Kentucky Derby qualifier Sham Stakes Offers 10-4-2-1 Points To Top-Four Finishers
A dazzling 9 ½ length maiden winner in his first start, Bob Baffert's Life Is Good will no doubt be a short priced favorite as he stretches out to a flat mile and heads a field of five sophomores in the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, January 2.
Named in honor of the winner of the 1973 Santa Anita Derby, the Sham winner will receive 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, with four to second, two to third and one Derby qualifying point to the fourth place finisher.
||Drayden Van Dyke
||Life Is Good
Off at 1-5 with Mike Smith up in a field of five going 6 ½ furlongs on Nov. 22 at Del Mar, Life Is Good earned a lofty 91 Beyer Speed figure in his maiden win, easily best of those competing in the Sham.
Purchased as a Keeneland September Yearling for $525,000, he made the lead easily through splits of 21.80, 44.80 and 1:09 flat en route to a smashing 9 ½ length score while getting the distance in 1:15.40.
Bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West, Life Is Good is by top stallion Into Mischief and is out of the Distorted Humor mare Beach Walk, who was winless in five starts. Owned by China Horse Club, Inc. and WinStar Farm, Life Is Good will be making his second start as he tries to provide Baffert, who won the 2020 Sham with eventual Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, with his record seventh Sham Stakes winner.
Baffert will also be represented by first-out maiden winner Medina Spirit, who sped to a three length score going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos on Dec. 11 while earning a 76 Beyer.
The John Shirreffs-conditioned Parnelli, a $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling, was attentive to the early pace en route to a huge 5 ¾ length maiden win as the 1-5 favorite going a flat mile at Del Mar on Nov. 28.
Owned by Lee and Susan Searing's C R K Stable, Parnelli, who is by Quality Road, out of the unraced Bernardini mare Sip Sip, will likely set a close second to Life Is Good in what will be his fifth start. Second in his first three assignments, the last two at one mile, Parnelli earned a 79 Beyer in breaking his maiden and will be ridden back by Drayden Van Dyke.
Shirreffs will also saddle Waspirant, who also broke his maiden at one mile, winning by three quarters of a lengths after stalking the pace on Aug. 29 at Del Mar with regular rider Umberto Rispoli. Subsequently a well beaten fourth in the Grade I American Pharoah going a mile and one sixteenth here Sept. 26, he'll be making his fourth start and third consecutive try at two turns in the Sham.
Owned and bred by Pam and Martin Wygod, Waspirant is by Union Rags out of the Storm Cat mare Life is Sweet, who was a multiple Grade I stakes winning earner of more than $1.8 million.
A first-out maiden $32,000 claiming winner going 5 ½ furlongs here on Oct. 12, trainer Andrew Lerner's Uncle Boogie came back to be a solid second in a first condition allowance going 5 ½ furlongs as the even money favorite at Del Mar Oct. 31.
Most recently second to runaway winner Red Flag in the Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at seven furlongs Nov. 15, Uncle Boogie, a Florida-bred colt by Ride On Curlin who was purchased for $38,000 at an Ocala Sales 2-year-old in training sale in July, retains the services of Flavien Prat will likely seek a stalking trip in his first try around two turns. Owned by Eric Homme, he'll be making his fourth overall start.
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LIFE IS GOOD TRIES TWO TURNS IN SHAM STAKES
Authentic, Charlatan, Gamine, Improbable and now Life Is Good.
The hits just keep on coming for Bob Baffert.
Life Is Good is the latest equine athlete drawing rave reviews while flourishing at the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer's seemingly infinite barn of champions, the plaudits flowing despite the $525,000 colt having had only one start.
But what a start it was. The bay son of Into Mischief won his debut race by 9 ? lengths on Nov. 22 at 20 cents on the dollar under Mike Smith, and could be just as low in the betting when he tries two turns for the first time in Saturday's Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile.
The $100,000 Sham, named for the 1973 Santa Anita Derby winner, is the West Coast's first step on the Triple Crown trail, offering 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third-place horse and one to the fourth.
Baffert won this year's Sham with Authentic, who went on the capture the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic and is a virtual cinch to be named Horse of the Year at the 50th annual Eclipse Awards on Jan. 28,
It was Baffert's record sixth Sham Stakes winner. The previous were Wild and Wise (2001), Bob and John (2006), Midnight Hawk (2014), Collected (2016), McKinzie (2018) and the aforementioned Authentic.
"I think this is sort of the same path I took with Authentic, and I didn't want to sit on him for another month so we're going to run him here going a mile," Baffert said early Thursday morning.
Last week Baffert said he also was considering the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 7 for Life Is Good.
"I always like to see what they're going to do going two turns. We know he's got a lot of speed, he's shown brilliance, but until they go two turns - I think he should handle it but I've got to see it myself."
Owned by China Horse Club Inc. and WinStar Farm, Life Is Good had a six furlong workout Sunday in a bullet 1:10.60, fastest of six at the distance, while Medina Spirit, the second Baffert trainee entered in the Sham, went five furlongs the same day in 1:02 flat.
Baffert removes blinkers from Medina Spirit, who wore them in his debut victory by three lengths going 5 ? furlongs Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos.
"I don't think he needs blinkers," Baffert said. "I want him to relax. He's not as quick a horse as Life Is Good, but he's bred to go two turns. I think he should handle it.
Sham Stakes Race History
There are few Kentucky Derby prep races as young as the Sham Stakes (Grade 3) at Santa Anita Park, first held in 2001 and named after Secretariat's famous Triple Crown rival. At the same time, few preps in the same class as the Sham have been as successful at producing Derby starters and high-quality horses.
By awarding 17 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers, including 10 to the winner, the Sham has cemented its position as a coveted early-season target for California's top 3-year-olds.
Originally held over 1 1/8 miles in early February, the Sham received an early boost when 2003 runner-up Empire Maker went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby and first in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Two years later, Giacomo used a third-place effort in the Sham as a springboard to his shocking 50-1 triumph in the "Run for the Roses," which prompted the Sham to receive Grade 3 status in 2006.
The Sham was shifted to January in 2011 and shortened to a mile in 2012, but these changes haven't made the race any less productive. Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winners Tapizar and Goldencents claimed the Sham in 2011 and 2013, while Grade 1 winners Collected (2016), Gormley (2017), and McKinzie (2018) all reached the Sham winner's circle during the late 2010s.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has enjoyed more Sham success than any other conditioner, saddling six of the first 20 winners. But one of Baffert's most talented participants, future Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Secret Circle, was beaten by Out of Bounds in 2012. The winning time was a stakes-record 1:34.56, a testament to how well both colts performed.