By Sean Mahanes ‘21
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert claimed his sixth Kentucky Derby when his horse Authentic won this year’s race in thrilling fashion. Authentic and his trainer John Velazquez fought to the front of the pack early in the race and managed to hold the lead until the final stretch. Down the stretch, Authentic defied the odds and managed to fight off a furious charge from Tiz the Law, winning the race.
The Kentucky Derby is the oldest annual sporting event in American history, and despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the streak continued this year. Pushed back from its original May date, the 146th Kentucky Derby was held on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Derby is usually associated with big crowds, bigger hats, and even bigger stakes. However, as a safety precaution, Churchill Downs decided to run the race without fans this year.
The current pandemic wasn’t the only challenge to the Derby. Large protests across the city of Louisville forced race officials to increase security around the track. Protesters rallied for justice in the controversial death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of the Louisville Police earlier this year.
At 8-1 odds, Authentic was by no means a longshot. Nevertheless, his effort in beating recent Belmont Stakes winner and heavy 5-8 favorite Tiz the Law in such a fashion was certainly unexpected and impressive. Mr. Big News captured third place at 46-1 odds.
Despite such a strong showing, Authentic’s victory and the 2020 Triple Crown season will definitely be remembered with an asterisk. The Belmont Stakes was postponed a few weeks but still took place in its original month of June. So, moving the Derby from May to September created a huge gap between races for horses to prepare and recover. This type of break period is unprecedented and may have helped Authentic defeat the incumbent champion.
The 2020 Triple Crown will conclude with the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3, where both Authentic and Tiz the Law will run as favorites. This last battle will mark the end of an unusual but eventful season.