Authentic dominated the $100,000 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita on the front end, stretching out to two turns with a 7 3/4-length romp in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier, and the 3-year-old made things interesting in the stretch by repeatedly ducking in towards the rail in his second career start.
Drayden Van Dyke kept his cool and steered Authentic straight, and the promising colt completed the mile in 1:37.57. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert extended his record with a sixth Sham victory, and Authentic is campaigned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John Fielding and Golconda Stables.
“He’s very talented,” Van Dyke said. “I think the noise from the crowd made him react the way he did there in the stretch. His ears went toward the crowd, so I think that’s what caused it, but then when he got down to the rail, he spooked himself again.”
“You want to see him run like that, especially this time of year,” Baffert said. “We’ve got some other ones back there, hopefully they’ll come along, but the timing is good for him now to run in the March race (San Felipe [G2] on March 7).
“He saw the crowd (when he lugged in midstretch). We had a decent crowd today. He saw something, but he’s never really acted that way before. He was just out there by himself and didn’t know what was going on…he wanted to throw the brakes on.’
By Into Mischief, Authentic was purchased for $350,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale. He posted a comfortable front-running decision as the 3-5 favorite when debuting in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Del Mar on November 9, and Authentic left the Sham starting gate as the 6-5 choice among six rivals.
The bay sophomore showed speed from his innermost post, reeling off opening splits in :23.87 and :47.94 while up by about a couple of lengths. Authentic widened the advantage brilliantly entering the stretch, leading by eight lengths with a furlong remaining. His immaturity showed, but Authentic easily passed the first distance test and is trained by a five-time Kentucky Derby winner.
“The main thing was getting out of the gate; once we did it was a nice trip,” Van Dyke said. “I took the lead and I wasn’t going to go too fast but I’m happy I got the trip I did. I told Bob when he broke his maiden he was my favorite 2-year-old.”
“We thought if he’s a good horse, he should win,” Baffert said. “That’s what you’re hoping for, the way he was working and all. Drayden has always been really high on him. I joked with him when he came back. I said, ‘Do you think he’s a little bit too much horse for you? No, no, no he’s not!’
“I thought he was the quickest horse in the race…He moves like a gazelle. He’s real light, he’s leggy. It was a big move forward. The second race is the toughest one to make…Today he wasn’t blowing hard after the race and didn’t take a deep breath so that is a good sign.”
The first of four Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Santa Anita in 2020, the Sham awarded points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
Authentic’s stablemate Azul Coast, also making his stakes debut after a debut maiden score, rallied for second at 2-1, 1 1/2 lengths better than Zimba Warrior. Taishan who was also 2-1 off a maiden tally, came next in fourth. Scoring and Uncaptured Hero rounded out the order.
Bred by Peter E. Blum, Authentic hails from the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless.
Later on the program, Desert Stone returned from a seven-month layoff and registered his first stakes win with a rallying neck decision over 6-5 favorite Cleopatra’s Strike in the $200,000 San Gabriel (G2). The 5-year-old horse snapped an eight-race losing streak, closing last-to-first in the 1 1/8-mile turf affair, and Geovanni Franco was up for Zayat Stables and Richard Baltas.
Third in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) two back, Desert Stone was making his first start since a last in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) in late May. The Irish-bred son of Fastnet Rock was off at 7-1 in the seven-horse field. Desert Stone stopped the teletimer in 1:47.63 on the firm turf, increasing his earnings to $332,662 from a 16-3-2-2 career record.