Tales from the Crib: Thousand Words

Aug 24, 2020 Kellie Reilly/Brisnet.com

When Amy Tarrant had success as the breeder, owner, and trainer of 2011 Breeders’ Cup competitor Pomeroys Pistol, it was a heartwarming story of a latecomer to the Thoroughbred industry achieving on multiple levels. Now that tale has taken on new dimensions as Pomeroys Pistol’s son, Thousand Words, has become a $1 million yearling and Kentucky Derby (G1) contender.

Tarrant began to get involved in racing after her children were grown. Reviving the equestrian interests of her youth, the Vermont native first picked up retired Thoroughbreds to retrain for the horse show circuit, then gravitated toward the racetrack.

In 2001, Tarrant struck gold right away with her first purchase, Bold World, who won seven stakes including the 2002 Azalea (G3). Soon Tarrant started training her own horses, developing multiple Grade 3 hero Kiss the Kid as well as multiple stakes scorer Indy Wind (now best known as the sire of reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Starship Jubilee).

Pomeroys Pistol was the pinnacle, an achievement all the sweeter as her first homebred graded stakes winner. Tarrant had bought her dam, Prettyatthetable, for $75,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2004. By Hall of Famer Point Given and out of multiple stakes winner Swearingen, Prettyatthetable never raced, but she proved a valuable broodmare by producing five winners. Three of them were stakes performers, led by $574,678-earner Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy. 

Bred and raced in the name of Tarrant’s Ocala property, Hardacre Farm, Pomeroys Pistol won or placed in a total of eight stakes. Her marquee victories came in the 2011 Gallant Bloom H. (G2), Forward Gal (G2) and Sugar Swirl (G3), and she was twice runner-up at the top level in the Prioress (G1) and Test (G1). Pomeroys Pistol was also a valiant fourth in that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs, where she chased the pace out wide from post 12, made a bid to vie for the lead in upper stretch, and tired late.

As a broodmare, Pomeroys Pistol visited such prominent stallions as Smart Strike and Malibu Moon. After American Pharoah swept the 2015 Triple Crown, Tarrant decided to send Pomeroys Pistol to his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, in 2016.

“She’s worth it,” Tarrant told the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association when honored as TOBA’s Member of the Month in March 2016. “I was the owner-breeder-trainer of her, so I’m hoping that everything goes well and she has a beautiful baby.”

Tarrant’s words proved prophetic, for her Pioneerof the Nile colt was a looker from his arrival on Jan. 27, 2017.

Hardacre Farm manager Jeff Garen – a fellow Vermonter who first knew Tarrant on the hunter/jumper scene – recalled that people were always drawn to Thousand Words as he stood out in the field. He was the biggest colt, and well put together with beautiful markings. 

But the yet-unnamed youngster was more than pretty. He was also a “standout” for his lovely temperament and good head on his shoulders.

“He grew up as a quiet colt…a loving, kind, good-natured colt from day one,” Garen said.

It was as though Thousand Words already thought of himself as a “grown-up.” He was “never studdish, never rude,” but “always had manners” and acted like a “smart, level-headed colt.”

Garen described him as “the big pet,” although adding at a small, private farm like Hardacre, all the babies are treated as beloved pets. At the same time, they’re raised as nature intended, with the youngsters enjoying the free-spirited play outside that promotes their development.

Thousand Words’ poise was on display when he was offered at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Consigned by Brookdale Farm as agent, the Florida-bred was stabled in a barn up on the hill, near Keeneland’s landmark water tower, where there was a lot of hustle and bustle. 

Brookdale’s Joe Seitz recalled that the colt took all the activity in stride.

“It didn’t take long for him to be completely relaxed,” Seitz said, noting that the yearling was easy to handle and present for the prospective buyers who came to get a closer look.

“He’d walk right out, professional, like a veteran, and knew how to stand.

“He was the kind of horse that ‘gets it’ – doesn’t sweat the small stuff, doesn’t get worked up about anything, bright and mature for his age.”

Between his physical appearance, unflappable mentality, and pedigree, the Pioneerof the Nile-Pomeroys Pistol colt had it all. Accordingly, a bidding war erupted as he toured the ring.

Albaugh Family Stable and Spendthrift Farm joined forces to secure him for $1 million, and they would bestow upon him a most fitting name.

“You know the old saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – he is gorgeous,” Seitz said. “He is an absolute movie star.”

His auction appeal has translated into racing ability. Returned to the Ocala area for his early lessons, Thousand Words stamped himself as a star student for Barry Berkelhammer, who prepares the Albaugh prospects at his Abracadabra Farm. 

“Thousand Words was just a natural. I didn’t really have to teach him a whole lot,” Berkelhammer said, noting that he had a world of talent and just wanted to train.

“He loved to gallop other horses into the ground.”

Thousand Words graduated to join Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who also conditioned his sire Pioneerof the Nile (and American Pharoah) as well as ancestor Point Given. After major scores in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Robert B. Lewis (G3) (where he gave Baffert his 3,000th career win), Thousand Words regressed. But the postponement of the Derby to Sept. 5 has given him the time he needed to flourish once again. 

Back to his best in the Aug. 1 Shared Belief, Thousand Words upset Honor A. P. to arrive at Churchill Downs in winning form. Now along with highly regarded stablemate Authentic, he’ll try to furnish another milestone for Baffert, who is seeking a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby. 

Thousand Words’ blossoming on the racetrack just reinforces the impression made in his early days.  

“It takes class, and that’s what he always had,” Seitz said.

Garen offers the most personal summation:

“He has always been a good boy.”

Foal photos courtesy of Jeff Garen of Hardacre Farm

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