Thousand Words continued to build his Kentucky Derby credentials in Saturday’s $100,000 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita, gamely prevailing by three-quarters of a length, and the unbeaten 3-year-old delivered Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his 3,000th North American victory in the process.
“I’ve always thought things happen for a reason,” said Baffert, who counts 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm among the many horses he trained for the late Bob and Beverly Lewis. “Running in the Bob Lewis, with a horse named Thousand Words and going for 3,000 wins. I mean you can’t make that up. I had a feeling it was gonna happen in this race, I’ve had a lot of good people work for me through the years, the first 50 wins were probably the hardest, 100 were life changers. I feel very blessed and fortunate.”
Baffert notched a record eight Lewis triumph, and the two-time Triple Crown winner will be seeking a record-equaling sixth Kentucky Derby victory this spring. Thousand Words is his top prospect presently, improving to 3-for-3 after posting a maiden tally at Santa Anita in late October and neck decision in the Dec. 7 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). He has shown grit and determination in all three wins, an admirable trait for a Kentucky Derby contender.
Thousand Words left the six-horse Lewis starting gate as the 3-5 favorite with Flavien Prat. After racing within striking range along the inside, he angled out and launched his bid leaving the far turn. The bay colt eventually wore down pacesetting stablemate High Velocity, who tried hard all the way after establishing fractions in :23.65, :47.20 and 1:11.44 as the 5-2 second choice. Thousand Words forged his way to a short lead in deep stretch, and dug in late to repel the fast-finishing Royal Act on the far outside.
The winner completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.64.
Owned by Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm, Thousand Words commanded $1 million at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is by 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Baffert has previously said Thousand Words reminds him of champion and $17-million earner Arrogate.
“He’s got that big long stride and the further the better with him,” Baffert said. “You could tell about the last 50 yards he was really getting going. He came back he wasn’t even tired so that is a good sign. He is progressing with every race and to win three in a row like that it is pretty impressive.”
“He ran very well,” Prat added. “He put me in a good spot and he was comfortable down there. He took the dirt (in his face) well and when I asked him to run, he really accelerated.”
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Lewis awarded a total of 17 points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1) toward a berth in a 20-horse field, and Thousand Words now sits third on the Leaderboard with 20 points.
Royal Act, who switched from turf to dirt in his third career start for Peter Eurton, edged High Velocity by a neck for second at 18-1. High Velocity wound up nearly a length better than 5-1 Tizamagician in fourth. Encoder and Zimba Warrior rounded out the finish.
Bred in Florida by Hardacre Farm, Thousand Words is the first stakes winner out of the Pomeroy mare Pomeroy’s Pistol, a multiple Grade 2-winning sprinter. She possessed high speed, but there are stamina influences in the female family. And long-striding Thousand Words appears built to relish longer distances.