He had everything his own way and looked a solid win prospect from the eighth pole to the sixteenth pole, but Authentic ultimately had everyone sweating out a photo finish in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Stakes (G1) when Ny Traffic’s late and largely unexpected surge nearly toppled the odds-on favorite.
Under Mike Smith, Authentic did indeed hold on by a nose to give trainer Bob Baffert a ninth victory in Monmouth Park’s signature event. After setting an uncontested lead through fractions of :23.60, :47.52, and 1:11.50, Authentic passed the wire in 1:50.45 for 1 1/8 miles on a fast track and returned $3.20 to his numerous backers.
“We’re learning about the horse,” Baffert said. “He might need a little blinker, though. He was playing in the stretch. I had told Mike that he had to stay after him and keep him busy. I could tell he wasn’t laying it down. He was just playing out there and that horse came to him and kept him going. But when he got (out on an easy lead) by himself like that I thought for sure he was just going to go on. But he ran a great race.”
Owned by Spendthrift Farm, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, and MyRaceHorse Stable, Authentic earned an additional 100 qualifying points toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1). He now has 200 points, the rest previously earned by winning the San Felipe (G2) and Sham (G3), and running second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in his most recent outing.
The Haskell was also a “Win & Your In” Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland in November.
Ny Traffic earned 40 Derby points, bringing his total to 110. It was the gray’s fourth consecutive graded stakes placing this season. Dr Post, the Belmont S. (G1) runner-up, was not helped much by the pace scenario and finished third, 4 1/2 lengths behind the top two, while longshot Jesus’ Team crossed the wire in fourth. Those two earned 20 and 10 Derby points, respectively, in the Haskell. Fame to Famous, Lebda, and Ancient Warrior rounded out the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Peter Blum Thoroughbreds, Authentic was produced by the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless and was a $350,000 Keeneland September purchase. He’s now earned $1,011,200 and is 4-for-5 in a career that kicked off with a winning debut at Del Mar in November.