Authentic dueled with Tiz the Law in the final turn and upset the heavy favorite to win the 146th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Authentic led from start to finish and won by 1¼ lengths, giving trainer Bob Baffert his record-tying sixth Derby champion.
Authentic covered 1¼ mile in 2:00.61, the seventh-fastest time ever in the Derby, and paid $18.80 to win. He is the first wire-to-wire Derby winner since 2002, when War Emblem won for Baffert.
"I've had some great Derby rides, but what that guy did," Baffert said, gesturing toward Velazquez, who stood in the infield winner's circle, "Johnny V. gave them the most incredible ride. The training was lights-out. He was fresh. He's a good horse. He's our No. 1 pick from the beginning, and here we are. The greatest race in the world, and I feel very blessed and fortunate."
Baffert tied Ben Jones for the most wins by a trainer. Along with Authentic and War Emblem, Baffert's other Derby winners were Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018. Baffert stands alone in first with his 16 career wins in Triple Crown races, two more than that of D. Wayne Lukas in second.
"Bob, he's got the magic touch,'' said Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable, owner of Tiz the Law. "He had this horse ready at the right time and he beat us. Hopefully, we'll get some more shots at him and we'll turn the table on him."
Sent off at 3-5 as the biggest Derby favorite in 31 years and part of a smaller field than usual, Tiz the Law settled into fourth while Authentic ran unopposed in front. With a quarter-mile to go, Tiz the Law pulled alongside Authentic and the two hit the top of the stretch together.
Under Manny Franco, Tiz the Law briefly stuck his head in front, only to have Authentic fight right back and spurt clear of the Belmont winner, who came in 4-for-4 this year.
"Tiz has been able to pass horses all year and today he ran into one he couldn't get by,'' Knowlton said. "Credit Authentic. He came from the far outside and managed to get to the lead and just ran a great race. No shame on our part.''
Velazquez, 48, picked up his third win in the Derby. He rode Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Always Dreaming in 2017.
Said Velazquez: "Obviously, Bob, from the beginning, said, 'I've got a good one for you.' This is it."
Authentic went off 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.
Authentic has won five of his six career races, with his lone defeat coming in the Santa Anita Derby, in which he finished sixth.
Baffert's other horse on Saturday, Thousand Words, acted up in the paddock, reared up and fell on his side shortly before post time. He was scratched by the veterinarians. Kathy Anderson, the on-call veterinarian at the Derby, said afterward that Thousand Words was returned to the stable area and was "cleared for service with not a scratch upon him" after being examined.
Baffert said his assistant, Jim Barnes, broke his arm trying to get a saddle on the unruly colt. Authentic was examined back at his barn and wasn't injured, according to Anderson.
Baffert later took a spill, too. In the winner's circle, the long ribbons hanging off the garland of red roses kept hitting Authentic's hind leg, agitating him, and in turn he knocked the trainer to the ground. Baffert had to be helped up.
"He spun around, and he was like a bowling ball. He just spun us all around,'' Baffert said. "The turf course is pretty soft here, so it wasn't too bad. I was probably more embarrassed than anything when I hit the ground."
It has been that kind of year for Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer was loaded with promising 3-year-olds early on. Then Nadal got hurt and had to be retired, and Charlatan went on the shelf because of a minor injury. Authentic had issues, so Baffert gave him an extended break.
In between, Charlatan and another of Baffert's horses had positive drug tests in Arkansas. Baffert is appealing his resulting 15-day suspension. The trainer mourned the death of Arrogate, North America's all-time earnings leader, this summer.
"It's been a roller-coaster year, but thankfully, it's the love of the horses that keeps me going," said Baffert, his voice breaking. "They're the best therapy a human can have. I love being around them."
Authentic is co-owned by Spendthrift Farm, the racing operation of B. Wayne Hughes, the 86-year-old founder of Public Storage who also co-owns Thousand Words. This is Hughes' first Derby win. Also part of Authentic's ownership is MyRaceHorse Stable, whose 4,600 participants include Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler and former Olympic skier Bode Miller. They paid about $206 each for a share.
Rescheduled from the traditional first Saturday in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year's Run For The Roses was the second jewel in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. The Preakness will be run Oct. 3.
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, the 26-year-old Black woman shot and killed in her home in March when police burst in to serve a search warrant in the middle of the night.
The demonstrators were peaceful as they circled the historic track. They chanted, "No justice, no Derby!" and carried signs imploring people to say Taylor's name. Police watched in riot gear with clubs, some on horses and some with armored military vehicles.
"I'd love to be up here pounding my chest because I just won six," Baffert said, "but I feel for everybody in the city."
Velazquez was one of several jockeys in the race who wore black bands with the phrase "Equality for all."
The field of 15 horses was the smallest since 1998. Honor A. P. was fourth, followed by Max Player, Storm the Court, Enforceable, Ny Traffic and Necker Island, Major Fed, Sole Volante, Winning Impression, Money Moves, Attachment Rate and South Bend.
Wagering from all sources on the Derby was $79.4 million, compared with $165.5 million on last year's race. Churchill Downs officials attributed the decline to the absence of on-track wagering, less than a full field of 20 horses in the race and Tiz the Law being a prohibitive favorite.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.