After winning the Kentucky Derby with Giacomo, a 50-1 longshot, in 2005, trainer John Shirreffs could take another win 15 years later.
The Shirreffs-trained Honor AP took advantage of a tough trip on Saturday with 1-2 favorite Authentic and won the $ 400,000 Grade I Santa Anita Derby with 2 3/4 lengths under Mike Smith with an eye-catching move as the field turned home .
It was Smith’s third consecutive win in the Santa Anita Derby, after victories aboard Roadster last year and Justify in 2018.
Honor AP had finished second behind Authentic in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes in Santa Anita in his first race in nearly five months on March 7, but this time turned the tables of the Bob Baffert intern as the 2-1 second choice, scored his second victory in four tries as he ran 1 1/8 miles in 1: 48.97.
Smith also drove Giacomo when he scored one of the four biggest setbacks in Kentucky Derby history, and he thinks the mile-long Derby distance would be perfect for Honor AP, who is the Hall of Fame rider’s fourth win in the generally concerned. Santa Anita Derby.
“It seems that the further you go with him, he just made that big, long, powerful, beautiful step,” said Smith. “Every indication says he (needs to get better with more distance). Just like he does things, like he gallops. Even today he galloped out and I had to pull him up. With that big stride, horses always seem to fit two “It just really goes. The further the better, it seems.”
Smith said the strategy on Saturday was to break well and keep Authentic within earshot.
“Let him get into the first corner and hopefully I can find out Authentic,” he said. “If not right behind him, just go out a bit and then use my horse’s big, long stride to his advantage and maybe get a little brave a little early. I hit the front a little too early, but he was there today He was missing some time and then ran a big race (San Felipe) and was really a close second. ”
The race was set up perfectly for Honor A.P. when Authentic jumped sharply from the start with Drayden Van Dyke on board, which cost him a few lengths. Instead of perhaps leading the way, he fought with Shooters Shoot and Anneau d’Or in the rear as he drove all the way wide.
Authentic, which suffered its first loss in four starts, still managed to finish second and Rushie, trained by Michael McCarthy, finished third.
Smith gave full credit to Shirreffs and his crew for the fact that Honor A.P. was ready to fire his best shot. “I don’t do much,” he said. “(Honor A.P.) does all the running and all the work.”
Smith believes the Kentucky Derby’s postponement will work in his stallion’s favor after not racing between October and March.
“You didn’t know when all this (coronavirus) came about which horses would perform a lot better in May, which (Honor A.P.) probably wouldn’t have been,” he said. “Now that it’s September, we should be seeing an even bigger, stronger horse by then. He should get every bit of that mile and a quarter.”
The victory earned Honor A.P., a son of Honor Code, 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points. Authentic took 40 and Rushie’s third place was worth 20 points.
“It was great, it was a great effort,” said Shirreffs. “I’m just happy for everyone involved and I can’t thank Mike Smith enough for everything he’s done. Whatever I need, Mike, he’s always there for me.”
Shirreffs said he is unsure if Honor A.P. will run again for the Kentucky Derby.
“It’s up to him if we let him run for the big dance one more time,” he said. “We have to see how the horse comes out and how it feels, but you always prefer to run. Running is probably the best option instead of training it, but we’ll wait and see how it all happens.”
Said Baffert of Authentic’s difficult journey: “I was afraid to be outside (post No. 7 in a field with seven horses). He broke out, then took his stride. He did all the heavy lifting all the way to the play. Mike Smith just sat there and does what he does. The winner went very well. ‘