What do Prime Timber, Point Given, Preachinatthebar, Pioneerof the Nile, Dortmund, Mastery, and Authentic all have in common?
They were all conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and they all won the $300,000 Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Santa Anita’s penultimate qualifier for the “run for the roses” is a historic 1 1/16-mile event dating back to 1935. The roster of winners is impressive, with Baffert’s Authentic among the most accomplished. As racing fans might recall, Authentic used a front-running triumph in the 2020 San Felipe as a steppingstone to victories in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Will history repeat itself in 2021? Authentic was a speedy son of Into Mischief, just like Baffert’s exciting colt #1 Life Is Good, the favorite to win Saturday’s renewal of the San Felipe. The similarities between the two colts are striking. Not only do they share the same trainer, sire, and running style, they have prepared for the San Felipe in the same manner. Authentic won his debut sprinting at Del Mar before wiring the Grade 3 Sham Stakes racing a mile at Santa Anita, which is also a precise description of Life Is Good’s unblemished résumé to date.
Any way you slice it, Life Is Good is the horse to beat in the San Felipe. Speed figures? He’s run fast on both the Beyer and Brisnet scales, and earned an eye-catching 110 Equibase Speed Figure when winning the Jan. 2 Sham Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths. Class? He’s already defeated two of his key San Felipe rivals, Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian. Workouts? He’s been training up a storm in preparation for his first race in two months. Life Is Good’s front-running speed is an asset, so if he breaks alertly on Saturday, he could prove impossible to catch under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
If there’s one chink if Life Is Good’s armor, it’s the fact he has trouble relaxing. He was a bit overeager to run in the Sham, leading by daylight for most of the race before seeing his lead dwindle to just three-quarters of a length at the finish line. His stablemate #3 Medina Spirit was flying at the finish and came right back to win the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, suggesting Medina Spirit might be capable of turning the tables in their rematch.
But Life Is Good has been training to relax in the mornings, and it’s possible his diminishing lead in the Sham had more to do with losing focus than running out of stamina. Following the race, Mike Smith shared pertinent thoughts along these lines with Santa Anita’s publicity team:
“It was his first time around two turns… 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… What I liked really was after the race, when I stood up and [Medina Spirit] got next to me, [Life Is Good] jumped back in the bridle and I mean I had to pull him up.”
If Smith’s assessment is correct, than Life Is Good – benefiting from additional training, experience, and maturity – can win the San Felipe for fun and cement his status as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
For second place, Medina Spirit is an obvious choice. Although he won by only a neck in the Robert B. Lewis, the son of Protonico showed tremendous tenacity to set a fast pace, put away all the other speed horses, and dig down deep to hold off a pair of late runners. This was a much better effort than it appears at first glance, so I prefer the chances of Medina Spirit over Lewis runner-up #7 Roman Centurian, who failed to pull off the victory despite enjoying a perfect pace setup.
Eye-catching maiden winners #2 Dream Shake and #5 The Great One are other logical candidates to finish in the top four. The Great One has already made some noise on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, finishing second by a nose in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity, and his subsequent 14-length demolition of a one-mile maiden race at Santa Anita was a sight to behold. Tracking a fast pace failed to faze The Great One at all, and the son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was tons the best in the homestretch.
Let’s make trifecta and superfecta wagers the focus of our betting strategy. We’ll key Life Is Good on top of all our tickets, counting on the favorite to get the job done at a short price. Underneath, we’ll emphasize Medina Spirit while trying to keep Roman Centurian out of the top two or three slots.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$2 trifecta: 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $2 trifecta 1 with 3 with 2,5,7
$2 trifecta: 1 with 2,5 with 3 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $2 trifecta 1 with 2,5 with 3
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$4 trifecta: 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $4 trifecta 1 with 3 with 2,5,7
$4 trifecta: 1 with 2,5 with 3 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $4 trifecta 1 with 2,5 with 3
$1 superfecta: 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 with 2,5,7 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $1 superfecta 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 with 2,5,7
$1 superfecta: 1 with 2,5 with 3 with 2,5,7 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $1 superfecta 1 with 2,5 with 3 with 2,5,7
Wagering Strategy on a $50 Budget
$6 trifecta: 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 ($18)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $6 trifecta 1 with 3 with 2,5,7
$6 trifecta: 1 with 2,5 with 3 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $6 trifecta 1 with 2,5 with 3
$2 superfecta: 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 with 2,5,7 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $2 superfecta 1 with 3 with 2,5,7 with 2,5,7
$2 superfecta: 1 with 2,5 with 3 with 2,5,7 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $2 superfecta 1 with 2,5 with 3 with 2,5,7
Good luck, and enjoy the race!