Is it too early to give LIFE IS GOOD the Kentucky Derby
champion's hardware? It appears, trainer Bob Baffert might take his current
three-year-old Derby contender down a similar path as he did with last year's
Kentucky Derby Winner AUTHENTIC.
The white-haired trainer debuted AUTHENTIC and LIFE IS GOOD
in November Del Mar starts. AUTHENTIC kicked off his career with a 5 ½ furlong
score while LIFE IS GOOD made easy work of 6 ½ furlongs to start his racing
Baffert used the Grade III, Sham Stakes as the second start
for both horses. AUTHENTIC and LIFE IS GOOD ran similar races in taking the
Sham trophy and the 10 Kentucky Derby Qualifying points. Both jumped out to an
early lead, held the lead and ran somewhat greenly in the stretch.
Last year, jockey Drayden Van Dyke had to pull up on
AUTHNTIC in the stretch run as he almost appeared ready to jump the rail,
before pulling away as he drifted wide in the stretch.
This year, jockey Mike Smith confidently held LIFE IS GOOD
into the stretch and asked the son of INTO MISCHIEF for just a little more in
the final strides as MEDINA SPIRIT tried to make things interesting at the
wire. When asked for a little more by Smith to ward off the MEDINA SPIRIT
semi-challenge, LIFE IS GOOD did like AUTHENTIC and drifted outward a little
before settling. It's clear from watching the 2021 Sham Stakes, LIFE IS GOOD
could have won going away if Mike Smith cracked the whip and asked his horse
for its all. LIFE IS GOOD has plenty more than he showed on Saturday.
Baffert noticed the late race similarities saying in the
Sham winners' circle, "it reminded me a lot of AUTHENTIC last year when he did
the same thing and he looked like a drunk coming down. He almost hit the rail
Of LIFE IS GOOD's Sham, Baffert went on, "to get the
two-turns out of the way is big," adding, "It's exciting to pass the two-turn
test." The trainer puts a lot of weight into LIFE IS GOOD's Sham effort, "I
always feel like the second race is the most important. You are going up
against winners. It's the kind of race we were looking for."
Let's looks at LIFE IS GOOD's Sham victory to see how it
compares to the reigning Kentucky Derby Champion's run.
LIFE IS GOOD ran an Equibase Speed Figure of 112 compared to
113 for AUTHENTIC. The top two numbers in Sham history.
AUTHENTIC's Sham fractions were 23.87, 47.94, 1:12.18,
1:24.30 with a final time of 1:37.57
LIFE IS GOOD ran significantly faster at 23.56, 46.67,
1.10:66, 1.23:24 finishing in 1:36.63.
Despite the faster fractions, jockey Smith believes
horseplayers haven't seen the best of LIFE IS GOOD. "He's just, very, very
talented. We don't know yet how talented. We haven't even gotten close yet" is
how Smith described his horse.
It might be a couple of months before we get to see more of
LIFE IS GOOD's talent. If Baffert follows the AUTHENTIC plan, LIFE IS GOOD's
next start is likely to be the Grade II, San Felipe Stakes on March 6, 2021.
It will be a chance for LIFE IS GOOD to add a
little more distance and take on other highly regarded Derby hopefuls. If he
wins the San Felipe, like AUTHENTIC, the next stop is likely the Kentucky Derby
where he's likely to be one of the favorites to wear the roses.