By Emily Shields
If you’ve been watching every race of the 2020 Del Mar meeting with TVG, then you know what an important meeting this has been for trainers who missed part of the spring due to Santa Anita being shut down over the COVID-19 pandemic. With both Uncle Chuck and Anneau d’Or scheduled to scratch, the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes with Kentucky Derby points on the line comes down to two horses, Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner and top Derby prospect Honor A. P., and unbeaten Cezzane.
Honor A. P. has the class, as the $850,000 purchase by Honor Code won the Santa Anita Derby impressively over Authentic and Rushie. Authentic came back to win the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1), and Rushie was third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. But Honor A. P. is already in the Kentucky Derby field by points, and trainer John Shirreffs is unlikely to have him cranked for this spot when he needs to conserve himself for the Derby in five weeks on September 5. Mike Smith will ride.
The horse that needs to win in this Del Mar contest is Cezanne. Drawn outside the field of six that will scratch down to four, Cezanne is a $3.65 million sons of Curlin out of the Bernardini mare Achieving. He is unbeaten in two starts, but has yet to try stakes company. He faced older horses when he won over a mile at Los Alamitos on July 2, and gets Flavien Prat aboard again for this 1 1/16-mile contest. He has had two quick workouts in a row for this, and has to win to guarantee a spot in the Derby.
Baffert’s other runner is Thousand Words, who was once considered his top Kentucky Derby prospect. A Grade 2 winner as a juvenile, Thousand Words has not won since the Robert B Lewis Stakes (G3) on February 1. He ran fourth in the San Felipe (G2), 11th on a sloppy track in the Oaklawn Stakes, and then second in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) behind Uncle Chuck, who was entered for this race but will go to the Travers at Saratoga next week. Abel Cedillo will be up on the Baffert runner; last week he rode Maximum Security to victory in the San Diego (G2) over this same trip. A cut back in distance could help Thousand Words.
Kiss Today Goodbye rounds out the field. Eric Kruljac trains the son of Cairo Prince, who broke his maiden on February 22 going a mile with a good speed figure, then ran tenth in his first try against older horses and winners May 17. He hasn’t run since, but has had three local works in preparation.
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