After Authentic concluded his 2020 season with successive wins in two of the biggest races on the North American calendar, talk began regarding what the future would have in store for the 3-year-old thoroughbred.

Would he be aimed at the $3 million Pegasus Cup? Could he head overseas and take a crack at lucrative races in the Middle East such as the Dubai World Cup or the Saudi Cup?

Instead, news came through last week confirming Authentic would be retired and sent out to stud at Spendthrift Farm. He arrived at the farm on the morning of November 9, walked off the van by his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who was effusive in his praise of the champion horse.

“He never had a bad day. He never got sick, never colicked, never had an issue,” Baffert said. “He really enjoyed his work and wanted to run fast every day. In that way, he was easy to train because he didn’t need to work in company, or he’d do too much. I wish they could be that easy. Now I have to go find another one.”

Finding another one like Authentic will be no easy task, even for a trainer like Baffert who counts among his champion horses two Triple Crown winners – American Pharoah and Justify – and the Pegasus Cup and Dubai World Cup-winning Arrogate.

Authentic earned his place alongside these three greats as well as the dozens more Baffert trained to major racing honours.

The son of Into Mischief raced eight times over a 12-month career and earned six victories. He raced once as a 2-year-old, claiming victory by one and a half lengths at Del Mar Racetrack, before crushing the field on his debut as a 3-year-old in the Shams Stakes at Santa Anita in January earlier this year. He won by seven and three-quarter lengths.

Authentic followed that up with a third successive win in May, cruising to victory in the San Felipe Stakes, also at Santa Anita, by two and one-quarter lengths. The first time he was forced to settle for second came in his first Group I race when he was beaten by Kentucky Derby rival Honor A.P in the Santa Anita Derby in June.

Just five weeks later, however, Authentic secured his first Group I success to win the Haskell Invitational by a nose ahead of Ny Traffic.

Then came the first big one in September: placed third among the Kentucky Derby’s top contenders based on the pre-race odds, Authentic held off favourite Tiz the Law to win at Churchill Downs by one and one-quarter lengths.

Four weeks later, Authentic was back in action for the third and final race of the rearranged Triple Crown (he missed the Belmont Stakes) to compete in the Preakness Stakes. He was denied victory by a neck from winner Swiss Skydiver having been the pre-race favourite.

Entering the prestigious Breeder’s Cup Classic at Keeneland in November, Authentic was, similarly to the Kentucky Derby, demoted to third-favourite behind Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law and stablemate Improbable. Once again, though, he emerged victorious to defeat Improbable by two and one-quarter lengths and win his second major Group 1 race.

As a genuine superstar, racing fans were left understandably disappointed to learn that Authentic would no longer be competing, especially after Baffter admitted that the horse was “really coming into his prime”.

So, why did his owners take the decision now to send Authentic into retirement?

“We turned over every option, believe me,” said Spendthrift president Eric Gustavson. “We did contemplate the Pegasus, and it is nice for the purse money, but it would not change anything regarding his stature at this point or his stud fee.

“It just didn’t make sense for us. We would rather he let down and enjoy three solid months running around in our paddocks.”

Authentic retired with a 6-2-0 record from eight starts and won total prize money of $6,191,200. Co-owned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift, Madaket Stables, Starlight Racing, and, Authentic will command a stud fee of $75,000 and Gustavson believes the potential is enormous.

“To have a son of Into Mischief is the ultimate for us,” said Gustavson. “He had to make it the hard way and has grown into our best stallion, and I don’t think there is any argument anymore that he is the best stallion in the country.

“We have been very active in buying his sons because we are such big believers and that is why we went so hard after Authentic. Then to have everything work out like this, you almost can’t dream this big. Now we have the best son of our best stallion standing on the farm. It really is unbelievable.”

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