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Mike Smith still a winner in the Kentucky Derby

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Trainer Bob Baffert is knocked to the ground as Jockey John Velazquez tries to control Authentic in the winners’ circle after winning the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo)

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Dexter’s own Mike Smith was looking for a smooth start to the 2020 Kentucky Derby. This derby had been postponed for three months because of the coronavirus. If not for Honor A.P. getting bumped out of the gate, New Mexico fans might be talking about a third Kentucky Derby for Smith. Smith started in the 16th pole position and was sandwiched between race favorite Tiz the Law and Ny Traffic.

Before the race, Smith thought the key to the race was to get out of the gate well. He wanted to break better than when he ran at Shared Beliefs. Normally, Honor A.P. does break well.

“I would think off of paper,” Smith said before the race, “and just knowing the horses that Authentic would have the most speed and Ny Traffic on the inside of me could show some speed. Tiz the Law isn’t going to be far off of them. I would like to be parked right in behind them with a smooth, clear trip on the inside. My horse has a big beautiful stride and at some point, I would like to let him use that to his advantage.”

At the start of the race, Ny Traffic bumped Smith and it took a little bit for Smith to gather his horse. Honor A.P. was as far back as next to last in the first half-mile. Smith was trailing and didn’t make a move until the top of the stretch. Honor A.P. is a come-from-behind horse and the distance was too much for Smith to overcome.

Two horses were neck-and-neck down the stretch fighting for the win: Tiz the Law and Authentic. Authentic, ridden by John Velazquez, earned his third derby victory, covered the mile-and-a-quarter distance in 2 minutes and 0.61 hundredths of a second.

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Smith came in fourth place. If Smith could not have won, he could not be happier than for his best friend, winning jockey John Velazquez. Mike introduced Velazquez to his wife and Velazquez named his son after Mike. When Mike moved to New York, the two became fast friends and have stayed friends for over 30 years.

Smith had both of his horses scratched earlier in the day. Smith worked out and talked to his mother in the morning.

“I told him to ride with God,” Vidol Daniel, Mike’s mother said. “Whatever God’s will is, that’s his plan.”

Smith continues to make history: He has tied Willie Shoemaker for the most derby rides with 26. Look for Mike to ride in the last of the Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

Authentic wins Ky. Derby, gives Baffert tying 6th victory

By Beth Harris
AP Racing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Authentic led all the way to win a Kentucky Derby unlike any other, kicking away from heavy favorite Tiz the Law in the stretch and giving Bob Baffert a record-tying sixth victory on Saturday after the trainer’s other entry was a late scratch.

Authentic won by 1 1/4 lengths without the usual crowd of 150,000 on hand at Churchill Downs because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bay colt ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.61 under John Velazquez, who won his third Derby.

“I’ve had some great Derby rides, but what that guy did,” Baffert said, gesturing toward Velazquez, who stood socially distanced in the infield winner’s circle. “Johnny V. gave him an incredible ride.”

Baffert tied Ben Jones (1938-52) for the most wins by a trainer. Baffert’s other wins came in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 with eventual Triple Crown winner Justify and 2018.

Sent off at 3-5 as the biggest Derby favorite in 31 years, Tiz the Law stalked Authentic on the outside before challenging at the top of the stretch. But Authentic found another gear and pulled away from the Belmont winner.

“Yes! Yes!” Baffert shouted in the paddock, where he watched on the video screen.

Baffert’s other horse, Thousand Words, acted up in the paddock, reared up and fell on his side shortly before post time. He was scratched by the veterinarians. Baffert said his assistant, Jim Barnes, broke his arm trying to get the saddle on the unruly colt. Authentic was examined back at his barn and wasn’t injured, according to the on-call veterinarian.

Baffert later took a spill, too. Authentic was startled as the blanket of red roses was placed on his back in the winner’s circle and he knocked the white-haired trainer to the ground. Baffert had to be helped up.

Authentic paid $18.80, $6 and $5 at 8-1 odds. Tiz the Law returned $3.40 and $3.20. Mr. Big News was another two lengths back in third and paid $16.80 to show at 46-1.

Tiz the Law had already won the Belmont, the kickoff to the reconfigured Triple Crown that was run in June at a shorter distance. He followed that up with an easy win in the Travers, setting himself up as the dominant horse heading into the Derby.

Jockeys chirping at their horses and whips striking flesh in the stretch drive — sounds typically drowned out by raucous fans — echoed across the swath of empty seats under the Twin Spires. Bugler Steve Buttleman played “My Old Kentucky Home” in place of the absent University of Louisville marching band. The song was preceded by a moment of silence to recognize the inequities facing society. Protesters converged outside Churchill Downs demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot dead in her home in March when police burst in to serve a search warrant in the middle of the night.

The field of 15 horses was the smallest since 1998.

Max Player was fourth, followed by Storm the Court, Enforceable, Ny Traffic and Necker Island, Major Fed, Sole Volante, Winning Impression, Money Moves, Attachment Rate and South Bend.

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