Uneven Performance Haunts Thousand Words’ 2020 Kentucky Derby Ambitions
Two early wins on the Road to the Kentucky Derby suggested strongly that Thousand Words was the colt to watch–and then two disappointing runs back to back threatened to derail his ambitions.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby is called a long one because most people understand there are many races to be won. But it’s also physically long, with virtually every qualifying race at least a mile in length. For contrast, most races run at a typical thoroughbred race track on any given race day are between four furlongs and seven-and-a-half furlongs in length.
Thousand Words’ Trainer
According to trainer Bob Baffert, Thousand Words is a natural for the long distance of the Kentucky Derby that can challenge many young thoroughbreds.
It’s hard (and perhaps foolhardy) to discount Baffert’s judgement: He’s taken nearly a dozen horses to money finishes in the Kentucky Derby, starting with a third-place finish with Indian Charlie in 1998, and over the years resulted in five Kentucky Derby wins.
Thousand Words’ Jockey
One of Baffert’s go-to jockeys, Florent Geroux, will ride Thousand Words at Churchill Downs on September 5th.
He’s no stranger to the big time, having ridden in both the Kentucky Derby (aboard Gun Runner in 2016) and the Preakness (aboard Owendale in 2019). He has ranked among the top 100 jockeys in both winnings and earnings for the last nine years.
Thousand Words’ Recent Form
Unlike others on the roster, Thousand Words put points on the RTKD scoreboard early when he nailed his first KD qualifying win in the Los Alamitos Futurity in December 2019, and then scored another win at the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park in early February 2020. Those two wins gave him 20 Road points and for a time, he was among the leaders on the RTKD scoreboard.
But then he pulled an embarrassing fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March. Trainer Bob Baffert didn’t mince words in his comments to reporters after that race. “I was really disappointed with his race. He’s a much better horse than that.”
What followed was a stumble after the break in the non-RTKD Oaklawn Stakes—which Thousand Words subsequently finished in 11th place.
In his next RTKD performance in July, he managed to recoup some of his earlier momentum with a second place at the Los Alamitos Derby. His last RTKD run was in early August: The Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar—which he won, beating Honor A.P. by nearly two lengths.
Does Thousand Words have a Realistic Shot at a Win?
With 83 RTKD points cementing him on the 2020 KD scoreboard at Number 7, Thousand Words certainly deserves respect—and the Kentucky Derby betting sites put his chances around 12-1, certainly a sign that he’s earned his right to be in the big race, but also a sign of doubts about his chances.
I suspect those odds are accurately pessimistic.