Sport Authentic holds off Ny Traffic to win $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park
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Authentic held off a late charge from Ny Traffic to win a thrilling edition of the 53rd TVG.com $1 million Haskell Stakes by a nose at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Authentic, who was the 3-5 favorite, led wire-to-wire in the 1⅛ mile race and gave Baffert his record-extending ninth Haskell.
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Dr Post, the 9-5 second choice in the betting under 13-time Monmouth Park riding champion Joe Bravo, was a non-threatening third.
“I’m just so proud of him,'' Baffert said on the NBC broadcast after the race. "He looks at everything and I could tell he wasn’t focused going down the stretch. But he held on."
In a photo finish, AUTHENTIC takes theStakes ! Jockey Mike Smith on the mount giving Trainer Bob Baffert his 9th Haskell victory.
100 Derby points & automatic berth into the— TVG (@TVG) Classic!
The winner paid $3.20 and the exacta paid $15.80.
Authentic led through fractions of 23.60, 47.52 and 1:11.50 with Ny Traffic, under Paco Lopez, chasing him.
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Restrictions on jockey's leaving New York will have an impact on the $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park. On Tuesday, the New York Racing Association announced that it was locking down its jockey colony at the Saratoga meet, which begins on Thursday. Jockeys based at Saratoga will not be allowed to return if they leave to ride at other tracks — despite a number of New York-based riders having booked mounts in the Haskell, as well as the four other graded stakes on the card, including the Grade 1 $300,000 United Nations Stakes.
Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith then let Authentic out a notch turning into the stretch and opened up daylight as Smith had not yet hit the son of Into Mischief.
However, Ny Traffic, who was the 5-1 third choice, came charging at Authentic in the final sixteenth as Authentic appeared to be weakening while the 4,000 or so fans who were allowed to attend the race under the severe attendance limitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic roared.
Smith finally got into Authentic as the wire neared. The wire came up just in time for Authentic, who will likely be no worse than the third choice in the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 behind Belmont Stakes winner Tiz The Law and Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P.
"He saw that horse coming to him and he took off again,'' Baffert said. "(Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes) said he came back, he wasn’t that tired. We’re learning about the horse; he might need a little blinkers. ''
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The Haskell, like his defeat in the Santa Anita Derby, left the question of whether Authentic, who is now 4-for-5 for his career, can get the 1¼ mile distance of the Derby.
“He was playing in the stretch, I’m telling you,'' Baffert said. "I told Mike (Smith), 'You have to stay after him, because he looks … you got to keep him busy.' I can tell he wasn’t laying it down. He was just playing out there.''
The Haskell Stakes was one of two Grade I races remaining before the Kentucky Derby is run on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Derby was moved from its traditional spot on the first Saturday in May because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authentic received 100 of the 170 points at stake toward the Derby. He is now second on the Derby points list with 200 points, 72 behind Tiz The Law.
Ny Traffic, who was also second in the Louisiana Derby and Matt Winn Stakes in his two previous races, received 40 points toward the Derby. He is now third on the points list with 110.
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Dr Post received 20 points and moved into sixth on the list with 80 points.
The top three finishers are safely in the Derby field.
Jesus' Team was fourth and received his first 10 points for the Derby.
Under the traditional scheduling, the Haskell would have been the first Grade I race for 3-year-olds after the Triple Crown series of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
The pandemic resulted in the entire schedule for the Triple Crown series being changed. The Belmont was run on June 20 around one turn at 1⅛ miles, instead of its traditional 1½ miles around two turns.
Tiz The Law, who is being pointed toward the Grade I Travers on Aug. 8 at Saratoga, won the Belmont. The Preakness is Oct. 3. at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press:
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