LOUISVILLE – B. Wayne Hughes, whose Spendthrift Farm is majority owner in Authentic, wanted minority owner MyRacehorse’s black and white silks to be worn by jockey John Velazquez in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Authentic carried those colors into the history books as the winner of the only Kentucky Derby not held in the spring. A month later, Authentic will wear Spendthrift’s orange and purple silks in the first Preakness Stakes (G1) not held in the spring or summer.
“That will be a lot of fun, we’ll look forward to that,” said Mark Toothaker, Spendthrift Farm’s stallion sales manager who was on hand to watch Authentic and the Spendthrift co-owned Thousand Words work Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Authentic is a son of the red-hot Spendthrift stallion Into Mischief, whom Hughes raced. Into Mischief is out of the same mare, Leslie’s Lady, as Hughes’ four-time champion mare Beholder and Mendelssohn, a $3 million yearling campaigned by the partners in the Coolmore international stallion and racing conglomerate.
Spendthrift bought controlling interest in the racing and breeding rights to Authentic before the Santa Anita Derby (G1) from Starlight Racing, with Madaket Stable also a partner. As it turned out, the Santa Anita Derby is Authentic’s only defeat to date in six starts, with the wins including Santa Anita’s Sham (G3) and San Felipe (G2) and Monmouth Park’s Haskell Invitational (G1).
“We felt like this was a horse who had a real chance to win the Derby,” Toothaker said of the purchase. “We thought, ‘The timing is great. Let’s try to get something done for Spendthrift and Mr. Hughes.’ The team was able to put this offer together with Mr. Hughes’ blessing and get it done.”
Hughes, meanwhile, had bought into MyRacehorse, founded by Michael Behrens, both financially and by embracing the concept of making micro-shares in racehorses available to the general public for just a couple hundred bucks each.
“I’ll have to say there were a few of us kind of grinding our teeth a little bit when Mr. Hughes wanted to run in MyRacehorse’s silks,” Toothaker said. “I made the pitch that ‘Wayne you’ve done so much for the game, this is going to be something for history that is going to hang in the Derby Museum.’ ”
However, Hughes, a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist, felt strongly that MyRacehorse’s concept could be a game-changer. The result is that Authentic surely set a record for the most owners in a Kentucky Derby winner, with 5,314 investors owning 12,500 shares in MyRacehorse.com‘s 12 1/2-percent stake in the colt. Each share in Authentic cost $206 for 1/1,000th of the horse, both for racing and breeding.
“He feels it will re-energize the racetracks and get people coming,” Toothaker said, adding of the 86-year-old Hughes, “Wayne grew up in an era when there were tons of people going to the races at Santa Anita. He feels like MyRacehorse gives that opportunity back to racing, that people will return, they’ll come. There’s nothing like having a horse running, bringing friends and family with them. It’s not just one person who signs up for a micro-share; it’s all their family that comes with them to the track. His vision is that over time it will explode attendance back to the racetrack as people take part on this. We’ve been very active at the sale buying another group of yearlings with MyRacehorse that folks will have a chance to participate in — and hopefully see them in the winner’s circle.”
The Derby proved a rollercoaster for Spendthrift, which also is partners with Albaugh Family Racing in $1 million yearling Thousand Words. Out of the blue, Spendthrift went from two to one entrant when Thousand Words flipped in the paddock after becoming unruly, with assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes fracturing his wrist in the melee and missing the Derby while going to the emergency room.
“It was just the craziest half-hour you could ever imagine,” Toothaker said. “I actually walked over (from the backstretch to the paddock) with Thousand Words because of the Albaughs. They were in town, they’re our partner on that horse. We bought him together as a yearling. So I knew MyRacehorse representatives were walking over with Authentic. To see (Thousand Words) in the paddock, he didn’t want to be saddled. I feel terrible for Jimmy, when the horse flipped over Jimmy had to have nine screws put in his arm, putting him back together. You’re just sad that 20 minutes before the Derby you don’t get a chance to run. It was heart-breaking. You’re in the paddock, a little bit stunned that happened. Everybody was just in a fog.
“As we walked through the tunnel onto the track, I told our general manager, Ned Toffey, ‘You know, if there are any Derby gods looking down upon us after Thousand Words flipping, maybe he’ll give Authentic a little push around there and get us to the winner’s circle.’ And, boy, I’ll tell you what, it sure did.”
While historic Spendthrift Farm had previously stood the sire of Derby winners, Authentic is its first as the owner. In the case of Authentic, Spendthrift is owner of the Derby winner and his dad, the farm’s stallion Into Mischief.
“When I saw the opening fractions of 22-and-change, I was very, very worried, knowing you’ve got to go a mile and a quarter,” Toothaker said. “Certainly as they turned for home, I saw Manny Franco look over his right shoulder. I thought, ‘Boy, he’s probably loaded on Tiz the Law.’ And you hear the announcer give the big call on Mr. Big News, that he’s rolling around horses on the outside. You’re just looking to see how much fight you have down the stretch.
“Really, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking can we just hang on here to hit the board. When Johnny kind of hit him left-handed, he gave him so much effort down the stretch. It was just a thrill, going from being so depressed in the paddock with Thousand Words to seeing Authentic win. It was the biggest rocket ship of emotions in that 20 minutes there that you can ever imagine. And then thinking of Mr. Hughes and all he’s meant to all of our team at Spendthrift and he was able to win that elusive Kentucky Derby was as good as it gets.”
Well, it actually has gotten better. The Derby victory further boosted Into Mischief as a stallion, with five of his yearlings fetching at least $1 million at Keeneland’s September yearling sale.
“People questioned whether he could have a horse win a classic, and now he [Into Mischief] checked that box off,” Toothaker said. “It wasn’t very many years ago that he was averaging $21,000 per yearling. And after the first two books (of the Keeneland sale), he’s averaging $500,000. Into Mischief has climbed the ladder of stallion success, and it’s put him in a whole other stratosphere now.”