Thousand Words showed plenty of grit — and likely ate some early — in the $100,500, Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes Feb. 1 at Santa Anita Park, closing from off the pace with a game run after taking plenty of kickback along the rail.
Coming off a game effort from on the pace in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 7, the 3-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt ran his record to 3-for-3 and brought win No. 3,000 to Bob Baffert in a race that is close to the Hall of Fame trainer’s heart. The Lewis is named after the legendary late Thoroughbred owner for whom Baffert campaigned greats like 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Silver Charm.
“I’ve always thought things happen for a reason,” Baffert said. “Bob Lewis day, a horse called Thousand Words, going for win 3,000, you can’t make that up. I had a feeling it was going to happen in this race.”
Jockey Flavien Prat saved ground aboard Thousand Words in the 1 1/16-mile test, rating off the pace set by fellow Baffert trainee High Velocity. With Joel Rosario in the irons, High Velocity set quarter-mile fractions of :23.65, :47.20, and 1:11.44 while Thousands Words tracked along from fourth in the six-horse field.
“He ran very well,” Prat said of the 3-5 favorite. “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.”
Thousand Words shifted out off the turn for home, found a seam between horses as Tizamagician made a bid after pressing the pace, and lengthened stride to wear down the front-runner through a 1:37.14 mile. The final time was 1:43.64 on a fast track, the margin of victory three-quarters of a length.
“Being stuck down inside, he was taking the worst of it,” Baffert said. “But you could tell in that last 50 yards, he was really getting going. Prat said he’s getting better. He’s a sort of immature colt, but he’s got that big, long stride and he sort of grinds. The farther the better for him. He’s progressing with every race, and to win three races in a row like he’s done, that’s pretty impressive.”
Royal Act kicked in four wide to take second, and High Velocity held on to finish a neck back in third. The order of finish was completed by Tizamagician, Encoder, and Zimba Warrior.
“I thought down the backside maybe High Velocity was going to steal it,” Baffert said. “He hung in there really well.”
Bred in Florida by Hardacre Farm, Thousand Words is out of the Pomeroy mare Pomeroys Pistol, a multiple graded stakes winner who was Grade 1-placed.
Thousand Words brought $1 million at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale; he has earned $211,000 for Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm. He picked up 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and ranks third on the leaderboard with 20 points.
Baffert, a 67-year-old native of Nogales, Ariz., came over from Quarter Horse racing in the 1980s after graduating from the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. He is the only trainer to have won the Triple Crown in the past 40 years, first winning with American Pharoah in 2015 and again in 2018 with Justify .
“I feel very blessed and fortunate that I’ve been able to last this long in the business and do so well coming from the Quarter Horse business,” Baffert said. “I came over here with Mike Pegram and Hal Earnhardt, and after all these years, they’re still with me.”
Baffert also recognized longtime assistant Jimmy Barnes, who stood with him in the winner’s circle as he accepted the Robert B. Lewis trophy.
“Jimmy, he’s been there through most of the years; we’ve been through a lot of battles together,” Baffert said. “He’s a big part of the team, and without him it would be tough. I’ve had a lot of good people work for me in this game.”