Three 3-year-old colts — Life is Good, Midnight Bourbon and Capo Kane — won their respective qualifiers and joined the top 10 2021 Kentucky Derby contenders. Pasco Stakes hero Nova Rags may add future intrigue on the Kentucky Derby trail.
(Into Mischief - Beach Walk, by Distorted Humor)
After winning the Sham Stakes (G3), Life is Good evoked multiple comparisons to last year’s Kentucky Derby hero, Authentic. Both attracted six figures as Keeneland September yearlings, are conditioned by Bob Baffert and won the Sham Stakes after flashy maiden debuts. And finally, both are by leading sire Into Mischief.
Life is Good was bred by Gary and Mary West. He sold to China Horse Club & Maverick Racing for $525,000 and races for CHC INC. and WinStar Farm LLC. He owns 10 Kentucky Derby points. The natural next step for Life is Good would be the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on March 6 or the Rebel Stakes (G2) the following week at Oaklawn Park.
Authentic is the only colt to pull off the Sham Stakes/Kentucky Derby double. Giacomo (2005) was third in the Sham and improved to win the Derby. Empire Maker (2003) was second in both races and won the Belmont Stakes.
Pedigree: Life is Good has a middle-distance pedigree, yet his natural talent and tutelage of super trainer Bob Baffert make him a legitimate Kentucky Derby hopeful. The bay colt is professional, with a smooth stride and high cruising speed. In the final furlong of the Sham Stakes, his stablemate Medina Spirit came a little too close for comfort. Mike Smith shook up Life is Good, and the colt immediately responded, pinning his ears and switching gears.
Into Mischief needs no introduction. For the past two years, he has been the leading sire by earnings and by black-type performers. His offspring generally are best up to 1 1/8 miles; but Authentic broke through as Into Mischief’s sole classic winner last year. Super Derby (G3) winner Vicar’s In Trouble and turf router Bemma’s Boy also have won at 10 furlongs or farther.
Life is Good is the second foal and first black-type earner out of Beach Walk. His half-brother Approved (Awesome Again) was in the money in four of nine starts. They have an unnamed yearling half-sister by Blame. Beach Walk tried hard, but the winner’s circle was elusive. She finished in the money in four of five starts for Gary and Mary West.
Life is Good’s second dam, Bonnie Blue Flag (Mineshaft), a stakes-winning sprinter, placed in the Test Stakes and Prioress, both Grade 1 contests. Multiple Grade 1-winning turf miler Diamondrella, 2019 Curlin Stakes winner Highest Honors is also part of Life is Good’s third generation.
The Into Mischief/Distorted Humor cross has resulted in five black-type earners, including Grade 1 winner Practical Joke, listed dirt sprinter Quebec, and Grade 3-winning turf miler Naughty Joker.
(Tiznow - Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon)
After on-the-board placings in the Iroquois (G3) and Champagne (G1) stakes, Midnight Bourbon put it all together with a front-running score in the LeComte (G3) at the Fair Grounds. The Steve Asmussen trainee held off the late charges of Proxy and Mandaloun by a length. Only a head separated Proxy and Mandaloun, and it was 8 3/4 lengths back to fourth place finisher Santa Cruiser.
Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings bred Midnight Bourbon. Winchell Thoroughbreds purchased the bay son of Tiznow for $525,000 out of the Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt owns 18 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, and we may see him surface on Feb. 13 in the Risen Star (G2).
The last Lecomte hero to win the Kentucky Derby was War Emblem (2002). But Derby runner-ups include Hard Spun (2007), Golden Soul (second in LeComte and Kentucky Derby 2013). Oxbow (2013) and War of Will (2019) captured the Lecomte and Preakness.
Pedigree: Midnight Bourbon should love the extra distance of the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby (G2). He has the pedigree and conformation to run all day.
Retired in October 2020, Hall of Famer Tiznow was a solid sire, noted for getting large two-turn types that progressed with maturity. Sadly, none of his progeny won the Kentucky Derby or Preakness, yet his son Da Tara won the 2008 Belmont Stakes.
Midnight Bourbon’s dam, the unraced Catch the Moon (Malibu Moon - Catch My Fancy, by Yes It’s True), is a phenomenal broodmare. She hit a home run with her first foal, the very precocious Cocked and Loaded (Colonel John). The brilliant colt won three of six starts as a 2-year-old, including and the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill. Cocked and Loaded also placed in the Bay Shore (G3) as a three-year-old. A veteran of 21 starts, Cocked and Loaded earned $497,660.
Next up, Girvin (Tale of Ekati) captured the Louisiana Derby and Haskell Invitational (G1), as well as the Risen Star. He placed in the Ohio Derby and Steve Sexton Mile, both Grade 3 events. Girvin earned $1,624,392 in ten outings.
Catch the Moon’s third foal, Pirate’s Punch (Shanghai Bobby), won the Salvator Mile (G3) and placed in the Philip H. Iselin (G3), Mineshaft Stakes (G3) and Super Derby (G3). The gelding started 18 times and earned $332,751.
Midnight Bourbon is Catch the Moon’s fourth foal. Next in the pipeline is her 2-year-old unnamed son by Curlin, who was bought for $500,000 by Shadwell Estate. The mare has an unnamed yearling colt by Quality Road that we can look forward to seeing in coming years.
Catch the Moon’s dam Catch My Fancy (Yes It’s True - Walk Away Rene, by Gold Alert) captured her first two starts, one of which was the Barretts Debutante Stakes for California-bred fillies. Her form didn’t hold as a 3-year-old, but she did capture the six-furlong Fairfield Stakes. She bore a pair of stakes-winning sprinters, What a Catch and Dubini.
So why is Catch the Moon throwing such classy babies? Her dam My Fancy has 3S x 2D inbreeding to the hardy multiple stakes-winning sprinter Monique Rene (Prince of Ascot). Catch My Fancy’s sire, Yes It’s True, is out of Clever Monique, making Monique Rene his second dam. Yes It’s True was bred to Walk Away Rene, a daughter of Monique Rene.
Monique Rene is Midnight Bourbon’s fourth dam. The hardy mare was a staple on the Louisiana racing circuit, cycling between Fair Grounds, Louisiana Downs, and now-defunct Jefferson Downs. Monique Rene started 45 times and enjoyed having her photo taken in the winner’s circle 29 times, 15 of them stakes races. She was second or third eight times. Monique Rene competed at the state-bred level as a sprinter against fillies and colts. Besides the multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter and sire Yes It’s True, Monique Rene’s notable descendants include Canada’s 2000 champion 3-year-old colt Kiss a Native, and multiple graded turf miler, Silver Max.
The Tiznow/Malibu Moon cross has produced one other stakes winner, last year’s Matron Stakes (G3) winner Royal Approval.
(Street Sense - Twirl Me, by Hard Spun)
Capo Kane announced his presence on the Kentucky Derby trail with an easy 6 1/4-length victory in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. The Harold Wyner trainee placed in his seven-furlong debut at PARX, then won next out when stretching to one mile and 70 yards over the same track. Capo Cane was bred by Rising Star Farm LLC. A veteran of four auctions, the colt’s final trip through the ring was last year at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-old in training sale, where he was purchased for a bargain $26,000. He races for Bing Cherry Racing Inc. and Leonard Liberto. Capo Kane owns 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. His next goal is the Withers Stakes (G3) on Feb. 6.
The last Jerome Stakes/Kentucky Derby winner was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. That was a banner year, as Jerome runner-up El Corredor later won the Cigar Mile (G1) and third-place finisher Albert the Great made his mark as multiple graded handicap horse.
Pedigree: Capo Cane has classic breeding and should progress with age. He’s winning on talent and has swerved down the lane in all three starts. Besides his proficiency on dirt, Capo Cane may also have the option of a turf career should his Derby dreams not pan out.
2006 Champion 2-Year-Old Colt Street Sense was the first to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Kentucky Derby. Capo Kane’s broodmare sire Hard Spun competed against Street Sense and placed second in the Kentucky Derby. The roles were reversed later in the year in the Kentucky Cup Classic (G2). Street Sense’s offspring win at all distances and over all surfaces. Since 2011, the stallion has sired 66 graded/listed winners, including the recently retired multiple Grade 1 winner Mckinzie, the swift Grade 1 winning sprinter/miler Sweet Reason, and this year’s Bashford Manor (G3) winner Cazadero.
Capo Kane is the first foal out of Twirl Me (Hard Spun - Mambo Princess, by Kingmambo), who was unplaced in her sole start. All three of Twirl Me’s half-siblings competed, and two own black-type, stakes-winning turf router Mambo Man, and Italian listed placed Black Raja. Capo Cane’s third dam is Grade 1 winning middle-distance turf mare Tuzla (FR). The mare was a classic case of improving with maturity, as she won the first of her seven graded stakes as a mid-season 3-year-old. At four, Tuzla captured the Ramona Handicap (G1) over the Del Mar lawn, and that same year, she finished second against males in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Mile, bested only a neck by turf mile specialist Silic. Tuzla’s black-type earning offspring competed in Great Britain, Ireland, and Japan. Her only U.S.-based stakes horse was multiple graded-placed turf miler Tybalt.
The Street Sense/Hard Spun bloodline cross has produced two winners, one a black-type earner, from as many foals.
(Union Rags - Wishful Splendor, by Smart Strike)
Pasco Stakes hero Nova Rags could carry the hopes of trainer Bill Mott to the Kentucky Derby. The son of Union Rags raced widest of all, three to four wide, settled off the leaders early. He was forced six wide at the head of the stretch, but that didn’t deter Nova Rags, who galloped home under a hand ride to win by 2 3/4-lengths over the more experienced stakes placed Newyearsblockparty (New Year’s Day). Nova Rags was bred by Michael Shanley. The colt didn’t meet his $275,000 reserve at the Keeneland yearling sale and races in the silks of his breeder. The striking Chestnut colt doesn’t own Kentucky Derby qualifying points, but he could rectify that issue if he returns for the Tampa Bay (G2) Derby on March 6. The Fountain of Youth (G2) on February 27 could also be an option.
Pedigree: Nova Rags has classic breeding and should progress with maturity. He came in a bit on Newyearsblockparty when passing that rival but straightened out once clear.
Union Rags’ heartbreaking head defeat in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile denied the previously unbeaten son of Dixie Union year-end honors. Union Rags returned to win the 2012 Fountain of Youth (G2). He had a troubled trip and finished in seventh place in the Kentucky Derby but won the Belmont Stakes (G1) on the rebound. Surprisingly, Union Rags’ offspring are best up to 1 1/8 miles. Only two of his offspring, Grade 3 winner Big Bend and French turf router Musawaah, have won at 10 furlongs or farther.
Nova Rags is the 12th foal and third black-type earner out of Wishful Splendor, a stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles, who was twice Grade 3-placed. All of her foals have started, and 10 are winners. Nova Rags’ half-sister Janita (Mineshaft) is a two-time Grade 2-winning miler. She bore stakes-placed sprinter Wings of Dawn (Medaglia D’oro). Nova Rags’ half-brother Sirocco Strike (Forestry) is a Grade-3 winning turf sprinter, and Isla (Unbridled’s Song) is a stakes placed turf miler. She bore Isla Road, who placed in a pair of stakes last year over the Gulfstream Park turf. Nova Rags’ extended family includes 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da’Tara, and Dennis of Cork, who finished second to Da’Tara. Dennis of Cork was third in the Kentucky Derby.
The Union Rags/Smart Strike bloodline cross has produced three other stakes winners; Del Mar Debutante (G1) heroine Union Strike, the highly touted Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg, and the listed turf miler Still There.