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Bob Baffert’s Life Is Good gallops to win in San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita

Life Is Good and jockey Mike Smith win the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 6, 2021, at Santa Anita Park.
Life Is Good, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, wins the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.
(Benoit Photo)

It seems the biggest problem trainer Bob Baffert had during the running of the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday was keeping his face covering over his nose.

Once again, the Hall of Fame trainer has a horse who is going to be talked about as one of the favorites to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

The race Saturday was more of a lesson on how easily a horse can win. Life Is Good broke sharply out of the gate, took a four-length lead on the backstretch and then cruised home in the 1 1/16-mile race to win by eight lengths. The win earned the 3-year-old colt 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, virtually assuring him a spot in the race.

“I felt good at the start, the way he got away well,” Baffert said. “And I was worried down the backstretch at that [fast] fraction (46.83 seconds). But I told [jockey] Mike [Smith] to let him run today. I wanted to clear those lungs out and give him a good race.”

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Life Is Good is undefeated in three starts. In his last race, the Sham Stakes, he let a four-length lead evaporate as stablemate Medina Spirit closed the gap to just three-quarters of a length. Baffert’s goal Saturday was to get the horse to relax on the backstretch so he had plenty left at the end, which he certainly did.

Life Is Good was the prohibitive favorite in the seven-horse race and paid $3.00, $2.20 and $2.10. Medina Spirit was second, followed by Dream Shake, Roman Centurian, The Great One, None Above The Law and Governor’s Party.

Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill was suspended for a minimum of 10 days and fined $7,500 for a medication violation at Santa Anita.

The horse is owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm, two of connections that guided Justify to a Triple Crown three years ago.

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Life Is Good still has things he needs to learn, according to his jockey, such as keeping his focus on the race.

“We are going to have to work on some quirks,” Smith said. “He starts looking at things because he is out there by himself. When the big screen [videoboard] is lit up, they can see it. In the mornings he goes by the screen like it’s nothing because it’s not on. He was locked in on it down the [stretch] today.”

As his attention was diverted, the colt drifted out to the middle of the track down the stretch.

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Life Is Good wins the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.

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“He was actually looking at [the board] walking to the gate,” Smith said. “He kept seeing the horses and I was thinking this sonofagun is going to do it again.”

Even though the race was held without fans, owners and essential personnel were allowed in the facility after a temperature check and the standard COVID questions. This weekend, they opened up the winner’s circle for the commemorative picture. Track personnel were vigilant in telling people to keep their mask at the proper level. Baffert’s loose-fitting bandanna-like face covering kept slipping down at almost every stage of the post-race happenings and he dutifully kept pulling it over his nose only to have it slip again.

“It was nice to see the people, but [Life Is Good] didn’t want to come in the paddock,” Baffert said. “Everyone was there and he stopped. We haven’t had anybody here [so it was different]. I’m going to have to get him some cutouts or something.”

Life Is Good, a $525,000 purchase, was sired by Into Mischief, the same sire as Authentic, last year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

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Life Is Good has run the exact same races as Authentic did to this point last year. It’s going to continue as Baffert plans to keep the horse at Santa Anita for its 1 1/8-mile Derby on April 3.

This is the time where races get progressively longer ending in 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs.

“The 1 1/16 [mile distance] is a good tell-all,” Smith said. “So, once they get that they can get to 1 1/8 miles. I leave it up to Bob, he’s the man that can get the rest of it. He always does.”

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As for the horse’s penchant for distraction, Baffert found the positive.

“I’m glad that big screen in Kentucky is on the backside.”


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