They broke the clock at Keeneland Race Course on Saturday.
And Authentic wielded the biggest hammer.
On a day when records on the main track fell at four different distances, the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic and jockey John Velazquez won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1:59.19 for a mile and a quarter, breaking the record set by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2:00.07) when he won the BC Classic in 2015.
It was a Classic disappointment for the Saratoga Springs-based Sackatoga Stable and their 3-year-old star Tiz the Law, who looked uncomfortable under jockey Manny Franco and failed to gather any momentum around the second turn, finishing sixth in the 10-horse field.
The timing system at Keeneland literally did not work during the running of the Classic, and Authentic’s finish time was determined after consulting a hand-timed backup.
The victory was what mattered the most, anyway, as the 2020 Kentucky Derby winner likely wrapped up the 3-year-old male championship and Horse of the Year.
“You know what, they were all training so well and he was training well,” Baffert said. “I think Johnny got to know him a lot better, and he’s [Authentic] just a quirky guy. But when I saw him out there, he’s catching up with these older horses. That’s what they do at this time of year. What a horse. He’s the real deal.”
Baffert had two of those older horses in the Classic field, as Whitney winner Improbable finished second by 2 1/4 lengths and Maximum Security was fifth.
The record-breaking day started in the first race with a 1:07.89 for six furlongs by Nashville in the Perryville Stakes, followed by the Baffert-trained Gamine with a 1:20.20 for seven furlongs in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint and a 1:33.85 from Knicks Go to win the BC Dirt Mile.
Authentic gave Baffert, who has had added spotlight in 2020 for four failed drug tests by his horses, a fourth win in the Classic, after Bayern (2014), American Pharoah and Arrogate (2016).
Just as they did in the rescheduled Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, Authentic and Velazquez shot to the front and led the field unopposed on the front end. On the far turn, Global Campaign made the first run at Authentic, with Improbable looping up three wide.
In the stretch, Authentic expanded his lead and was well clear at the eighth pole and not threatened by Improbable, who overtook Global Campaign by a length for second.
“It’s incredible,” Velazquez said. “The older I get, the more emotional I get. It worked out perfect. Bob said to take him to the lead so he doesn’t wander so much, and keep his mind on running. It worked out. He did everything I wanted him to do.”
“He just kind of let the other horse get away and nobody went with him,” Improbable co-owner Elliott Walden said. “I don’t know what the pace was because they messed up the fractions. But they kind of walked the dog out there. But he ran his race. He was wide both turns but he was second best.”
Tiz the Law, who was stuck on the rail for most of the Classic, has lost to Authentic in both meetings between the two, in the Derby and Classic.
A dominating winner of the Belmont and the Travers, Tiz the Law skipped the rescheduled Oct. 3 Preakness to train up to the BC Classic.
“I was happy with the way he came into the race,” trainer Barclay Tagg said. “I thought he would run his race but [Franco] said he was just too keen and didn’t run.”
“I had an OK trip,” Franco said. “I was down inside. My horse never settled for me. He was pulling me the whole way hard. When I sent to looking for him he was done.
“I was inside looking for a way to get out to a clear run. I had to wait longer than I wanted to. It is what it is.”