Life Is Good’s absence shakes up 2021 Kentucky Derby odds

Life Is Good’s absence shakes up 2021 Kentucky Derby odds

On a day when VCU was beaten by COVID before it could try to beat Oregon, and when the epitome of durability LeBron James went on the shelf indefinitely with a cranky ankle, horse racing also was caught in sport’s swirl of attrition.

While Las Vegas sorted out the basketball drama, it also reacted to Life Is Good abruptly coming off the Triple Crown trail for what turned out to be an ankle chip. Kentucky Derby futures pools that are typically suspended right before Saturday prep races were hastily shut down a few hours early.

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When the lights came back on, the new favorites were not nearly as short-priced as Life Is Good was before lead owner Elliott Walden and trainer Bob Baffert confirmed his setback.

At Circa Sports on Saturday evening, the undefeated 2020 juvenile champion Essential Quality was reposted as a 9-2 co-favorite with Life Is Good’s stablemate Concert Tour. By Sunday morning William Hill Nevada made Essential Quality its 4-1 favorite. Those prices might have set a bar for top-heavy value, certainly more than Life Is Good carried at 7-2.

The calendar also is casting a lengthening shadow over the futures market. Where triple-digit odds might have been attractive early in the winter, they are an absolute repellent with only 40 days until the Derby. As the days shrink, so does the list of horses. And so do the odds.

While most of the attention was being paid to the top of the Derby futures, four horses were added underneath in the past week.

Gretzky The Great (80-1 Circa). With that name, he had to be bred in Canada. Sure enough, this $295,000 Nyquist colt owned by Aron Wellman and Gary Barber was a Grade 1 winner last summer on the turf at Woodbine. Nearly four months after he finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Gretzky The Great set the pace before finishing third as the even-money favorite last month in the Battaglia Memorial. That was on the synthetic course at Turfway Park, where trainer Mark Casse nominated him for Saturday’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). That race might have the softest field of any “win-and-you’re-in” Derby prep. Since getting to Louisville is half the battle, the relatively short futures price is understandable.

Rebel’s Romance (125-1 Circa). A beaten co-favorite in the Saudi Derby, this U.K.-trained gelding by Dubawi tries to find his old form in Saturday’s UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan. A Godolphin homebred trained by Charlie Appleby, he was 3-for-3 before he finished fifth last month at Riyadh. His most recent win came as an odds-on favorite in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, a one-mile race over the same track where he will race 1 3/16 miles this weekend. A victory or perhaps a second-place finish would qualify him for the Kentucky Derby, where 16 previous UAE Derby runners have tried and failed to finish better than fifth.

Defunded (150-1 William Hill). Baffert dropped this closer’s name when he was asked by track spokesman Mike Willman whether Medina Spirit would have a stablemate keeping him company in the April 3 running of the Santa Anita Derby (G1). As an 8-1 fourth choice coming off a six-month break, the $210,000 Dialed In colt broke his maiden two weeks ago in a six-furlong sprint at Santa Anita. Defunded was the “other Baffert” in that race, so he will be in a familiar role next month.

Excellent Timing (150-1 William Hill). Just bought by a partnership led by Michael Dubb and Sol Kumin, this latecomer made a big impression in his first race for his new trainer Chad Brown. Sent off as an odds-on favorite March 14 at Aqueduct, he won by 6 3/4 lengths in the seven-furlong Damon Runyon Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds. Afterward, Dubb did not sound like he wanted to rush Excellent Timing onto the Triple Crown trail. “We want to get him used to winning,” he said. “Hopefully, once we do that he can go to open company.”

Rightandjust opened at Circa last week at 250-1, but he was taken down after he finished seventh in the Louisiana Derby (G2).

Another 25 names including Life Is Good were removed in Las Vegas, leaving these 96 at Circa Sports and William Hill Nevada, shown with their Kentucky Derby futures odds:

Circa   WH

100-1          Alain Barows

150-1          Barraza

125-1          Big Lake

250-1          Bracken

         250-1 Breeze On By

100-1  50-1 Brooklyn Strong

  30-1  85-1 Caddo River

100-1 150-1 Candy Man Rocket

200-1          Capo Kane

100-1          Cazadero

  22-1  30-1 Collaborate

    9-2    6-1 Concert Tour

200-1          Cousin Larry

200-1          Cowan

  50-1 125-1 Crowded Trade

         150-1 Defunded

150-1          Democracy

200-1 200-1 Donegal Bay

         150-1 Drain the Clock

  70-1  60-1 Dream Shake

200-1          Du Jour

  55-1 125-1 Dynamic One

    9-2    4-1 Essential Quality

         200-1 Ethical Judgement

         175-1 Excellent Timing

200-1          Fire At Will

300-1 225-1 Founder

300-1          Found My Ball

           75-1 Freedom Fighter

300-1          Gagetown

200-1 150-1 Get Her Number

  75-1          Ghazaaly

    5-1    8-1 Greatest Honour

  80-1          Gretzky The Great

  40-1  45-1 Helium

300-1          Herd Immunity

  65-1  28-1 Hidden Stash

  50-1  26-1 Highly Motivated

    9-1  12-1 Hot Rod Charlie

  35-1  25-1 Hozier

125-1          Hush of a Storm

           75-1 Jackie’s Warrior

100-1          Jaxon Traveler

250-1          Jirafales

  60-1  50-1 Keepmeinmind

  25-1  28-1 Known Agenda

300-1 110-1 Lamutanaatty

         125-1 La Perouse

           85-1 Lemon Pop

         250-1 Likeable

175-1          Like the King

200-1          Lucky Law

  25-1  30-1 Mandaloun

  45-1  16-1 Medina Spirit

  30-1  24-1 Midnight Bourbon

110-1          Mouheeb

225-1          Mr. Impossible

200-1          Never Surprised

         225-1 Next

125-1 125-1 Nicky the Vest

200-1 125-1 Nova Rags

  60-1 100-1 O Besos

200-1 125-1 Overtook

100-1          Papetu

300-1          Parnelli

300-1          Petruchio

  24-1  14-1 Prevalence

150-1          Prime Factor

  50-1  45-1 Proxy

300-1          Real Talk

125-1          Rebel’s Romance

200-1          Return the Ring

400-1          Ricochet

  22-1  24-1 Risk Taking

  40-1  50-1 Rock Your World

100-1  75-1 Roman Centurian

125-1  55-1 Rombauer

300-1          Runway Magic

300-1          Scarred

250-1          Sittin On Go

200-1 175-1 Smiley Sobotka

100-1   85-1 Soup and Sandwich

  30-1   35-1 Spielberg

200-1          Stage Raider

200-1 250-1 Super Stock

125-1 200-1 Swiftsure

  70-1 150-1 Tarantino

200-1          Team Merchants

125-1          The Chosen Vron

100-1  75-1 The Great One

300-1 250-1 Therideofalifetime

  95-1 125-1 Untreated

  50-1   85-1 Weyburn

  90-1          Whiskey Double

250-1          Willy Boi

250-1          Wipe the Slate

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