagering contest.

Queen’s Plate Trial winner Clayton and the filly Curlin’s Voyage, winner of the Woodbine Oaks, head the list of likely starters.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Kentucky Downs Thursday, Race 4 — Joy of Treasure (No. 9). The horse-for-course and cutting back in distance angles are keys at Kentucky Downs. This mare won at Kentucky Downs in 2019, shortens up off a troubled trip at Ellis Park and is reunited with Jose Ortiz, who rides her best. There’s plenty of value at 10-1 in the morning line. 

About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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