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Thousand Words Back on His Game for Oct. 3 Preakness

Art Collector Breezes Easy Half-Mile at Churchill

Swiss Skydiver Breezes for Possible Preakness Start

Jesus’ Team Breezes, Dr Post and Happy Saver Passing Preakness

BALTIMORE – With blinkers back on, Thousand Words turned in the type of work Saturday morning at Churchill Downs that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert again is regarding him as a solid prospect for the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes (G1) at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Under jockey Florent Geroux, the colt co-owned by Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm completed five furlongs in 1:00.60 and galloped out another furlong in 1:13.60. The look and time of the work was in sharp contrast to the effort he put in last weekend – a nothing-special 1:02.40 with blinkers off – that left Baffert questioning if the son of Pioneerof the Nile was ready for the final leg of this year’s Triple Crown series. 

“We were hoping that he would do something like this,” Baffert said from California. “He had to work better than he did last week. Last week, he was just sort of lazy and didn’t get into it, but now he worked really well.”

Baffert is aiming for his record-breaking eighth victory in the Preakness with Thousand Words and Authentic, winner of the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1). Authentic is scheduled for his final pre-Preakness work on Monday, but Baffert said that he might move the breeze ahead to Sunday because there is rain in the forecast.

Thousand Words, a three-time stakes winner, was on course for the Preakness, but the lackluster breeze put his status in question. Although Thousand Words typically works with blinkers on and had them on for two of his stakes victories, the equipment was not used last weekend.

“I know we always work him in a blinkers and we should have worked him in blinkers the last time,” Baffert said. “That might have had something to do with it.”

Baffert said that Geroux was excited about the work and told him that Thousand Words felt like a different horse. While he will wait to see how Thousand Words looks to him when he arrives in Louisville, Ky. on Sunday, Baffert acknowledged that he has to consider him for the Preakness. 

“I feel better about it,” Baffert said. “This week he was very willing, which is very good. You want to see a horse that is very willing and he was very willing today.”       

Baffert said he has not decided whether Thousand Words will wear blinkers if he goes in the Preakness.

Art Collector Breezes Easy Half-Mile at Churchill

Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector, winner of the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby and Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2) in his last two starts, worked a half-mile Saturday morning at Churchill Downs in 48 seconds, seventh-fastest of 78 works recorded at the distance.

Working at 7:30 and with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard, the son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini was clocked galloping out five-eighths of a mile in a powerful 1:00.40 after recording eighth-mile splits of 12.20 seconds, 24.20 and 35.40.

“Brian and I discussed it beforehand, and that’s what we were shooting for,” said trainer Tommy Drury about the methodical splits, “I told Brian, ‘He’s a 12s kind of horse. He seems to do that easy enough, so let’s just do what he does easily.’ Kind of textbook: 48, out in a minute. I think they had him three-quarters (of a mile) in 1:13. He seems to have bounced out of it well. Now we just stay out of his way for a week.”

Said Hernandez: “He amazes you every time he goes out there. He just does everything so easy. He knows his job. Again this morning, he got under the wire and jumped up and took off again. He knows what the pattern has been with him and he’s gotten into the routine and does his own thing out there.”

The Preakness will mark the Triple Crown debut for Lunsford and Drury. Art Collector was scheduled to run in the Kentucky Derby but was withdrawn on the morning of entries with a minor foot issue, caused when he nicked the bulb of his left front heel in a routine gallop. Art Collector’s three timed workouts since, including five-eighths of a mile in 59.40 last week, suggest he’s in top form.

“I think he got plenty out of his work last week, so we were just looking for something maintenance this week,” Drury said, “and that’s kind of his maintenance work. Brian was letting him cruise along. I didn’t see that he ever moved his hands. We got exactly what we were looking for.”

Allied Racing’s Mr. Big News walked the shedrow in trainer Bret Calhoun’s Churchill barn Saturday morning, the day after working a half-mile in 50.40 seconds. Gabriel Saez will ride the Kentucky Derby third-place finisher. Calhoun reported via text that Mr. Big News “came back great” from the work.

Swiss Skydiver Breezes for Possible Preakness Start

Peter J. Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Churchill Downs Saturday morning. A start against the boys by the multiple graded-stakes winner in the Preakness under consideration.

The 3-year-old daughter of Daredevil, who finished second in the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill, has met males once previously, finishing second behind Preakness contender Art Collector in the July 11 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.

Swiss Skydiver, winner the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga in her next start, has also won the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Fantasy (G3), and Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

Paul Pompa Jr.’s Country Grammer, who finished fifth in the Travers (G1) at Saratoga, breezed a half-mile in 50.25 seconds Saturday morning at Belmont in preparation for a scheduled Preakness start.

Grupo Seven C Stable’s Jesus’s Team breezed five furlongs in 1:03.40 at Monmouth Park Saturday morning.

“It’s was perfect. His work was amazing,” trainer Jose D’Angelo said. “Like his last work, his work today was very strong. He [galloped] out after the stretch very well.”

Jesus’ Team, who finished third in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, is scheduled to van to Pimlico Sunday. Jevian Toledo is scheduled to ride Jesus’ Team for the first time Saturday.

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said Saturday he pushed back a workout for John Fanelli, Cash is King, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley’s Ny Traffic to Sunday. The son of Cross Traffic’s status for the Preakness will hinge on Sunday’s breeze. Second in the Louisiana Derby (G2), Matt Winn (G3) and Haskell (G1), in which he was beaten a nose by Authentic, Ny Traffic has not worked since running eighth behind in the Kentucky Derby, from which he emerged with a cut in his left front ankle.

Godolphin’s homebred Jim Dandy (G2) winner Mystic Guide also had a scheduled work Saturday postponed until Sunday, trainer Michael Stidham said. Mystic Guide returned to the work tab Sept. 19 with a half-mile breeze in 48.60 seconds at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

“We had a muddy racetrack this morning so I’m going to work him tomorrow,” Stidham said. “We’re more likely to be running in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. It’s not 100 percent, but we’re doubtful for the Preakness.”

Wertheimer & Frere’s undefeated Federico Tesio winner Happy Saver and St. Elias Stable’s Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Dr Post are no longer Preakness candidates, trainer Todd Pletcher reported Saturday. Happy Saver, who improved to 3-0 with his victory in Laurel Park’s Preakness prep Sept. 7, worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:01.09 Friday on the Oklahoma training track in Saratoga.

“I don’t plan to run anything at Pimlico,” Pletcher said via text.