Bob Baffert got 2021 off on the right footing as Life Is Good won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita over the weekend from stablemate Medina Spirit.
Authentic, the 2020 Horse-of-the-Year-in-waiting, won the same Santa Anita contest 12 months ago to launch a year that would yield him Triple Crown success in the Kentucky Derby and a Breeders’ Cup Classic win at Keeneland in November.
Despite being much-favoured as odds-on market leader, Life Is Good had only three-quarters of a length in hand on Medina Spirit at the winning post in the Sham Stakes on Saturday.
Baffert says both have emerged from the race in good nick and he’ll take his time before committing to future targets. The Hall of Fame trainer says it’s probable they’ll split up before any Triple Crown targets loom large.
“They both came back well so we’re pretty happy about both of them,” said the trainer.
“The San Felipe (on March 6th) is a race we’re considering, but I might keep them separated,” Baffert added. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. It’s a long way off, but they both ran really well.
“One might go out of town or they might stay here [in California]. I don’t know yet. It’s too far out. The important thing is they ran well and we thought they would and they ran fast.”
Into Mischief colt Life Is Good made the running under Mike Smith and held a commanding four-length advantage turning into the home straight. Medina Spirit closed the gap and, though the winner drifted off the rail in the final strides, he never looked like getting beaten as Smith was able to bring him home under hands and heels riding.
For Baffert, there’s plenty left to work on and he says Authentic was similarly ‘raw’ in the Grade 3 at Santa Anita last year. The trainer therefore is content to expect further progress as his duo mature with their racing.
“I always tell Mike to try and save something,” Baffert said. “Life Is Good wasn’t as tired as I thought he could have been. He needs to learn to relax a little bit better, but he will. He’ll mature, just like Authentic.
“When he won the Sham last year, he was sort of puzzling, zig-zagging all the way down the stretch, but they’re babies. Still, you can see their raw talent.”