By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Bob Baffert suffered another massive double blow to his hopes of a sixth Kentucky Derby in Saturday on Saturday when the favourite Charlatan was ruled out of the race and leading fancy Authentic was beaten at odds-on at Santa Anita.
Charlatan has sustained an ankle injury, while Authentic surrendered his unbeaten record by 2¾ lengths to Honor A.P. (John Shirreffs/Mike Smith) in the G1 Santa Anita Derby. The winner is now a leading player in betting for Churchill Downs at around the 6-1 mark behind general market leader Tiz The Law.
Had the Kentucky Derby taken place in its usual slot on the first Saturday in May, it is probable Baffert would have had three of the top four in the betting.
Owing to the coronavirus postponement, however, the race now takes place on September 5 – and, like his former stablemate Nadal, now retired unbeaten through injury, Charlatan will not be at Churchill Downs.
Unbeaten in three starts, the colt was already under a cloud after it was reported he had tested positive for his initial post-race sample after winning a division of last month’s Arkansas Derby.
On Saturday, Baffert told the Daily Racing Form that Charlatan will be require surgery for a “very minor” ankle problem that will keep him sidelined at least until the autumn owing to an ankle injury. “He came up with an issue,” Baffert said.
“We saw that he had a tiny aggravation there, I wouldn’t call it a chip. They’ll clear it up. It will take him out of the Derby picture. He’ll be back by the fall.”
Dual Graded-stakes winner stablemate Authentic could never get to the lead after breaking awkwardly in the Santa Anita Derby, where the 1-2 favourite stalked three wide throughout and had nothing left to repel Honor A.P. in the stretch.
“I was afraid of being on the outside,” reported Baffert. “He broke out and then caught his stride. He did all the heavy lifting all the way around to the stretch.”
Honor A.P., second to Authentic when they met at the same venue in March in G2 company, now looks a legitimate contender for the Triple Crown races. “He ran super and distance is something he clearly appreciates,” said winning trainer John Shirreffs, best known for the exploits of Zenyatta.
“It’s up to him whether we run him again before the big dance. We have to see how the horse comes out and how he feels, but you’d always prefer to run.”
Baffert also had to settle for a distant third place with runaway maiden winner Merneith in the G2 Santa Anita Oaks as Swiss Skydiver (Kenny McPeek/Mike Smith) solidified her status as Kentucky Oaks favourite making all for a four-length victory.
There was finally some positive news for Baffert later on the card when Improbable posted a dominant 3¼-length victory in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup.
“I got the consolation prize,” he said. “I honestly thought I could win three races today.”
Baffert actually won two, having also saddled Coolmore’s $3.65 million colt Cezanne for a winning debut earlier on the card.
Over at Belmont Park, Vekoma (George Weaver/Javier Castellano) splashed through the slop for a seven-length rout in the Carter Handicap, the first G1 of the New York season, postponed from Aqueduct in April.
Newspaperofrecord (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz) led home a 1-2-3-4 for her trainer with a stylish four-length victory as she won for the first time since the 2018 Breeders’ Cup in the G3 Intercontinental.
Travers Stakes hero Code Of Honor (Shug McGaughey/John Velazquez) made no mistake despite disliking the muddy track in the G3 Westchester.