The Grade 1 Haskell is usually a premier race on the road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, run after the Triple Crown classics. This year the race also serves as a Kentucky Derby prep due to the iconic race being postponed until September 5th. The race attracted a field of seven talented horses, headlined by the Bob Baffert trained colt Authentic. Authentic was coming into the race off of a runner-up finish to Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Honor A.P. is the only horse who has ever beaten Authentic and without him in the Haskell, Authentic was made the heavy favorite. Few bettors believed he could be beaten to the wire, especially with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons.
However, the likes of Ny Traffic and Dr. Post were planning to make Authentic work hard for his victory. There was an air of tension as the colts loaded into the starting gates - there were 100 Kentucky Derby points and a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the line. The world knew there was going to be a fierce battle for those points.
The gates flew open and Authentic bounded beautifully to the lead, but the grey Ny Traffic was not going to let him get too far ahead. Authentic’s ears were pricked as they went around the first turn; he was running smoothly and easily on the lead. He began to open up a bit on his foes, but Ny Traffic’s jockey Paco Lopez urged him to keep close to the favorite.
They began their trek around the final turn, Mike Smith casually asking Authentic to pick up the pace a little bit. Meanwhile, Ny Traffic was running hard close behind him. Authentic swiveled his ear towards Ny Traffic, listening to the other colt being pushed along behind him. With that, he began to open up a lead on his foes. For a moment, it looked like Authentic was about to be a very easy winner.
Mike Smith began to relax on his colt and they glided down towards the wire. But while Smith softened up on Authentic, Paco Lopez and Ny Traffic started an all out drive down the middle of the track. The grey colt pinned his ears and got to work, eating up the ground beneath him quickly and efficiently. Just as it seemed the Ny Traffic was gonna fly right by Authentic, Smith quickly began urging Authentic for everything he had.
The two matched strides and hit the wire side by side, only a nose separating them. The photo showed Authentic was the winner, though certainly a diminishing one.
“He has an abundance of talent, but he’s still got some growing up to do,” Mike Smith said about Authentic after the race. “He sees all kinds of things that aren’t even there. Down the backside, there are a lot of shadows with the sun setting, and he must have ducked at every one of them. He almost got me off at one point.”
Authentic had always been my favorite of Baffert’s plethora of talented three-year old colts. I did like his victory here, but I do wonder if he would excel at shorter distances rather than the increased distance of the Kentucky Derby. He is a very promising horse and I look forward to seeing where his connections choose to send him next.
Ny Traffic’s runner-up finish looked very, very good. This colt continues to get better with every race and he never gives up in the stretch. Paco Lopez rode him very well here. I think that he is on his way to being one of the best three-year olds running right now. I would love to see him in the Kentucky Derby -- the added distance should suit him very well.
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