After walking through the first six furlongs behind Sea Island, Authenticity proved to be the real deal with a closing kick to win the Grade III $200,000 Shuvee on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Sea Island and jockey Jose Lezcano put up fractions of 25.46 for the quarter-mile, 50.80 for the half and 1:15.03 over the first three-quarters of a mile in the 11⁄8-mile race for fillies and mares 3 and up. The whole time, Authenticity was sitting off her right hip waiting for the right moment.
“I knew it was going to be a slow pace, but I didn’t want to be on the lead, either,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “I kind of eased off from the other horse and got her to relax. By the three-eighths pole, she got into that nice rhythm, and she did it pretty easy.”
Velazquez won twice on the day, creeping within three of Jerry Bailey’s career total of 693 at Saratoga.
Nowhere to be found was the half-sister of Zenyatta, Eblouissante, who made the most noise before the gates opened instead of afterward.
She reared in the gate, forcing jockey Rosie Napravnik to bail and let her settle down. Eblouissante was backed out and regained her rider, reloaded, but was not much of a factor after the start.
“It was a long wait in the gate, and she got a little nervous and started acting up,” Napravnik said.
Eblouissante bumped with Moon Philly early, was asked for more by the half-mile pole, but she didn’t have it to give and finished last of the six runners after having won her first two career starts.
Napravnik picked up the mount after scheduled rider Junior Alvarado suffered a shoulder injury before the fourth race. His mount there, Scribbling Sarah, burst through the starting gate early and was a late scratch. Alvarado is expected to return to ride today.
As Authenticity came around the outside of Sea Island at the top of the stretch, Flashy American and jockey Joel Rosario found room inside and began to chase Authenticity down the stretch. Velazquez, though, had enough horse to finish a length better than Flashy American.
“[The reason I didn’t] want to be on the lead is because I know when she gets to the lead, she’s going to be waiting,” Velazquez said. “I kind of hit her a couple times when I saw the horse on the inside [runner-up Flashy American], and she went on easy.”
Despite backing up between the top two, Sea Island gave no more back to the field and finished third, 21⁄4 lengths behind Flashy American. Moon Philly was another 21⁄2 lengths back, and more than 21 lengths behind her were Royal Lahaina and Eblouissante.
“She’s a total professional,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said of Authenticity. “She’s very easy to train, easy to ride. You can put her on the lead, you can let her stalk, you can take her back if you wanted to. The main thing is we wanted her to be in a nice comfortable rhythm.”
He said he didn’t expect to be stalking such a slow pace, but that didn’t change the game plan.
“From an outside post, we weren’t going to send her foolishly,” he said. “I just kind of left it in Johnny’s hands. The main thing we were focused on was to just get her into a comfortable rhythm.”
Authenticity was cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade I $750,000 Delaware Handicap, which was won easily by Royal Delta, but Pletcher
chose to keep her in Saratoga instead of shipping her south.
“It’s been really hot the last few days, and we felt like shipping to Delaware could compromise her later in the year,” he said. “We had a favorable setup here at Saratoga, we love to win here, and maybe it sets her up well for the Personal Ensign.”