Authentic denies heavy favorite Tiz the Law a shot at the Triple Crown by outlasting a furious homestretch battle to win the 2020 Kentucky Derby. He took over the lead about 1/4 mile into the race and stayed there even as Tiz the Law came rocketing towards him.
This was the 200th Grade I stakes victory for Authentic’s jockey John Velazquez and his third Kentucky Derby win. His Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert gets his sixth Kentucky Derby win, which ties Ben Jones‘ record for all-time wins by a trainer. He is owned by Spendthrift Farm, Myracehorse.com, Madaket Stables and Starlight Racing.
Tiz the Law finished 1 1/4 lengths behind to take second, and 46-1 longshot Mr. Big News was third. Authentic, who set off at 8-1 odds, paid $18.80 to win, $6.00 to place and $5.00 to show.
Thousand Words, Baffert’s other entry, was a late scratch after the horse reared up and fell in the saddling paddock. He quickly got back up on his own and was walked out of the area.
Outside the gates of Churchill Downs and throughout the city of Louisville, protesters and counter-protesters filled the streets, prompting the track to increase security. Protesters called for justice for Breonna Taylor, 26, who was shot and killed by Louisville police in her home on March 13.
The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled this year’s Triple Crown schedule, as the Kentucky Derby was moved from Saturday, May 2 to the first Saturday in September.
The Derby remains the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the U.S. and has run every year since 1875. However, this was only the third time the race was run outside the month of May and the first time since 1945, when World War II pushed the Derby to June 9. The Belmont was moved back two weeks but remained in the month of June while the Preakness was changed from Saturday, May 16 to Saturday, Oct. 3.
The 2020 Triple Crown will always be remembered with an asterisk—because of a different race order, later dates for all three races (which gave horses more time to mature and prep), significantly more time in between each event and a shortened Belmont (9 furlongs instead of the traditional 12).
The racing calendar wasn’t the only thing affected by COVID-19. Just two weeks before the Derby, Churchill Downs announced that the race would run without fans in the stands. Originally, the race was pushed months back in the hopes that spectators could attend, and the track announced earlier in August that less than 23,000 would be allowed in and subjected to COVID-19 guidelines.
“With the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning,” Churchill Downs said in a statement on Aug. 21. “Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that.”
Some familiar faces were also noticeably absent, as several top jockeys, including last year’s Derby winner Flavien Prat and wildly successful brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr., decided not to make the trip to Kentucky due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its related safety precautions (riders needed to be at Churchill Downs by Monday, Aug. 31).