Thousand Words, who had largely slid under the radar since winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) in February for trainer Bob Baffert, revived his season and sealed a spot in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby when upsetting odds-on favorite Honor A. P. in the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday.
In a field reduced to four with the scratches of Uncle Chuck and Anneau D'Or, Thousand Words and Abel Cedillo shot to the front in the 1 1/16-mile Shared Belief and posted an opening half mile in :47.93 as stablemate Cezanne and Honor A. P. took up stalking positions. On the second turn through six furlongs completed in 1:12.33, Cezanne in the two-path and Honor A.P. three-wide ranged up to near even terms with Thousand Words.
As that trio hit the top of the stretch, Thousand Words looked ready to be overtaken, but he continued on steadily and it was both Cezanne and Honor A. P. that began to falter. Thousand Words had a clear lead inside the eighth pole and easily held off one final surge from Honor A.P. and jockey Mike Smith that proved only second best.
"[Baffert] just told me to warm him up real well, then get him out of there. Then see what happens. He broke well and I saw I could take the lead, so I did," Cedillo said. "He was going along there steady, steady, steady. Then we got it done.”
Honor A. P. finished three-quarter lengths back and was followed across the wire by longshot Kiss Today Goodbye, who overtook a fading Cezanne late. Thousand Words, who paid $20.40 as the third-choice in the wagering, completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.85.
The Shared Belief provided Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale for the top four finishers. Honor A. P. is comfortably in the Derby field with 130, while Thousand Words jumps from 18th on the leaderboard to 7th with 83 points.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith offered his thoughts on the effort from Honor A. P.
“He ran well, but we’re disappointed he didn’t win. I haven’t been able to get on him in the mornings, and I think that’s made a difference," Smith said.
As part of COVID-19 restrictions, Del Mar jockeys are not allowed on the backstretch during training hours.
"He’s just been going along there not doing much in the mornings," Smith continued. "I need to be on him and get more out of him. But that’s the way it is now; that’s just the way it is. This distance (mile and one-sixteenth) is too short for him, too. Just not his day.”
Owned by Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm, Thousand Words improves his record to 7: 4-1-0 with earnings of more than $300,000. The son of Pioneerof the Nile -- who brought $1 million at auction as a yearling -- had a strong winter with wins in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) in December followed by the Robert B. Lewis.
However, the good times didn't last as Thousand Words proceeded to be no factor in both the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita and April 11 Oaklawn Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
After the Shared Belief, Baffert said Thousand Words started to show improvement in late spring and signaled a potential return to form when running second behind stablemate Uncle Chuck in the July 4 Los Alamitos Derby (G3).
"I could tell when we got down here that he was a different horse from Los Alamitos and the real Thousand Words showed up today," Baffert said. "His whole mind changed. His color has changed. He had soured out on me, but we got him going the right way. I think he earned his way to the Derby.”