You won’t find many people questioning the talent of Authentic, who has emerged as an elite Kentucky Derby contender following victories in the Sham (G3), San Felipe (G2), and Haskell (G1) during a productive 2020 campaign.
Conditioned by five-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Authentic enters the Run for the Roses as one of the most accomplished 3-year-olds in training. But lurking in the background of his glowing resume is a major question mark—does Authentic have the stamina to handle 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in September?
The answer, based on a strict reading of Authentic’s pedigree, is no. While there are exceptions to every rule—some horses do outrun their pedigrees—Authentic’s breeding is geared toward sprints and miles, with 1 1/8 miles seeming like the upper limit of his distance capabilities.
It all begins with Authentic’s sire, the highly successful Into Mischief. A Grade 1-winning sprinter/miler, Into Mischief has tended to reproduce himself at stud, with the vast majority of his foals excelling up to a mile and not much further. Among the best have been Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner Covfefe and two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents.
A handful of Into Mischief’s best foals have been able to carry their speed over longer distances—Audible won the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby (G1) and placed third in the Kentucky Derby—but genuine classic contenders have been few and far between. The average winning distance of Into Mischief’s foals is just 6.8 furlongs, a bit surprising since the stallion is a half-brother to four-time Eclipse champion Beholder (a Grade 1 winner running 1 1/4 miles) and Mendelssohn (a Grade 2 winner over 1 3/16 miles).
The bottom half of Authentic’s pedigree is similarly geared toward shorter distances. His dam, the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless, won her debut sprinting 7 furlongs but weakened to finish second when stretching out to a mile in her only other start. Her first two foals to race, Gitgo and Expectations, followed her example by winning a handful of minor claiming events between 5 1/2 furlongs and a mile.
This is in keeping with the tendencies of Mr. Greeley, an accomplished sprinter whose foals achieved an average winning distance of 6.9 furlongs. While a few of his best runners were successful running long on grass—such as 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay (G2) winner Aruna—more typical were Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) winner Finsceal Beo, Sussex (G1) winner Reel Buddy, Cigar Mile (G1) winner El Corredor, Test (G1) winner Sweet Lulu, and Futurity (G1) winner Whywhywhy, all of whom saw their stamina reserves top out at a mile or less.
The good news is, daughters of Mr. Greeley have produced some long-winded types when bred to stallions with stamina-oriented pedigrees; Eskimo Kisses (by To Honor and Serve) won the 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1) and Chicago Style (by Kitten’s Joy) claimed the 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup (G1). The bad news is, Into Mischief seems unlikely to pass on the necessary stamina for a grandson of Mr. Greeley to stretch out over 1 1/4 miles.
There’s no doubt Authentic possesses a world of talent, which is the first prerequisite for success in the Kentucky Derby. But he’ll have to outrun his pedigree to land in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle on the first Saturday in September.