By Richard Rosenblatt
One of the first days of multiple Kentucky Derby prep races provided nothing super surprising as favorites Thousand Words and Tiz the Law came up winners in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) and the Holy Bull (G3), respectively, on Saturday, and Max Player and Mischevious Alex pulled mild upsets in the Withers (G3) and the Swale (G3), respectively.
Thousand Words, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, gave two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert career victory No. 3,000, and he now has a Derby contender unbeaten in all three races. The race, with a purse of $100,000, is named for an owner Baffert used to train for.
The win at Santa Anita was worth 10 Derby qualifying points, and gives Thousand Words a total of 20 – good for third place on the leaderboard, behind Storm the Court and Tiz the Law (both with 22).
Thousand Words ($3.20) was ridden by Flavien Prat, Baffert’s other entry, High Velocity, was third in the five-horse field.
At Gulfstream Park, Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law ($4.60), with Manny Franco aboard, rebounded nicely from the only loss of his career with a convincing three-length win in the $250,000 Holy Bull. The colt is trained by Barclay Tagg, who guided Funny Cide to victories in the Derby and Preakness in 2003.
Tiz the Law is now 3-for-4, including a win in the Champagne (G1) in 2019. Tagg said he would look to target the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 21 for Tiz the Law.
“His race was perfect. We told (Franco), ‘Stay off the rail no matter what you have to do. Lose the ground and go around them,’” said Tagg. “It worked out perfectly.”
With a strong run on the outside, Max Player ($12.80) overtook Morning Qb and 9-5 favorite Shotski in winning the $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct by 3 ¼ lengths in his stakes debut for trainer Linda Rice. The son of Honor Code earned 10 Derby qualifying points and ranks 13th on the leaderboard. The Derby field is limited to the top 20 Derby qualifiers.
Rice said she will target Max Player for the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 4, where the Derby qualifying points are 100-40-20-10 for the top four finishers.
In the seven-furlong Swale on Holy Bull undercard, Cash Is King and L C Racing’s Mischevious Alex ($11.80) cruised to a seven-length victory with Irad Ortiz, Jr., in the irons.
The colt is trained by John Servis, who conditioned 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. Servis doesn’t believe his horse can get the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance, but Derby fever can strike at any time.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.