Jockey Mike Smith guides Life Is Good to the winner’s circle after their victory in the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes, Saturday, January 2, 2021 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.  © BENOIT PHOTO

Danny Brewer

Questions, questions, and more questions…that’s what travels down the early road to the Kentucky Derby. After the Sham Stakes on January 2, some may be wondering if Bob Baffert is now in the fast lane to the Derby 147 starting gates.

The answer to that is an unequivocal “yes”. Big Race Bob earned his record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby win in 2020 with Authentic. The hall of fame conditioner knows a thing or two about getting a horse to the winner’s circle on the first Saturday in May and the Sham told us he has another real contender. What we must wonder now is will he follow an “Authentic” plan?

Last year, the California-based Baffert won the Sham with a front-running Into Mischief colt in his second lifetime start. This year, Baffert won the Sham with a front-running Into Mischief colt in his second lifetime start. Last year it was Authentic, this time it is an appropriately named Life Is Good.

The comparisons will come naturally because of some of the similarities like same pappy, same trainer, and like running style. Both won the one mile Sham with a geared down effort in the stretch. A stable-mate ran second as well in compact fields. The good news for Baffert is Life Is Good covered the distance quicker (1:36.63 compared to 1:37.57) and the second place finisher, Medina Spirit, was much closer (3/4 length versus 7 ¾ for Azul Coast).

If Baffert follows the same path with this vastly talented colt, the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 6 will be next. A stepping-stone to the Santa Anita Derby, the San Felipe is a mile and a sixteenth race that would be a logical choice for Life.

As we know, the 2020 road to the Kentucky Derby incurred many detours. Baffert did run Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby, but then was forced to develop an alternate plan. A ship and win effort in the Haskell at Monmouth Park happened before enjoying a third blanket of roses in the past five years.

Of course hopes are there will be no detours and the Kentucky Derby will be again run on that first Saturday in May. In the game of Thoroughbred racing those five months can seem like an eternity. Never looking to far into the future, Baffert likely has not mapped out the path for Life Is Good or Medina Spirit for that matter. Race spacing and the ability to have a horse peak at the right time has been a real strength for the one-time quarter horse conditioner. Rest assured the wheels are turning in the Baffert barn. Whether his latest charge runs in the same races as last year’s champ remains to be seen. The end goal, however, will be the same, run fast and bring home the hardware.