Horses to Watch: Is Life Is Good Baffert’s next Derby winner?

Horses to Watch: Is Life Is Good Baffert’s next Derby winner?
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

In this biweekly series, racing analyst Keeler Johnson shares promising horses from his handicapping watch list, reviewing runners who have recently caught his eye and previewing horses scheduled to run back in the near future.

New to the Watch List

Ride a Comet

A sharp stretch-running winner of the 2018 Del Mar Derby (G2) racing 1 1/8 miles on turf, Ride a Comet spent more than 25 months on the sidelines before returning to action in October at Woodbine. Since then, the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride has reimagined himself spectacularly as a Tapeta sprint specialist.

Ride a Comet certainly turned in an eye-catching effort in his return race, rallying to dominate a 7-furlong allowance dash by two lengths in 1:21.31. But he was even sharper in the 6-furlong Kennedy Road (G2) on Saturday, charging furiously into a rapid :23.46 final quarter to beat a quality field led by six-time Sovereign Award winner Pink Lloyd.


Ride a Comet’s final time of 1:08.25 missed the track record by just 0.20, but more impressive than the quick clocking was the way Ride a Comet achieved his victory. He was full of run down the homestretch, sweeping to the front with something in reserve, and jockey Patrick Husbands actually eased him up in the final yards. Had Ride a Comet been allowed to run through the wire, he might have doubled his margin of victory.

With his proven ability to excel sprinting on synthetic and running long on turf, Ride a Comet has plenty of options for his 2021 campaign. Expect this exciting Mark Casse trainee to make some noise during the winter.

Life Is Good

The latest 2-year-old sensation trained by Bob Baffert, Life Is Good made a fantastic impression in his debutm sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on Sunday at Del Mar. Indeed, anyone who saw Life Is Good gallop effortlessly across the finish line couldn’t help but wonder, “Could this be Baffert’s next Derby winner?”

Favored at 1-10 while facing four rivals, Life Is Good broke sharply from the starting gate under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and quickly opened a daylight lead through splits of :21.80 and :44.84. The son of Into Mischief was eager to run and even raced a bit rankly in the opening furlongs, but his headstrong nature didn’t prove to be a problem. Though he was never asked for anywhere near his best effort, Life Is Good drew off with authority down the homestretch to dominate by 9 1/2 lengths.

Life Is Good flashed across the finish line in a snappy 1:15.50, stamping the $525,000 yearling purchase as a seriously talented prospect. Suffice it to say, life will be very good for Life Is Good’s connections if the bay colt stays sound, settles down and successfully stretches out around two turns. The 2021 Kentucky Derby is an obvious long-term goal for Life Is Good, considering Into Mischief’s son Authentic recently gave Baffert a record-equaling sixth victory in the Run for the Roses.

Recent Winners

Chaos Theory

I was delighted to see Chaos Theory rebound with an eye-catching allowance victory on Friday at Del Mar. Sprinting 5 furlongs over the turf course, Chaos Theory dropped off the pace through modest fractions of :22.88 and :45.03, placing the son of Curlin at a distinct tactical disadvantage. With just an eighth of a mile remaining, the 5-year-old gelding still had 2 1/2 lengths to make up.

Considering the final furlong elapsed in a blazing :11.05, closing the gap should have been virtually impossible. But Chaos Theory never wavered in his determination, rallying gamely up the rail to win by a head over graded stakes winner Texas Wedge.

Trained by John Sadler, Chaos Theory is now 2-for-2 on the Southern California circuit, setting the stage for a productive winter campaign. Turf sprints such as the Jan. 1 Joe Hernandez (G2) and the Mar. 13 San Simeon (G3) should be ripe for conquest by Chaos Theory.

Off the Watch List

Caracaro

Runner-up behind Tiz the Law in a strong renewal of the Travers (G1), Caracaro unfortunately suffered an injury while training for the Kentucky Derby (G1), sending the talented colt to the sidelines. Then, word came that Caracaro will retire to stud at Crestwood Farm in Kentucky for the 2021 breeding season.

Here is my complete, updated list of horses to watch.

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