Proving that Kentucky Derby futures boards and futures bettors view such matters through a kaleidoscope, Medina Spirit finished second in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park. At 9/1, he needed a furious stretch rally to even get near race winner and fellow Bob Baffert stablemate, Life Is Good.

Sham Stakes Finish-Derby Futures
Life Is Good won Saturday’s Sham Stakes by three-quarters of a length over stablemate Medina Spirit. Kentucky Derby futures boards rewarded Medina Spirit with an odds cut while leaving favorite Life Is Good alone. (Image: Benoit Photo)

And yet, Medina Spirit parlayed that three-quarters of a length loss into significant moves up both Circa Sports’ and William Hill’s Nevada’s Derby futures boards. Circa carved Medina Spirit’s odds by 33% — from 75/1 to 50/1. William Hill went further, knocking Medina Spirit’s odds from 100/1 to 40/1.

As for Life Is Good? All he did was win the Sham in near gate-to-wire fashion as the 1/5 favorite. He did so clocking a 101 Beyer Speed Figure and 112 Equibase Speed Figure for the two-turn, one-mile tour. And yet, the fact Life Is Good made the Sham interesting by checking out down the stretch caused bettors to check out other options. It also caused more than a few folks to question whether Life Is Good can tackle 1-1/4 miles.

Life Is Good sits at +950 at Circa and 8/1 at William Hill – basically where he left off before leaving almost everyone in the Santa Anita dust.

Baffert, Smith, Into Mischief: Does This Sound Familiar?

It’s the “almost everyone” that has bettors blinking. Life Is Good left no doubt he was the best of the five-horse Sham field. He got bumped coming out of the gate, but by the quarter-mile mark, he built a three-length lead. At the three-quarter pole, it was an effortless four lengths.

And that’s where it was entering the stretch, which is also where things got interesting. Apparently channeling the name of his sire – Into Mischief – Life Is Good decided matters were well in hand and he could slow down and enjoy the ride. That spurred Medina Spirit into a furious rally that forced Life Is Good’s jockey, Mike Smith, to the whip. He held on for a three-quarters length victory.

If a Baffert Derby prodigy ridden by Smith checking out down the stretch sounds familiar, well, it should. Anyone remember Authentic’s Haskell Stakes escapades last July where the eventual Derby winner – ridden by Smith – hit cruise control down the Monmouth Park stretch? That allowed Ny Traffic to nearly catch him at the end while casting doubts on Authentic’s ability to run 10 furlongs. Until he did six weeks later at Churchill Downs.

Sham Stakes Can Provide Derby Futures Board Insight

If you need further déjà vu, Authentic – another Into Mischief offspring – won last year’s Sham by nearly eight lengths. He won despite checking out down the stretch and nearly dumping jockey Drayden Van Dyke.

Giving you an idea of Life Is Good’s dominance and Medina Spirit’s abilities, it was another 13 lengths back to third-place Parnelli. No matter to the futures boards. That cut Parnelli’s odds in half at Circa – from 200/1 to 100/1. William Hill lowered them from 100/1 to 90/1.

2021 Kentucky Derby Futures: Top Contenders

Circa Sports William Hill Nevada
Life Is Good +950 8/1
Essential Quality 15/1 8/1
Caddo River 25/1 25/1
Arabian Prince 25/1
Prime Factor 27/1 22/1
Señor Buscador 40/1 45/1
Classier 45/1 26/1
Greatest Honour 45/1 45/1
Jackie’s Warrior 45/1 40/1
Highly Motivated 50/1 40/1
Medina Spirit 50/1 40/1
Fenway 55/1
The Great One 55/1
Prate 55/1 35/1
Spielberg 55/1 35/1
Mutasaabeq 60/1 50/1
Mandaloun 65/1 40/1
Hot Rod Charlie 65/1 50/1
Alain Barows 65/1
Rock Your World 65/1

Elsewhere on the Derby futures boards coming out of the weekend, Capo Kane’s Jerome Stakes win hasn’t brought him to William Hill’s attention yet. But, it did knock him from 200/1 to 70/1 at Circa, where he was a late add last week.

Mutasaabeq’s return to dirt returned him to the winner’s circle. After he won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Mutasaabeq’s odds dropped from 85/1 to 60/1 at Circa. William Hill dropped them further, from 75/1 to 50/1.

Essential Quality remains William Hill’s futures favorite at 8/1. He is 15/1 at Circa.