This spring after dull performances from Thousand Words when he ran fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes and 11th in the Oaklawn Stakes, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert gave the dual graded winner a freshening, believing the colt had lost his will to perform.
That desire has apparently been regained. Racing Aug. 1 in the $98,000 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar, the 3-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt pulled off a three-quarter-length upset of heavily favored Honor A. P., one of the leaders on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Though Thousand Words had never taken the early lead in six previous starts, he did Saturday under an aggressive ride from jockey Abel Cedillo. Breaking from the inside post in the field of four after the scratches of Uncle Chuck and Anneau d’Or, he set an easy opening quarter-mile in :23.89.
Sensing that Thousand Words was cruising up front, jockey Mike Smith on Honor A. P. sent his mount after the leader, and Honor A. P. advanced from fourth passing the grandstand into second leaving the first of two turns.
Midway down the backstretch, Flavien Prat on Cezanne let his colt come between the two, and in tandem Cezanne and Honor A. P. chased Thousand Words through a half-mile in :47.93 and three-quarters in 1:12.33.
Leaving the second turn, it was Cezanne who seemed to be traveling most effortlessly of the three leaders, but he weakened while Thousand Words responded under right-handed urging from Cedillo.
The winner, owned by Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm, raced 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.85, paying $20.40 for a $2 win wager.
“[Baffert] just told me to warm him up real well, then get him out of there. Then see what happens,” Cedillo said. “He broke well, and I saw I could take the lead, so I did. He was going along there steady, steady, steady. Then we got it done.”
Honor A. P. lacked his usual acceleration, coming under pressure from Smith early on the second turn and regressing from his performance in a Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby victory in June. Yet he never stopped trying and came on over the final sixteenth to grab second, edging longshot Kiss Today Goodbye by a half-length.
“He ran well, but we’re disappointed he didn’t win,” Smith said. “I haven’t been able to get on him in the mornings, and I think that’s made a difference. He’s just been going along there not doing much in the mornings. 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 is too short for him, too. Just not his day.”
Cezanne, Baffert’s other starter, came up empty late, running last of four starters though beaten just a length and a half for the win.
“Turning for home, I could tell that Honor A. P. wasn’t running like he usually does,” Baffert said. “Cezanne got really tired, but Thousand Words … I could tell when we got down here that he was a different horse from Los Alamitos. The real Thousand Words showed up today. 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.”
Collusion Illusion Holds Off Lexitonian to Win Bing Crosby
Collusion Illusion, who showed he was one of the top 3-year-old sprinters on the West Coast when he won the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera Stakes in June, stacks up quite well with the older sprinters in California, too.
Racing in the $250,000, Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar, the son of Twirling Candy closed from behind a blistering pace and held off a wide rally from Lexitonian to post a nose victory. The win was his first Grade 1, and with the Bing Crosby part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, he earned an automatic, paid berth into the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
Lexitonian’s rally came perhaps a stride too late, though he still finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Law Abidin Citizen. Fourth-place Wildman Jack was another neck back.
Winning jockey Flavien Prat gave Collusion Illusion a favorable trip in the Bing Crosby, settling him in seventh, as five horses scrambled for the early lead with demanding early fractions of :21.58 and :44.73 in the six-furlong race. Content to draft behind rivals, Prat allowed Collusion Illusion to follow the better-moving leaders, and once they grew fatigued in midstretch, he dove his mount down toward the inside.
Fourth with a furlong to run, Collusion Illusion powered past the leaders late, only to nearly get caught on the far outside by Lexitonian, who rallied from last. Far away from one another, Collusion Illusion seemed to not be fully extending himself in the race’s final yards, flicking an ear forward nearing the finish, perhaps not seeing his oncoming rival. He galloped out with energy.
The victory was Prat’s fifth in the Bing Crosby, all since 2014. He now has six stakes wins during the early portion of Del Mar’s summer meet, putting him on pace to challenge for the Del Mar record of 13, set by Rafael Bejarano in 2012, according to track publicity. The meet runs through Sept. 7
Trained by Mark Glatt and owned by Dan Agnew, Rodney Orr, Jerry Schneider and John Xitco, Collusion Illusion raced six furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.41, the slowest winning time in the race since In Summation covered the distance in 1:11.06 over a synthetic surface in 2007. He returned $5.80 as the favorite in a field that was reduced to eight when P R Radio Star and morning-line favorite McKinzie were scratched.