Bob Baffert-trained Life Is Good holds on to win Sham Stakes at Santa Anita

Life Is Good, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, wins the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes on Jan. 2, 2021, at Santa Anita.
Life Is Good, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, won the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes by three-quarters of a length Saturday at Santa Anita.
(Benoit Photo via Associated Press)

This year started much like last year ended, with trainer Bob Baffert looking to continue his mastery of winning the Kentucky Derby, although no one is ready to say it’s a done deal with four months to go. Life Is Good won the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita much like Authentic did a year earlier.

The similarities go deeper than just winning the race. Last January, Authentic, who went on to win the first-ever September Kentucky Derby, had the Sham Stakes much in hand when he started looking around, ducking in and out in the stretch and generally creating doubt as to his future as a Derby winner.

On Saturday, Life Is Good had the one-mile race well under control when he began to lose momentum in the deep stretch as stablemate Medina Spirit started to gain on him. Jockey Mike Smith, who was doing nothing more than a hand ride, shook the reins and showed the riding crop to get Life Is Good’s mind back on finishing the race.


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Jan. 2, 2021

Life Is Good’s winning margin was three-quarters of a length over Medina Spirit. It was another 13 lengths back for Parnelli, who was followed by Waspirant and Uncle Boogie. Life Is Good paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10.

“I could tell that Mike was just cruising out there,” Baffert said. “It reminded me a lot of Authentic last year, when he did the same thing. He looked like a drunk out there coming down [the stretch]. He almost hit the rail and stuff. Just to get the two turns out of the way, it’s big.”

Much like Authentic, it was Life Is Good’s second race. Both won their maiden races at Del Mar.

“I always feel that the second race is most important. You’re going up against winners,” Baffert said. “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. … It is so exciting he passed the two-turn test.”

Life Is Good didn’t break on the lead, but Smith hustled him to the lead entering the clubhouse turn.

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Jan. 2, 2021

“He got away just a little slow, but he got up and, of course, he’s naturally so quick. He was just up underneath himself,” Smith said. “Just as we were heading toward home, he was doing things all by himself so easy out there. He didn’t know what he was doing going twice around, and he just got the lead and was looking out at the infield on the big screen. He could see himself, and he got to looking. But I was watching as well, so I saw the horse coming on the outside.


“I didn’t want to panic. I just showed [the reins and crop] to him a little bit. 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 [to slow him down].”

In Saturday’s other graded stakes, Anothertwistafate won the Grade 2 $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes for horses going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. It was the horse’s second race on the turf after running in the 2019 Preakness Stakes. He was moved to the barn of Peter Miller from his Northern California home and was ridden by Joel Rosario.