OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert got yet another win in the Haskell Stakes with a talented, developing colt who is now very much in the picture for the coronavirus-delayed Kentucky Derby.
Authentic gave Baffert his record-extending ninth victory in the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell on Saturday, holding off late charging Ny Traffic by a nose at Monmouth Park.
Jockey Mike Smith put the Santa Anita Derby runner-up on the lead at the start and they covered the 1 1/8- mile Grade 1 stakes in 1:50.46. The win was the third in four starts this year for the colt.
“I’m just so proud of him,” Baffert said. “I was telling Mike, ’You got to stay after him and keep him busy because he looks at everything.′ I could tell he wasn’t focused going down the stretch. He held on and he saw that horse coming to him and he took off again.”
Belmont runner-up Dr. Post finished third under jockey Joe Bravo.
Smith, who made the trip in from the West Coast and had to pass a coronavirus test before gaining entrance to the track, broke Authentic from the No. 2 post and never lost the lead.
It was not the easiest of rides.
“He has an abundance of talent but he’s still got some growing up to do,” Smith said. “He sees all kinds of things that aren’t even there. Down the backside there are a lot of shadows with the sun setting and he must have ducked at every one of them, He almost got me off at one point.”
It might have been a going away present for Baffert, who has been hit with a 15-day suspension by the Oaklawn Park stewards in Arkansas. It’s the result of two of his horses testing positive for being over the allowed limit of a substance in races on May 2. Baffert plans to appeal the penalty.
Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes saddled the colt Saturday.
Baffert last won the Haskell in 2015 with American Pharoah, one of two colts he guided to the Triple Crown. Justify (2018) was the other.
Baffert’s other Haskell winners were in 2014 (Bayern), 2012 (Paynter), 2011 (Coil), 2010 (Lookin at Lucky), 2005 (Roman Ruler), 2002 (War Emblem) and 2001 (Point Given).
Authentic won his first three starts before finishing second to Honor A. P. in the Grade 1 race in California in his last start on June 6.
Ny Traffic, who finished second in the Matt Winn in Kentucky in his last start, came flying late and could not catch Authentic before the finish line with Paco Lopez aboard.
“I was sure I got him — 100%,” Lopez said. “I can’t believe it. I’m surprised we didn’t win. I really thought we got him.”
Authentic earned 100 points for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. The winner also earned a berth for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.
Authentic paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10. Ny Traffic returned $4.20 and $2.40, and Dr Post paid $2.10 to show.
The owners of Tiz the Law plan to run this year’s winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 8. It would be his final prep for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The Preakness is scheduled for Oct. 3 in a rejiggered Triple Crown season changed by the coronavirus.
Just before the Haskell, Bravo rallied Aquaphobia ($23.40) in the stretch to a narrow victory over Paret in the $300,000 The United Nations Stakes, the only other Grade 1 race run in New Jersey. It’s was Bravo’s fifth win in the race.