Authentic’s future could include rematch against Tiz the Law

Alton Strupp/Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Briefly off the radar to set himself straight, Authentic now might have to get used to having a target on his back.

Bob Baffert’s latest star achieved that by blowing past Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law to win going away Saturday at Churchill Downs. Though Authentic shattered hopes for a Triple Crown winner this year, he raised questions about what he’ll do for an encore, which could include a possible rematch against Tiz the Law at the Preakness in Baltimore on Oct. 3. That race is the final jewel in this year’s reshuffled Triple Crown.

Tiz the Law’s team suggested after the Derby that the colt would be there, with owner Jack Knowlton adding to “hopefully win that and get some revenge.” Baffert sounded just as eager Sunday as he digested Authentic’s 1 1/4-length victory over the 3-5 favorite at Churchill Downs.

“Right now all systems are go for the Preakness as long as he looks healthy,” the trainer said, “and knock on wood that they stay healthy. That’s the main key.

“I’ve been really lucky with him.”

Shorter than the Derby at 1 1/8 miles, the Preakness allows Authentic to follow his blistering Derby trip of 2:00.61 and Tiz the Law to atone for his second-place finish. It’s certainly within Authentic’s reach considering he brought a Haskell Stakes win at that distance into the Derby and was second to Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby.

There figures to be other well-rested horses to contend with, though Baffert touted Tiz the Law as a formidable foe at Pimlico Race Course. November’s season-ending Breeders’ Cup world championships at Keeneland also offer a chance to make a strong case for the Eclipse Award as the year’s top 3-year-old.

But those options are for later, and Baffert is happy that Authentic emerged from the Derby in good shape.

“He was pretty sharp,” said Baffert, who plans to keep the horse at Churchill Downs for the time being. “I’m going to wait a week or two, see how he is. Then I’ll give him a little breeze here.

“Right now, at the end of the day Tiz the Law is still going to be tough. As long as (Authentic) is doing well, he gets on the plane and that means I feel good about it.”

Baffert said Thousand Words could also be part of the Preakness plan despite being disqualified from the Derby when he reared up and fell backward in the paddock before the race. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes fractured his wrist in the process and underwent surgery that evening but was in the barn Sunday morning before heading back to California.

That moment began an emotional Derby roller coaster for Baffert, whose sixth win tied Ben Jones for the most by a trainer. The Hall of Famer was soon lifted by Authentic’s wire-to-wire victory from the No. 18 post, then knocked over in the winner’s circle by the horse when he became bothered by ribbons attached to the garland of roses.

All of which put Baffert in a reflective mood the day after. He noted that Authentic was the last of a group of 60 horses purchased and that he needed time off to mature. It worked as the horse notched his fifth victory in six career starts.

That it came on the sport’s biggest stage was ironic to Baffert.

“We pick them out and they’re all part of it,” he said of his horses. “And actually, Authentic was the last one. He was the last one we bought, and he wins the Derby.”

Churchill Downs moves meet to Ellis Park to examine protocols following 12 horse deaths

churchill downs
Michael Clevenger and Erik Mohn/USA TODAY NETWORK

Churchill Downs will suspend racing on Wednesday and move the remainder of its spring meet to Ellis Park in order to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of safety and surface protocols in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

No single factor has been identified as a potential cause for the fatalities or pattern detected, according to a release, but the decision was made to relocate the meet “in an abundance of caution.”

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in Friday’s release. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Racing will continue at Churchill Downs through Sunday before shifting to the CDI-owned racing and gaming facility in Henderson, Kentucky. Ellis Park’s meet was scheduled to start July 7 and run through Aug. 27 but will now expand with Friday’s announcement.

Ellis Park will resume racing on June 10.

The move comes a day after track superintendent Dennis Moore conducted a second independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces as part of an emergency summit called this week by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with the track and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Meetings took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and at the Louisville track.

The head of the federally created oversight agency suggested ahead of the summit that it could recommend pausing the meet and that Churchill Downs would accept that recommendation.

Churchill Downs’ release stated that expert testing raised no concerns and concluded that the surface was consistent with the track’s prior measurements. Even so, it chose to relocate “in alignment” with HISA’s recommendation to suspend the meet to allow more time for additional investigation.

“We appreciate their thoughtfulness and cooperation through these challenging moments,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement. “We will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.”

Carstanjen insisted that relocating the remainder of the spring meet to Ellis Park would maintain the industry ecosystem with minor disruption. He also said he was grateful to Kentucky horsemen for their support as they work to find answers.

Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, especially since there’s no conclusive evidence that Churchill Downs’ surface is the problem.

“We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses,” Hiles said in a statement. “However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns.

“Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

The latest development comes a day after Churchill Downs and HISA each implemented safety and performance standards to address the spate of deaths.

HISA will conduct additional post-entry screening of horses to identify those at increased risk for injury. Its Integrity and Welfare Unit also will collect blood and hair samples for all fatalities for use while investigating a cause.

Churchill Downs announced it would immediately limit horses to four starts during a rolling eight-week period and impose ineligibility standards for poor performers. The track is also pausing incentives, such as trainer start bonuses and limiting purse payouts to the top five finishers instead of every finisher.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance


NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.