Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Authentic Wins The Kentucky Derby

Photo courtesy Gary Firstenberg.
Late Saturday afternoon I received a surprising text from my brother. "The Kentucky Derby is about to run and Gary's horse is in the race."

The "Gary" in question is my cousin, who lives in Southern Ohio and has been investing small amounts of money in race horses in the same way that investors can own a stake in Apple or Google. The name of the horse he "owned"--along with 1400 others--was Authentic.

Now I'm as big a fan of Run for the Roses as the next person, but I'd not even been aware the race was even being run this year. It usually takes place the first week of May. I noticed at the time that it had been postponed, but missed the announcement of when it was re-scheduled.

So the text came as a surprise. The horses were leaving the stables when I finally got to a television set. During their parade lap I saw that Tiz the Law was a 4-5 favorite, but whoa! Authentic had quite excellent chances at 9-1, which was better than most of the field. In 2009, Mine That Bird won with 50-1 odds.

I used to have horse racing game when I was a kid. It was a wooden "track" with six lanes and six different colored horses. You had a die with 6 numbers on it and when you rolled, the horse in that lane would move forward the way pieces move on a cribbage board.

Racing in all forms is fun, but especially so when you have a horse in the race. We had Authentic.

What a great name for a horse. Authenticity is something we could use more of. I just finished reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and one of the underlying themes has to do with authenticity, what is real and what is not. The word "authentic" means, "Of undisputed origin, genuine." I like the word genuine. It was one of the mottos of the Sixties, to be real, genuine, not fake, like plastic or television. Sitcom laugh tracks and game show MCs became odious symbols of television's fakeness. (Alex Trebek being the exception.)

All that being said, Authentic ran a great race, barreling into the lead as soon at the gates were opened, and never looking back. Leading from the start is often not the best strategy because many horses use of their reserves by the end, but Authentic seemed to be restrained and wasn't out to set a world record here. I liked that she stayed just ahead of the pack, avoiding getting jostled or distracted. When Tiz The Law made its move rounding the fourth turn, the bay colt showed what he's made of, digging deep for the final kick.

A quick plug for the jockey. When I was growing up any horse being ridden by Eddie Arcaro was a force to be reckoned with. John Velasquez, the jockey for Authentic, won his 200th victory Saturday and 3rd Kentucky Derby race. Jockey's make a difference. So do trainers, and this was trainer Chris Baffert's 6th Kentucky Derby win.

Here's the race itself. Exciting from start to finish.



For a great film about the roles owners, jockeys and trainers play in making a champion horse, find the 2003 film Seabiscuit, starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Tobey Maguire. Or read the book! 

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