Tis the season to be jolly…especially if you think you have a Kentucky Derby contender!

As 2019 comes to a close, dreams of the 2020 Run for the Roses are running rampant in the barns of those blessed with a talented two-year old. When the calendar turns on January 1, the race is on to the first Saturday in May. Yes, in this game things can change in a moment’s notice and by racing standards Derby 146 is a long way off, but it’s never too soon to start thinking mint julep.

Serious Thoroughbred racing fans and the casual sports enthusiast usually think about one particular trainer when it comes Kentucky Derby time. That conditioner is the California-based Bob Baffert. This Arizona native comes to mind with good reason as he has won the world’s most famous race five times (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015, 2018).

As we begin to develop our list of 2020 Kentucky Derby contenders, we ask if Baffert has a worthy one. After the December 7 Los Alamitos Futurity, we can answer that with a “YES”.

In just his second career start, Thousand Words ran a race that can be summarized in just two…”Derby horse”. This was not a showcase that featured a huge margin of victory, but rather a mile and a sixteenth back-alley brawl that tested this son of Pioneerof the Nile. Running in close company with a pair of talented horses for the entirety, Words displayed the noun trainers can’t necessarily teach…heart.

As this Florida-bred owned by Albaugh Family Stables dueled early with stable-mate High Velocity and then fought Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Anneau d’Or all the way to the wire, his crafty conditioner found out a little something-something about this youngster. Blessed with the physical tools already, this first essay around two turns spelled out what is inside Thousand Words. The road to the Kentucky Derby and beyond is full of challenges, question is how do you respond when looking them in the eye?

After some swift opening fractions (22.47 quarter, 45.87 half mile), Thousand Words completed the distance under jockey Flavian Prat in 1:43.19. and prevailed by a neck This was his second win in as many starts and the grade 1 victory pushed his career earnings to $151,000.

The 2020 path for Thousand Words may not yet be on paper, but part of the narrative should include “Kentucky Derby”.