LA TROIENNE STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILE
In a fierce stretch battle beneath the Twin Spires, Padua Stables' Authenticity held off stubborn On Fire Baby to take the $300,000 La Troienne Stakes by a neck. Favored Believe You Can, winner of last year's Kentucky Oaks was 4 3/4 lengths back in third.
Authenticity was the fourth choice in a seven-horse field for the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne, the first of five stakes (four of them graded) on the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and the workmate for Kentucky Derby contender Verrazano, Authenticity set a stakes record of 1:42.09 in the La Troienne.
Anita Cauley's homebred On Fire Baby broke on top from post 5 in the event for older fillies and mares, but was quickly challenged by Authenticity and jockey John Velazquez, who secured the rail as they went around the first turn.
Authenticity and On Fire Baby, ridden by Joe Johnson, separated themselves from the pack early on while setting sensible fractions of :24.80, :48.45, and 1:12.39 over a fast track. More Chocolate and Believe You Can sat off the leading pair, but neither made much headway when the field straightened for home.
Holding her rail slot heading down the stretch, Authenticity continued her duel with On Fire Baby as they hit the sixteenth pole together, getting the mile in 1:36.02.
Authenticity carried 118 pounds in the La Troienne, five fewer than the Grade 1-winning runner-up.
On Fire Baby was the second choice in the La Troienne off her strong score in the April 12 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in her 2013 debut. She was fifth behind Believe You Can in last year's Oaks.
A lightly raced 6-year-old mare by Quiet American out of the Deputy Minister mare Court of Appeal, Authenticity was bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Stables. She was making only her seventh career start in the La Troienne, but it marked her fourth start of the year. She broke her maiden in her second outing back in late June of 2011 at Churchill, then was away from the races until January of this year.
Third, and then a 17 1/2-length winner in a pair of allowance/optional claiming races at Gulfstream Park, Authenticity ran second to Ciao Bella in her black-type debut March 30 in Gulfstream's Rampart. The La Troienne victory improved her record to 3-2-1 from 7 starts.
Authenticity paid $12.20, $4.80, and $3.40. On Fire Baby paid $4.80 and $2.80, while Believe You Can returned $2.20 to show. The 2-5 exacta paid $57.
Class Included, who was cross-entered in the May 4 Distaff Turf Mile, finished 2 1/2 lengths back in fourth and was followed by More Chocolate, Imposing Grace, and Draw It.