‘He’s just very, very talented’ – Life Is Good confirms status as leading Kentucky Derby contender

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Horse Racing Life Is Good is Kentucky Derby contender
Job done: Mike Smith pats Life Is Good after winning the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Photo: Benoit

By Nicholas Godfrey

12-1 Life Is Good (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith)
Santa Anita (Jan 2): Sham Stakes G3, $100,000, 1m, dirt
Sire: Into Mischief

Owner: China Horse Club and WinStar Farm
Time: 1m36.63s
Likely target: San Felipe (Santa Anita, March 6)

Life Is Good was described as “very, very talented” after the Bob Baffert-trained colt held off stablemate Medina Spirit with a front-running victory for his second win in as many starts.

Though the colt is now vying for Kentucky Derby favouritism – 9-1 market leader with bookmakers Unibet – it didn’t necessarily look wildly impressive. Sent off 1-5, Life Is Good sped to the front and held a clear advantage throughout before idling in the stretch, allowing the runner-up to close to within three-quarters of length. It was 13 more back to the third.

Before winning the Sham, Life Is Good won sprinting at Del Mar – precisely the same route Baffert employed last year with Authentic before that colt landed his sixth Kentucky Derby triumph.

Mike Smith (jockey): “What I liked really was after the race, when I stood up and the horse got next to me he jumped back in the bridle and I mean I had to pull him up. He’s just very, very talented. We don’t know yet how talented. We haven’t gotten close yet.”

Bob Baffert (trainer): “Medina Spirit (second) is a nice horse and I could tell that Mike was just cruising out there. It reminded me a lot of Authentic last year, when he did the same thing; he looked like a drunk out there coming down, he almost hit the rail and stuff. Just to get the two turns out of the way it’s big. I always feel that the second race is most important, you’re going up against winners. I think Mike did a great job just sort of cruising around there and it was just the kind of race we were looking for. They ran pretty fast, these are two good horses. It is so exciting he passed the two-turn test.”

Mutasaabeq follows Gulfstream path

33-1 Mutasaabeq (Todd Pletcher/Luis Saez)
Gulfstream Park (Jan 2): Mucho Macho Man Stakes (Listed) $100,000, 1m, dirt
Sire: Into Mischief

Owner: Shadwell Stable
Time: 1m35.08s
Likely target: Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park, Feb 27)

Disappointing on turf at the Breeders’ Cup (albeit with a wide trip), Sheikh Hamdan’s Mutasaabeq got back on the dirt with a solid-enough display in the end.

Although the 11-10 favourite had to be strongly ridden to overcome front-running Awesome Gerry, he was kicked clear in upper stretch and then held readily for a length-and-a-half victory over Papetu. Now a stakes winner on both turf and dirt, the colt will be sent down the Florida Derby trail to Kentucky.

Todd Pletcher (trainer): “I thought he ran great. We wanted to make sure he got away from the gate cleanly – that hasn’t always been his best first step. I thought he broke pretty well today and put himself in a good spot. Luis had to get after him a little bit on the turn and kept responding and finding more. I thought it was a big effort.
“We’ll look to try another one on dirt. I’ll talk to the team at Shadwell and come up with a plan,” Pletcher said. “I think today he showed his versatility. He’s now a stakes winner on both surfaces. It’s exciting to have one like that.”

Capo Kane draws away at Aqueduct

40-1 Capo Kane (Harold Wyner/Dylan Davis)
Aqueduct (Jan 1): Jerome Stakes (Listed), $150,000, 1m, dirt
Sire: Street Sense

Owner: Bing Cherry Racing and Leonard Liberto
Time: 1m38.02s
Likely target: Withers Stakes (Aqueduct, Feb 6)

Parx-based trainer Harry Wyner, a Manchester-born former jump jockey, is on the Kentucky Derby trail with Capo Kane, who taunted his rivals waiting in front before drawing away for an easy 6¼-length score.

The son of Street Sense had broken his maiden on his previous outing, the second of two starts as a juvenile. An 84 Beyer for his New Year’s Day success was the best of his three-race career for Wyner, who went to the States as part of Michael Dickinson’s team in 1987. This was his first stakes winner in a training career featuring 211 successes dating back to 2004.

Kentucky Derby: former Dickinson jumps rider Harry Wyner dreams of glory with Capo Kane

Harry Wyner (trainer): “Last time he drifted out a little bit at the head of the lane at Parx, but that was because he switched his lead early; he’s still a little green. He just loves to run – he’s a racehorse. I ran him two turns at Parx going a mile and 70 in his maiden win and he did it so easy. The further he goes the better; in the morning, the further we gallop the stronger he gets. He just doesn’t know when to stop. He wants to run.”

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