‘A Good One To End On’: Authentic Arrives At Spendthrift Farm After Breeders’ Cup Victory

When Authentic crossed the wire first on Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the colt’s owners were faced with a million-dollar question, potentially tens of millions: should they carry on with the presumptive Horse of the Year for a chance at one last giant payday in January’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park, or do they take their chips off the table and send the colt to begin his stud career Spendthrift Farm while he’s still in central Kentucky?

That question was answered Monday morning when the son of Spendthrift’s cornerstone stallion Into Mischief stepped off the trailer at the Lexington, Ky., farm, where he will be given every opportunity to be his sire’s heir apparent.

Before we move on, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Why is a 3-year-old at the peak of his powers, facing a rebuilding handicap division, foregoing a try in the Pegasus where he would be the overwhelming favorite to pad his already gaudy bankroll? Both sides of Monday’s exchange – the racing stable and the stud farm – took different roads to the same destination.

“We felt like if he finished up with a resounding win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, as they say, that’s a good one to end on,” said Spendthrift Farm general manager Ned Toffey. “Nothing was set in stone until the morning after the race. We debated long and hard over this, but I think when you cap off a Kentucky Derby-winning year with your third Grade 1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I think that’s a good time to head off to stud.”

For trainer Bob Baffert, who led the colt off the trailer at Spendthrift, it wasn’t so much about the present, but what a future might mean with such a valuable horse under his watch.

“I knew when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic this was a huge responsibility,” he said. “You have a horse that’s probably worth $100 million, and now you’re risking to run him. He’s won the Derby, he wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, there’s just no big, huge upside after that. It’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure.”

Authentic’s arrival closed a chapter in his career that began in March, when Spendthrift bought in for a piece of the horse following his front-running victory in the G2 San Felipe Stakes and secured his future at stud.

The colt was already owned by enough partners to fill a bus: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golcanda Stables. It would grow to multiple buses after MyRacehorse Stable bought into Authentic later in his career, adding thousands of fractional owners.

At the time, Toffey said the courtship between Spendthrift and the original group of owners was relatively quick, only taking a couple weeks from the initial pitch. It was a natural fit, with Spendthrift always on the search for good sons of Into Mischief to add to its roster, and one that showed the potential to carry his speed over a classic distance was especially appealing.

“We know those guys really well, and we’ve done enough stallion buying over the years that we’re fortunate enough to usually get a call from the people that are shopping their stallions,” Toffey said. “Tom Ryan (of SF Bloodstock) contacted us here at Spendthrift, and made us aware that they were taking offers. The process played out pretty quickly. It was very efficient, and we really appreciated the way they handled things. They made us aware that they were going to open it up to bids from the farms here in town, and we were happy to be included in that.”

If one only looks at the running lines on Authentic’s past performances, they might assume it has been smooth sailing for the colt’s connections from the pre-COVID Derby trail to the stud barn. Authentic has never finished worse than second in eight career starts, racking up wins in the Classic, the Kentucky Derby, and the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes, and he just missed in the Preakness Stakes, all while earning $6,191,200.

That doesn’t tell the whole story.

Authentic was born on May 5, 2017, late enough in the foaling season that a horse isn’t expected to be particularly forward in his development. Even though he bested the equine equivalent of grown men on Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he’s come miles from his zig-zagging stretch drives in the spring, Authentic is still a horse growing into himself physically and emotionally.

Baffert said trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube between Authentic’s ears was a constant challenge up until the end. None of the trainer’s other Derby winners sent him tumbling in Churchill Downs’ infield winner’s circle. To keep Authentic on the straight-and-narrow required a trial-and-error process to find the right match for him on the end of his shank, in the saddle, and even in the stall next to him back at the barn.

“He was tough to figure out,” Baffert said, “He’s still a young boy. He’s just really coming into his prime, and he just caught up with the older horses.

“He was very high-strung,” the trainer continued. “He wouldn’t get hot or anything, he just couldn’t wait to go out to train. He enjoyed his work. He wanted to go out and run fast every day. We wouldn’t let him. In that way, he was easy to train. I couldn’t work him in company. I worked him by himself because he would have done way too much. He’s the kind of horse that loved to just run, run, run.”

Watching the colt come off the trailer Monday morning, it was clear to see the influence of sire Into Mischief in his physical. The shoulder, barrel, and topline of an Into Mischief colt is something that’s that’s filling stud barns and winner’s circles around the country, and Authentic fits those parts of the mold.

However, one couldn’t call Authentic a “cookie cutter” Into Mischief colt. He’s a longer type who seems to have evolved past the Quarter Horse-like features that are often a trademark of Storm Cat-line sires. Part of that is being in peak race fitness and the lean body that comes with it, but the length of his legs and neck, and the fact that he probably still has even more growing to do before he reaches full maturity, make him unique from his sire, and many of his sons.

“He’s a different type physically,” Toffey said. “He’s leggier, stretchier. If we were talking about humans, he’s like a guy who’s 6’4” and lean, and he plays wide receiver, whereas Into Mischief looks a little more like a fullback, but the one thing is they all seem to be able to run.”

Authentic might be the first of a trend for sons of Into Mischief who don’t conform to what the market has come to expect from a son of Into Mischief.

The quality and quantity of mares has changed drastically from Into Mischief’s first few books, when the Spendthrift sales team was fighting against the current to get him a competitive number of mares; many of them with scarce black type on their page or less-than-statuesque physicals. As Into Mischief climbed to the top of the sire list, so too did the class of mares coming to visit him.

After he did the work to move up his first mares, Into Mischief is now in the extremely fortunate position where his mares can give him a boost.

“Early on, you tended to see Into Mischiefs that were a little smaller, a little more compact, more sprinting type of horses,” Toffey said. “What you’re seeing now, as the quality of his book has improved, people are breeding these classic type of mares; bigger, scopier type of mares, so you’re starting to see that type of physical.”

Authentic will enter stud in 2021 for an advertised fee of $75,000. Toffey said the number was sitting at $50,000 prior to Breeders’ Cup weekend, and the breeders he spoke to after the race agreed that the increase was a fair amount.

As one might expect from an incoming stallion with stratospheric level of buzz, Authentic is expected to cover a full book of mares in his debut season. Toffey said the wait list to book to Authentic was “about as long as my arm,” and the line started well before the colt was a household name.

“There’s not a lot of secrets in Lexington,” he said. “Actually, the phones really started ringing around March. People saw this as a horse they’d love to breed to, and as soon as word leaked out that we had the horse, we started getting calls from breeders. He’s been that popular.

“We had not sold any contracts until we made a decision to bring him to stud, but the response has been overwhelming, and his book will be full within a day or so,” he continued.

No one could blame Spendthrift Farm for doubling down on the Into Mischief magic. The operation has already done it successfully with two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, while Grade 2 winner Maximus Mischief covered his first book of mares earlier this year.

Breeders are diving in with both feet on the sire line. Into Mischief finished the year as North America’s second-most active stallion at 248 mares bred, while Goldencents finished 12th with 204 mares bred, and Maximus Mischief ended up in 13th place with 196 mares.

The bar for expectations will be higher for Authentic, though; perhaps higher than any other stallion to enter service on the property since owner B. Wayne Hughes bought it in 2004.

He’s the best example of a runner from Spendthrift Farm’s best example of a stallion, and the roadblocks in quality and quantity of mares will not impede him in the same way they did for his sire. It may seem like an easier path on the front end, but it leaves less room for slack once the foals hit the sale ring and the racetrack.

Just when the work is done to prove himself, the work begins again.

“Obviously, Into Mischief has been the horse of a lifetime for us, so to add what now you’d probably have to call his best son to our stallion roster, we just couldn’t be prouder to do it,” Toffey said. “We’re really excited about his chances to make a stallion.”

The post ‘A Good One To End On’: Authentic Arrives At Spendthrift Farm After Breeders’ Cup Victory appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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