Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert began plotting his next moves for his deep bench of Kentucky Derby prospects, with the first move sending top prospect Life Is Good to the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Baffert’s second move sends Freedom Fighter across the country for the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Both Derby preps are March 6 and both offer 50-20-10-5 Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers. That means a victory for either horse sends them to Churchill Downs for the May 1 Derby.
The 1 1/16-mile San Felipe is considered one of the best Grade 2 Derby preps in the country. Its winning alums include the likes of Authentic (2020), California Chrome (2014), Point Given (2001), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), Sunday Silence (1989) and Affirmed (1978). All of the above Derby prospects except Point Given won the Run for the Roses..
Point Given, Native Dancer Have Something in Common
Baffert’s Point Given finished fifth in the Derby – then rectified that oversight, winning the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers.
The one-turn, one-mile Gotham doesn’t have that glittery resume. But it does have Secretariat, who won the 1973 Gotham en route to the Triple Crown. It also has 1967 winner Dr. Fager, one of the best horses of his era. And the Gotham claims 1953 champion Native Dancer, whose only career loss came in that year’s Derby.
Like Point Given nearly 50 years later, Native Dancer ran the remaining Triple Crown table. He won the Preakness and Belmont, then added the Travers later that summer.
What Does This Mean for Other Derby Prospects?
With Life Is Good in the San Felipe, that likely means either Concert Tour or Robert B. Lewis winner Medina Spirit will run the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Baffert typically sends one or more horses to Oaklawn for its Derby preps – the Rebel and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.
In 2015, he sent American Pharoah to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby. He won that race en route to the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Last year, Baffert dispatched Nadal to win the Rebel Stakes, then to win one division of the Arkansas Derby. Baffert sent Charlatan to win the other division after Oaklawn officials split the divisions during the depths of the pandemic.
He typically ships his Derby prospects out around the country, keeping them apart as long as he can. Considering many of his 3-year-olds come from the same ownership consortiums, this isn’t surprising.
Life Is Good Enjoying Life as Derby Favorite
Last month, Life Is Good won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes. That solidified him as one of the Derby futures board favorites. He’s currently 8/1 at both Circa Sports and William Hill Nevada. He closed at 7/1 on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 last Sunday. That’s the lowest individual odds for any one of the 23 horses on the KDFW board.
The Into Mischief progeny turned in a 1:00.8 five-furlong breeze at Santa Anita Monday.
As for Freedom Fighter, who is 65/1 at both Circa and William Hill, he clocked four furlongs in 48.6 seconds Monday. That came nine days after he finished second by a neck to Concert Tour in the Grade 2, seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes.