The headliner in this Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita on Saturday is the undefeated colt Thousand Words. Considered to be among Bob Baffert’s top Kentucky Derby prospects, he is sure to be the heavy favorite to take home the 10 Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner of this race.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that Thousand Words will be forwardly placed throughout this 1 1/16 miles event, as he is expected to be sharing the early lead with his stablemate High Velocity (#5). Yet it should not be assumed that these horses will hook up with each other to either one’s detriment, as both hail from the same barn. It’s likely that a scenario similar to the one that we saw in the Los Alamitos Futurity will play out, in which High Velocity serves as a pacesetter for his stablemate.
If Thousand Words (#2) repeats that Los Alamitos victory he’s going to be a handful here. He has recorded TimeformUS Speed Figures of 113 in both starts to date, and those are clearly the highest numbers in this field. Yet, despite those flashing figures, it’s not as if he’s been dominant in victory, having had to fight on both occasions. He deserves credit for fending off the classy Anneau d’Or to earn that graded stakes victory last time, but he did so over a wet, sealed strip that was slightly favoring forwardly-placed runners. I consider him to be the most likely winner, but an easy victory is never a foregone conclusion in the early season Derby preps, as so many horses still possess upside who are capable of sudden improvement.
I do prefer Thousand Words to his stablemate, High Velocity (#5), who is the co-second choice on the morning line. High Velocity just strikes me as a runner who is ultimately going to be most effective over sprint distances. He showed good speed to win his first two starts around one turn and just came up empty in the lane last time despite having set a moderate pace. It seems unlikely that he would be the one to cause an upset.
I’m instead interested in recent maiden winner TIZAMAGICIAN (#3) as the best alternative to the favorite. Some may be discouraged by the fact that it took this horse 6 starts to break his maiden, but he’s improved significantly since stretching out in distance, having run well in all of his two-turn attempts. And last time he even raised his game to a new level as he dominated a one-mile maiden event over this track on New Year’s Day. While the pace of that race isn’t rated as fast by TimeformUS, Tizamagician found himself pressing a pace that ultimately fell apart and did well to maintain his advantage through the lane after opening up a large lead in upper stretch. The race was dominated by closers behind him as the runner-up rallied from last and the third-place finisher also closed from the back of the pack.
Richard Mandella is rarely this aggressive with young, improving runners, having only made this maiden-to-graded-stakes move 6 times during the past 5 years, according to DRF Formulator. Yet among those 6 starters are stable stars Paradise Woods and Omaha Beach, who both exited maiden victories to immediately assert their superiority over stakes foes. Tizamagician may not be in that league, but he did earn an impressive 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure last time, which isn’t that far off the numbers earned by the favorite. Furthermore, he came back out of that race to easily work a very encouraging four furlongs on January 14, signaling that he’s continued to improve since that last start. A little extra distance only figures to help his cause and he projects to sit a great trip just in behind the speeds. At around his 3-1 morning line, I think he offers fair value.
The only other horse that I would consider throwing into the mix is Royal Act (#4). This turf specialist would have to improve on dirt to factor here, but he is out of a dam who was best on turf and is half-brother to an accomplished dirt sprinter. He seems like the type that could pick up pieces late if others tire, so I’ll use him underneath in exotics.
Exacta Box: 2,3
Trifecta: 3 with 2,4 with 1,2,4,5,6