(Authentic heads to the track on Kentucky Derby day / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
The 146th version of the Kentucky Derby — and its’ sister race, the Kentucky Oaks — are now in the record books, and let’s hope that we never, ever, ever have to go through another year like this one.
For so many reasons, right? No more pandemics. No more pyromaniacs. No more strife. Lots more life. Right?
But considering all the obstacles; all the drama; all the postponements; all the threats; all the chaos?
Churchill Downs put on one helluva show.
And, the horses put on one helluva race.
It was unlike any other Kentucky Derby before. It may be unlike any other Kentucky Derby in the future. But it was pure Kentucky Derby.
Great horses throwing down.
Great riders begging for more.
One great, white-haired trainer cheering for just one more.
Great day. Great racing. Great stuff.
Just what we all come to expect on the “First Saturday in May” was what we got on the “First Saturday in September.”
Justify may have won the Kentucky Derby for Bob Baffert in 2018.
But this was “Justified” for Bob Baffert in 2020. This was “Authentic” as they come. Truly.
Here’s a few observations and thoughts, as we now turn our pages and attention spans to the Preakness Stakes and the upcoming Breeders’ Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Lexington at Keeneland the first weekend in November.
(Trainer Bob Baffert and Authentic / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
The Pressbox’s Kentucky Derby Rankings Review:
We published our first 2020 Kentucky Derby Rankings on Jan. 20 — long before we knew of this crazy thing called COVID-19 and long, long, long before we thought that protestors would turn Louisville into some city-wide boxing ring.
At the top of our list that day was Dennis’ Moment. So much for that thought. Should have gone with the “other” horse owned by the Albaugh Family Stables — Thousand Words. Yet, we know how that ended, too, right?
Yet, out of the Top 20 that we listed in that first bracket, we had 5 horses that actually ended up being entered for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Four of them made the starting gate, after Thousand Words flipped in the paddock and was later scratched.
We had Storm the Court at #3; Thousand Words at #4; Tiz the Law at #11; Authentic at #12; Enforceable at #12.
Our comment about Authentic on that day?
“Has Some Attention Deficit Issues / Can Blinkers Cure?”
On Feb. 2, Authentic moved to #8 on our list, and on Feb. 10, he inched up to #7. On Feb. 18, he was at #5.
But on March 2, 2020, The Pressbox moved Authentic to #1 on the list for the first time. And, I wrote then this bit of prose:
“This Is Now My ‘Baffert Horse.’ ”
On March 16, Authentic stayed at the top. I wrote: “He Is Truly Authentic / Real Deal / Next Coming?”
On March 30, he stayed on top. And, on May 4, he was still there. I wrote then: “He’s Back In Training Now & Still My #1 of the ‘Baffert Bunch’.”
But it was Saturday, Sept. 5 that mattered most. And, we all know what happened that day, too. We all know who won that day.
The original statement may have been true for some of 2020. He may have had; and may still have some ADD for horses. The winner’s circle round-about was kind of a tip.
But the cure?
The cure was and still is very simple.
The cure was and still is Bob Baffert.
Authentic has the world’s best trainer of Thoroughbred horses.
The very best.
No matter what you may think, the fact is very simple and in black type, to put it in horse terms. Bob Baffert has now won 6 Kentucky Derbies. Count ’em. Six.
That ties the legendary Ben Jones, who was the trainer for famed Calumet Farm back in the stone age. And, let’s be honest here. Bob Baffert is the best trainer in the world today. And, I would argue, Bob Baffert is the best horse trainer in the history of the game. Period.
His horse proved it on Saturday.
The trainer proves it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over.
Is that six “overs?”
As in 6 Kentucky Derby wins?
The very best.
(Tiz the Law / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
How Many Times Has a NY-Bred Won the Kentucky Derby?
It is still the loneliest number — 1.
One in 146 runnings now.
That is 145 to 1.
More fillies have won the Derby. Been 3 of them.
More geldings have won the Derby. Been 9 of them — including the one NY-bred.
More rigdlings have won the Derby. Truly, that number is untold.
Tried to tell you.
You don’t test our wonderful Kentucky-breds and our history.
You don’t spit into the wind on Derby Day.
And, you don’t claim history until you are able to make history.
That is 145 to 1.
(Trainer Barclay Tagg and Tiz the Law at Churchill Downs / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
Barclay Tagg Blames Racetrack for Tiz the Law’s Loss
After running second in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby — and his second straight loss over the Churchill Downs’ main track — Tiz the Law’s trainer Barclay Tagg went to one of the most overly-used, most stale, and tired excuses of all time.
Tagg — who won the KY Derby with Funny Side and the only NY-bred to capture the “Run for the Roses” — complained that his colt simply didn’t like the Churchill Downs’ dirt.
“He didn’t handle the track.”
Are you kidding me?
Why not just ante up and admit you got your ass beat?
Tiz the Law came out of the gate and actually compromised Authentic at the start. But, other than that, the colt ran his race. Stalked the leader. Made a run at the leader. Nearly corralled the leader.
This time, though, he didn’t go by. He wouldn’t go by.
You know why?
He couldn’t go by.
Not on this racetrack. Probably not on any racetrack.
Why not just ante up and say that you ran your race and just got beat?
Instead, you go to the oft-used “he didn’t handle the racetrack” excuse?
My daddy used to say this to me.
“Excuses are like butt holes,” he said. “Everyone has one and most of them stink.”
This one stinks, Barclay.
Sad, man. Sad.
You got beat by a better horse on Saturday.
Who Will Win Out: Owner Knowlton or Trainer Tagg?
After the Kentucky Derby was run, several members of this year’s deliberate and deleted press corps cornered the cantankerous Tagg at his Churchill Downs’ barn operation and immediately questioned whether Tiz the Law would try to revenge the loss in the upcoming Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in the coming weeks.
Tagg played tag with that question.
He weaved in. You’re it.
He weaved out. No, you’re it.
He wavered here. You’re it.
He wavered there. No, you’re it.
Appears that Tagg would rather just sit out the Preakness, and, instead, point Tiz the Law to the Breeders’ Cup Classic to be held at Keeneland the first weekend in November.
Not so fast there Barclay.
Can’t stay on “safe” the entire game.
Seems as if Tiz the Law’s owner, Jack Knowlton, was later cornered and asked the same question.
Appears that the founder of Sackatoga Stable wants to go to the Preakness Stakes.
And, when he was told that the trainer was talking about skipping it?
Well, it was ole’ Jack that became the cantankerous one.
“I think the owner gets to make the decision on what race to go in,” he was quoted as saying.
Bitter meet sweet.
(Shedaresthedevil / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
Brad Cox Knows How to Train Fillies, Right?
When the year started out, we knew that Louisville’s own Brad Cox was loaded with a barn full of nice fillies. We knew that his roster was full to the brim, and brimming at the top.
After all, when you have the opportunity to train the great Monomoy Girl each and every day, it begets more opportunities. Right?
Certainly appeared to be the way.
Cox had the undefeated and 2YO champ British Idiom.
He had the undefeated and mucho-talented Taraz, who some (including Cox himself) thought may be a possible KY Derby contender.
He had the future Fair Grounds Oaks winner Bonny South.
He had three of a kind, going on a full house.
But early this year, British Idiom proved she just wasn’t quite the same as she was brilliant as a 2YO, and she went to the sidelines for a little R&R.
Then Taraz suffered a catastrophic injury while training at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, AR., and had to be euthanized.
Then, after running a game second to Swiss Skydiver in the G1 Alabama Stakes, it was decided that Bonny South would skip the KY Oaks and go somewhere else. Anywhere else.
On Friday, Cox still had one more bullet to fire. He still had Shedaresthedevil in his holster and in his arsenal. He still had one more chance to fire at the likes of the magical pair of Swiss Skydiver and Gamine.
It was all Cox needed.
Shedaresthedevil was daring.
Shedaresthedevil was tempting.
Shedaresthedevil was a devil in disguise.
Shedaresthedevil put in a run that made people think of Monomoy and dream of grandeur.
Another masterful job by one of the best young trainers in the game.
Another masterful filly in the barn of one of the best young trainers in the game.
Don’t ever dismiss.
(Art Collector / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
Art Collector Returns to Training; Will Head to the Preakness:
When I heard the news that Art Collector had grabbed a “quarter,” and would not make the starting gate for this year’s Kentucky Derby, I have to admit I had a knot in my stomach. And, I was sick at it, as well.
Trainer Tommy Drury deserved better, I thought.
Owner Bruce Lunsford should have gotten better, I said.
The colt really should have better luck, I muttered.
To not get a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby was a gut punch. No way around it.
But unlike Barclay Tagg did the day after the Derby, Tommy Drury manned up.
Tommy Drury did not drop his head and make an excuse.
Tommy Drury pulled no Eore-like routine out of his bag of Winnie the Pooh.
Tommy Drury stood up; answered the bell and every question; and looked at the bright side of life.
He predicted that Art Collector would return quickly and be ready to run in the upcoming Preakness Stakes.
He predicted that his horse would return to train and race as good as ever.
He predicted that his horse would be OK; that his psyche would be OK; that his life would be OK; that his world would be OK.
Tommy Drury is a man’s man.
And, his horse is, too.
They will be ready to face Authentic.
They will be ready for Tiz the Law.
They will do battle with Thousand Words.
They will be sitting on go.
When they all get to Pimlico and the Preakness, it promises to be a great race.
One worth waiting for.
One worth watching for.
One worth celebrating in.
That, my friends, is what horse racing is all about. Even in this crazy year of 2020.
I think Authentic and Bob Baffert have already done that.
I think Art Collector and Tommy Drury are looking forward to that.
And, I hope that Tiz the Law and Barclay Tagg, who could get a starring role in a remake of “Grumpier Old Men II” will show up, too. After all, the next great racehorse still has some proving to do.
If he truly is the next great racehorse, after all.
Anybody know how many New York-breds have won the Preakness Stakes?