The same day that 2-year-old sensation Life Is Good became the favorite in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool, trainer Bob Baffert said he’s likely to run next in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Life Is Good-Sham
Life Is Good sprinted up the Kentucky Derby futures betting boards. His next test is likely January’s Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park. (Image: Benoit Photo)

Baffert told the Thoroughbred Daily News that Life Is Good will join the Kentucky Derby Trail in the Jan. 2 race. The Grade 3, two-turn mile race happens to be the same race in which Authentic opened his 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby. His win in that race came in his second career start – right after he won his debut at Del Mar during the Bing Crosby Meet.

That road ended with Authentic – an Into Mischief progeny like Life Is Good — winning Baffert’s sixth Derby.

“You can’t get an allowance race for these horses to fill around here,” Baffert told TDN. “I ran Authentic in the Sham last year after he broke his maiden at Del Mar. The Sham looks like a logical spot.”

Tackling Two Turns Provides Crucial Test for Derby Hopefuls

The Sham serves more than a superstitious, déjà vu purpose for Baffert. Aside from the Sham’s 10-4-2-1 Derby points for the top four finishers, it allows the Hall of Fame conditioner to see how his top Derby prospect navigates two turns. After that examination, Baffert will have an idea of what’s next, should Life Is Good pass.

“It will give me a chance to stretch him out. Then, I will decide on what’s next and look at races like the Rebel (Stakes) at Oaklawn,” he said.

The Rebel offers 50-20-10-5 Derby points for its top four finishers.

Nobody Wants to Miss Out on Baffert’s Next Prodigy

The buzz surrounding Life Is Good comes from two factors: Baffert (naturally) and that Nov. 22 maiden debut. There, Life Is Good took apart his fellow maidens by 9-½ lengths, using a sizzling 21.8-second quarter-mile and 44.84 half-mile to decide matters. As the 1/5 favorite, Life Is Good opened with a 90 Beyer Speed Figure and 107 Equibase Speed Figure en route to a 1:15.5 trek for the 6-½ furlongs.

Life Is Good’s connections go deeper than Baffert. China Horse Farm and WinStar Farm own the $525,000 Into Mischief progeny – the same duo that brought you 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify.

Put all this together and you understand why Life Is Good opened as the 5/1 favorite in Churchill Downs’ first Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) pool. He is the second choice behind “All Others,” which opened at 6/5. But, Life Is Good is ahead of likely 2-Year-Old Champion Essential Quality (8/1).

He sits as the 10/1 second favorite on William Hill Nevada’s current Kentucky Derby Futures Board.

Injecting a Little Realism Into Life Is Good’s Hype Machine

Five months from the Derby, Life Is Good’s hype could use a wet blanket and a long memory. Last spring, Baffert brought a formidable Derby armada of Nadal, Charlatan, and Authentic into May. Only Authentic survived injuries and raced through the summer to the Derby.

Meanwhile, in the late spring and early summer, money flooded in on future boards for Cezanne, a $3.5 million purchase expected to be Baffert’s next Derby prodigy. After two easy victories in a maiden special weight and allowance, Cezanne finished dead last in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. Baffert and his connections pulled the Curlin colt off the Derby trail.

That came at the beginning of August. Cezanne hasn’t run since.