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For a couple of days, Churchill Downs provided the world a much-needed break from virus fatigue.

Running in a month other than May for the first time since World War II -- with no fans and demonstrations on its doorstep -- Churchill put on a show.

The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby didn't lose any of its luster or suspense. But for one Arkansan, Staton Flurry, it was established as the biggest weekend of his racing life on Friday.

As the peaceful demonstrators for social justice marched Saturday, NBC paid recognition to them, but the network kept its primary coverage on the Kentucky Derby.

By the time the horses went to the post, something was known about all 15 entries -- especially heavily-favored Tiz the Law, a New York bred by virtue of vanning from Kentucky to New York for his birth.

This race, though, belonged to Authentic, who broke from the No. 18 post and was lugging out at the start of the race as jockey John Velazquez spurred him to the lead.

Authentic trainer Bob Baffert had been the hard-luck guy with three Derby scratches in the past few months, including minutes before the race when Thousand Words was scratched after falling.

But Authentic went wire to wire, holding off a challenge by Tiz the Law at the head of the stretch to place Baffert in a tie with Ben Jones for most Derby wins with six.

Authentic, who was purchased for $350,000, was the best horse on the first Saturday in September.

This was supposed to be the first full Saturday for college football. Although there were a handful of games, including Arkansas State University at Memphis, it was not the same as having more than 100 games to choose from, including headline games such as Alabama vs. USC.

As live sports have started to reappear on TV from a coronavirus pandemic hiatus, there was appreciation that the long wait was over for the Kentucky Derby. The No. 1 horse race in the world was a major return for sports.

It was still a huge weekend for thoroughbred racing, and probably no one felt it more deeply or profoundly than Flurry, one of three owners of Shedaresthedevil.

Flurry grew up in Hot Springs, caught the horse-racing bug as a young man and was vaulted onto the national scene Friday when his filly won the Kentucky Oaks.

Shedaresthedevil was a 15-1 shot in a field that featured Swiss Skydiver and Gamine, two of the top fillies in the country until Flurry's filly bolted past Gamine and held off Swiss Skydiver by more than a length to win the most prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies in the world.

Flurry is not an overnight sensation, claiming his first horse eight years ago before he graduated from Henderson State University.

Three years ago, he attracted headlines in Arkansas and Louisiana when he named a horse Fournette after LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

At the time, he admitted he was an LSU fan.

Shedaresthedevil set a new Oaks record, covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.64 under jockey Florent Geroux to win the $1.25 million race.

She has now won four of six races in 2020 -- finishing second and third in the other two -- and has career earnings of more than $1.2 million

Flurry now has the No. 1 targeted filly in the country. It didn't happen because of luck, but a lot of hard work.

And Baffert, who is appealing a 15-day suspension at Oaklawn for use of a banned drug on two horses who raced there in the spring, is back on top as the game's leading trainer. Like it or not.


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