What a surprise! The Bob Baffert-trained Authentic won the Sham S.-G3 at Santa Anita, giving Baffert a colt clearly on the Triple Crown trail (and a record setting sixth win in the race), as the glorious, leggy, bay colt won by nearly eight lengths while clearly rank and distracted down the stretch, surprised by the crowd and noise. Drayden Van Dyck held on tight, and brought the enthusiastic colt across the wire with ease. Authentic did not want to stop—either from the adrenaline jolt of the screaming crowd, or because he wants more distance, or both. But he is firmly a leading candidate, along with Maxfield, for the Kentucky Derby-G1 on the first Saturday in May.
Authentic is by Into Mischief, 2019’s leading sire, with earnings in that year of $18,916,375, besting Curlin, in second place, by about three million, and Tapit, in third, by about four million. Into Mischief’s yearlings at auction have become fetish items for such big buyers as Larry Best, hence his $325,000 yearling average for 2019. Authentic went through the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, fetching $350,000, marking him as an above-average prospect. When Baffert’s team walked Authentic into the saddling paddock, without blanket or tack, his appearance was jaw-dropping, with his huge hip, scopey body and rippling shoulder. He even has a pretty head, and his coat shone in the California sunlight. He looked beyond fit—he was buff to the max.
At first inspection, Authentic’s pedigree reveals a great cross for Into Mischief, that is, with a son of Gone West. Millionaire and multiple Grade One winner Mia Mischief is out of a Speightstown mare, as is Grade Two winner Engage. Gone West provides the great Secretariat mare, Secrettame (and Speightstown provides yet another, a doubling of Terlingua, through his Storm Cat dam), which reaches out to the Secretariat mare Terlingua through the sire line. Secretariat’s dam, Somethingroyal, was by one of the great broodmare sires of all time, Princequillo, and Into Mischief’s pedigree features two other Princequillo mares, 6 x 6, making Authentic 8 x 6 x 6 x 7 Princequillo. Into Mischief loves to be crossed with the Mr. Prospector line in general: his best progeny have dams by Victory Gallop, Lemon Drop Kid, Banker’s Gold, Distorted Humor, Unbridled and Carson City, among others. It should be noted that any dam from the Fappiano/Unbridled line brings with her the powerful dirt and speed influence of the In Reality/Dr. Fager/Ta Wee family, which also suits Into Mischief. Indeed, Authentic’s third dam, Really Fancy, is by In Reality.
Far more interesting, and unique, is the twinned appearance of Icecapade in Authentic’s pedigree, 5 x 4, top and bottom. Icecapade has become virtually lost in contemporary pedigrees, with the passing of his two most important sons, Clever Trick and Wild Again. Only one stallion standing in Kentucky today is from the Icecapade sire line, and that is Bayern, a grandson of Wild Again and as yet, unproven. Icecapade does appear in the dams’ side of Fed Biz, Ready’s Image, and The Factor, but other than that, his memory has been erased. But there he is, through his son Clever Trick in Into Mischief, and through his daughter Oyster Baby, by Wild Again, Authentic’s second dam.
Icecapade is interesting in that he is a close genetic relative of Northern Dancer, who appears in this pedigree 6 x 7 x 6, all on the sires’ side. Icecapade was by Nearctic, out of a Native Dancer mare, the great Shenanigans, while Northern Dancer was by Nearctic, out of the even greater Native Dancer mare Natalma. There are, therefore, five crosses to these closely related sires, and two more crosses to Hail to Reason, through Halo and Stop the Music, who also trace back to Nearctic, and the multiple doses of Nasrullah add to this, as he was by Nearco, Nearctic’s sire. This inbreeding to scions of the Icecapade line reaches out to the Northern Dancer and Hail to Reason, creating a wealth of Nearctic (1954), a real blast from the past. The Icecapade line has had an impact on the offspring of Into Mischief: Champion Miss Mischief has a second dam by Caller I.D., a grandson of Clever trick; millionaire Vicar’s in Trouble, is by a Vicar mare, with Vicar’s sire being Wild Again. Lo and behold, research into Mischief’s best runners reveals a true affinity by the great stallion for the Icecapade line, ending with Authentic. As well, there are eight crosses to Native Dancer, through an amazing variety of sources: Natalma, Exclusive Native, Raise a Native, Shenanigans and Our Native. This pedigree, though as au courant as it can be, is strictly old school.
This pedigree has more in it which is fascinating. Just a couple of weeks ago, I noted the cross of Gone West and Clever Trick in a pedigree, as it was the cross that created the all-heart race horse Came Home. We have the same cross in Authentic, with Broodmare of the Year Leslie’s Lady being by Tricky Creek, a son of Clever Trick, and his broodmare sire, Mr. Greeley, being by Gone West. The shimmering shadow of the little horse, Came Home, with the will to win keeps echoing.
And yet there is another echo in this pedigree, that of the race mare that many consider the greatest of all time, whose history was touched by tragedy, Ruffian (1972). Ruffian was by the very speedy and very unsound son of Bold Ruler, Reviewer, and out of Icecapade’s dam, Shenanigans, by Native Dancer. Her catastrophic breakdown in her match race against Spectacular Bid broke horse racing fans’ hearts. One look at Authentic’s dams’ side reveals this second, significant shadow—Mr. Greeley was out of the Reviewer mare Long Legend, while Icecapade was out of Shenanigans. There we have it, 4 x 5, Ruffian’s pedigree, though upside down. Both sires, Reviewer and Icecapade, have almost vanished from the contemporary thoroughbred, and yet here they are, in this star colt. If any three-year-old has a huge heart, it is Authentic.
The year is young, and surely many three-year-olds will emerge as Derby hopefuls. But thus far, Authentic’s brilliant win in the Sham S. matches the dominance of Maxfield’s two-year-old wins. After 2019’s muddied three-year-old colt field, having a couple of superstars battling each other offers hope to the downhearted racing fan of 2020. And lest we forget, there is Independence Hall, Dennis’s Moment, not to mention Chad Brown’s suggestion that he will try the mighty Structor on dirt. Looks like the Derby trail will be studded with gems.
-- Roberta Smoodin