Baffert Claims Record-Tying Sixth Kentucky Derby Win
Authentic led wire-to-wire, giving Hall of Fame trainer and UArizona alumnus Bob Baffert a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby championship.
It was a Kentucky Derby victory unlike any other for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Prior to this year, one would think that Baffert had seen everything Churchill Downs had to offer. The University of Arizona alumnus made his first official Kentucky Derby appearance in 1996, when his colt, Cavonnier, took second. His first win came the next year, when Silver Charm took top honors in the Derby and the Preakness Stakes, narrowly missing out on horse racing's most illustrious prize – the Triple Crown – with a second-place showing at the Belmont Stakes.
Baffert would eventually find his Triple Crown champ in 2015 with American Pharaoh.
Baffert trained five Derby winners – Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharaoh (2015) and Justify (2018) – prior to this year's "Run for the Roses." He came into the 2020 season one win short of legendary trainer Ben Jones' mark for the most Derby titles in history.
He claimed that record-tying sixth win in the most unorthodox manner possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Kentucky Derby off of its traditional spot on the calendar for the first time in modern history. Instead of kicking off the Triple Crown series on May 2, the Derby was pushed to Sept. 5, coming after the Belmont Stakes.
The scene at Churchill Downs didn't resemble the typical festivities and revelry people have grown accustomed to seeing in Louisville. No spectators meant no mint juleps or extravagant hats.
It was also one of the only times a Baffert horse entered the Derby as a serious underdog.
Powerful thoroughbred Tiz the Law entered the Derby field as a significant favorite after blowing away the competition in the Belmont. Authentic entered the race as an 8-1 underdog, but charged out of the starting gates with purpose. Authentic led wire-to-wire and fended of a fierce charge from Tiz the Law around the final turn to win the race by 1 1/4 lengths.
It's been a topsy-turvy year for Baffert in more ways than one. The pandemic significantly altered training schedules and strategies, and some of Baffert's most talented horses suffered a variety of injuries before it was deemed safe enough to resume racing.
"It's been a roller-coaster year, but thankfully, it's the love of the horses that keeps me going," Baffert told ESPN. "They're the best therapy a human can have. I love being around them."
In addition to this record-tying Derby win, Baffert now stands alone in first with his 16 career wins in Triple Crown races, two more than D. Wayne Lukas.
The Race Track Industry Program graduate will take Authentic to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore to take part in the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3. It's a race Baffert has won seven times before. Another victory would put Baffert in a class of his own as the only trainer with eight Preakness wins.
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