Bob Baffert reflected on the fourth Breeders’ Cup Classic win of his career, achieved by Authentic, before he suggested that ‘deep down’ he knew one of his contenders would land the $6m prize.
Baffert has won four Breeders’ Cup Classics since Bayern gave him his maiden success in 2014. American Pharoah and Arrogate (2015 & 2016) gave him a hat-trick and on Saturday evening at Keeneland he landed his latest win as Authentic delivered a front-running masterclass under John Velazquez.
He was chased home by stablemate Improbable, with Maximum Security completing the Baffert trio back in fifth.
Despite the fact Tiz The Law had usurped his runners to go off favourite for trainer Barclay Tagg, Baffert suggests he was always confident of victory – he just couldn’t have said for sure which of his runners would do it.
“Down deep, I knew I was going to win it with one of them. I just wasn’t sure. When you come in loaded like that — it would have been nice to run 1-2-3. And it would have been horrible not to win with the three,” said the trainer.
“He’s [Authentic] just getting better, he’s maturing. And I could just tell, the way he was training, he’s caught up with these older horses. He’s just so quick, he’s fast.”
Despite the urgings of Irad Ortiz, Improbable couldn’t close down on the winner in the home stretch, something Baffert thought looked likely when they made the final turn.
“Authentic, he’s serious. He’s a great horse. What he did — that was a tough field, and he just ran away from that field,” Baffert continued. “Improbable‘s a really good horse. Turning for home, I thought Improbable was going to kick in there. That Authentic, he caught another gear and he was just gone.”
Tiz The Law, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes this summer before finishing second to Authentic in the ‘Run for the Roses’ was a disappointing sixth.
The concerns over his draw in stall two were proved to be well-placed, with Manny Franco‘s mount breaking alertly but the rider opting to race on the rail despite Tiz The Law‘s apparent preference for being on the outside of rivals.
When Franco eventually pulled him wide on the final turn, there was little response. Assessing the run, Tagg left the blame at the jockey’s door.
“[Franco] said he was rank on him,” Tagg said on Sunday morning. “The winner was rank, and he should have just followed him around. I had him ready to run, but I can’t ride for them.”