An Unprecedented Kentucky Derby

Image courtesy of America’s Best Racing

By Noelia Veras 

The 146th Kentucky Derby took place this year on Saturday night. Unexpectedly, the winner was Authentic, ridden by John Valazquez, rather than Tiz The Law, who was highly anticipated to win.

According to ESPN, Authentic completed the 1 ¼ mile track in 2:00.6, which is the seventh-fastest time in Derby history; he was also the fire wire-to-wire Derby winner since 2002. Valazquez is 48 years old, and this marks his third Kentucky Derby win as a jockey. Valazquez’s prior wins were with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Always Dreaming in 2017. 

Authentic’s trainer Bob Baffert has officially reached six Kentucky Derby wins and is tied for the most Derby wins with trainer Ben Jones.

“The greatest race in the world,” Baffert said after the race according to ABC News. “I feel very blessed and fortunate.”

While authentic was projected to do well, Tiz the Law was a sure bet for a lot of Derby fans. Many assumed Tiz the Law was a shoo-in and did not anticipate any other horse taking the win. Tiz the Law’s trainer Barclay Tagg was made famous after training Funny Cide, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2003. According to a Kentucky Derby profile on Tiz the Law, many Derby fans believed that perhaps Tiz the Law was similar to Funny Cide, and would give Tagg another Derby win in 2020. Authentic’s win was, as a result, quite the shock for on-lookers.

The race was unbelievably different from what many predicted. From the get-go, Authentic was seen speeding past the other horses, maintaining a sizable lead almost the entire time. There was an instance, however, in which Tiz the Law was right there behind Authentic, catching up miraculously, and for a few seconds the race was truly up in the air. However, Authentic pushed forward, not wavering once, and ultimately won the race. According to CBS Sports, this was one of the biggest upsets in recent Derby history. 

This year is perhaps one of the more peculiar in the history of The Kentucky Derby. In the midst of a global pandemic, the track was not bustling and overflowing with wagering; rather the stands were empty and the track was smaller than usual. For people from Kentucky, this is such an important time and a quintessential event. 

Catholic University junior Jeffrey Flores, a big fan of the Derby, hails from Lexington, Kentucky, and recognizes the unusual nature of this year’s Kentucky Derby. He has friends and family that work for Spendthrift Farm, the local horse farm, that owns Authentic. 

“Seeing people staying at home to watch the derby was both a relief (due to trying to stop the spread of COVID-19) and a tragedy,” Flores said. “What saddened me was that our friends could not have the thrill of being at Churchill Downs and hearing the screams of tens of thousands of people cheer Authentic down the home stretch.”
Additionally, the city of Louisville, a mere four miles from Churchill Downs where the Derby occurs, was in absolute unrest. In downtown Louisville, protests were taking place in solidarity with the Black Lives Movement. People have been demonstrating in Louisville for a total of 101 days, according to the NY Post. Militia members were present, but the protest remained peaceful. However, according to ABC News, a group of self-identified “patriots” carried guns, American flags, and Trump flags in opposition to the group which called for justice in the Breonna Taylor case. Taylor was shot by police officers in her home on March 13. She was 26 years old.

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