One year ago at this time, Bob Baffert had a smart debut winner by leading sire Into Mischief who romped as the favorite in the Sham Stakes (G3). That colt was Authentic, the eventual winner of a pandemic-delayed Kentucky Derby (G1), and the presumptive Horse of the Year after adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). In Saturday’s $100,000 renewal of the Sham, Baffert hopes that another hotshot son of Into Mischief, early Derby favorite Life Is Good, will follow suit.
Sham Stakes – Race 8 (7:05 p.m. ET)
Life Is Good more than lived up to his 1-5 odds in his Nov. 22 premiere at Del Mar, where he blitzed a sprint maiden by 9 1/2 front-running lengths and recorded a 100 Brisnet Speed rating. So impressive was his performance that in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, he overtook unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Essential Quality as the individual betting favorite.
Stretching out to a mile in the Sham doesn’t figure to be a challenge for the well-bred $525,000 Keeneland September yearling. Life Is Good is tactically drawn on the outside of a five-horse field, and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith should engineer a straightforward trip aboard the 2-5 morning line choice.
Only two rivals have been tested around two turns so far, and both are trained by John Shirreffs. Parnelli (5-2) had the bad luck to bump into a trio of talented prospects in his first three starts. Second to Superman Shaq in his sprint debut, the Quality Road colt was much better at a mile. Parnelli missed by a neck to future Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, as well as to Spielberg who has since won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), before at last conquering a maiden at Del Mar.
Stablemate Waspirant (15-1) likewise broke his maiden over a mile at Del Mar, but must move forward from a forgettable fourth in the American Pharoah (G1). The addition of blinkers didn’t work that day, so he loses the headgear Saturday. As a son of Union Rags and Life Is Sweet, the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) winner for Shirreffs, Waspirant is eligible to improve.
Baffert’s second-stringer Medina Spirit (6-1) also takes blinkers off, a 33% move for the Hall of Fame trainer. A Los Alamitos debut winner going 5 1/2 furlongs, the son of freshman sire Protonico is bred to route.
Uncle Boogie (12-1), who looked better than a $32,000 maiden claimer when dominating his debut here, most recently finished second in the Bob Hope (G3). Although upset winner Red Flag didn’t back it up next out in the Los Al Futurity, the Bob Hope still proved the key race. Spielberg, only fourth in the Bob Hope, rebounded to turn the tables at Los Alamitos.
Part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Sham is worth points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers.
San Gabriel Stakes – Race 7 (6:35 p.m. ET)
One race earlier, Seabiscuit (G2) hero Count Again looks to continue his progress in the $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (G2) on turf. The late bloomer was putting it all together at Woodbine in the fall, winning the Singspiel (G3) and taking fourth in the Northern Dancer Turf (G1), before his transfer to Phil D’Amato. Count Again made an immediate impact in his Southern California debut in the 1 1/16-mile Seabiscuit, and the added ground of the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel suits him even better. Juan Hernandez retains the mount aboard the 2-1 favorite on the morning line.
Three of his Seabiscuit rivals are trying again – third-placer Next Shares (4-1), the 2019 San Gabriel winner; Anothertwistafate (5-2), fourth as the favorite in his first turf attempt; and closing fifth Bowies Hero (6-1), D’Amato’s other runner.
Note that Grade 3 winner Anothertwistafate, talented on both dirt and synthetic, now dons blinkers for Peter Miller. Stablemate Multiplier (12-1) reverts to turf after a string of losses on dirt, including an 11th in the Clark (G1) last out, and has run well on this course in the past.
Trainer Richard Baltas also has two chances, with multiple stakes scorer Bob and Jackie (4-1) joining veteran Next Shares in the line-up. Third to the high-profile Mo Forza and Sharp Samurai in the Oct. 3 City of Hope Mile (G2), Bob and Jackie tries this trip for the first time.
Cleopatra’s Strike (15-1), the near-miss runner-up in the past two runnings of the San Gabriel for D’Amato, makes his first start off the claim for Bob Hess Jr. Fairly consistent on this course and at the distance, the Grade 2 veteran is a Sam-Son Ontario-bred like Count Again.