The latest genie to be uncorked from trainer Bob Baffert’s bottle made a jaw-dropping debut Sunday at Del Mar. In 75 1/2 seconds, he went from unraced to being Essential Quality’s closest challenger for the roses, which have not even been planted yet.
Therein lies a cautionary tale. At this time last year, Independence Hall had the best Beyer Speed Figure for any 2-year-old and was an 8-1 co-favorite in the William Hill futures. By the time the Derby should have rolled around last May, he had lost his first two graded-stakes starts as a 3-year-old and had drifted to 30-1 before being turned out for the summer.
Nevertheless, Life Is Good became the new best chance to bring Baffert a record seventh Kentucky Derby victory. Bred by Gary and Mary West (think Maximum Security), owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm (Justify) and sired by Into Mischief (Authentic), the $525,000 colt cruised to a 9 1/2-length victory Sunday against four overmatched maidens. He was hand-ridden by Mike Smith over the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.50.
Life Is Good was one of eight horses added by William Hill, bringing its list of Derby betting choices to 133.
Not to be forgotten is the undefeated would-be champion that barely two weeks ago won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Essential Quality held steady as the 8-1 favorite.
Highly Motivated, another Into Mischief colt, shortened from 45-1 to a 30-1 third choice. Life Is Good’s stablemate Classier went from 40-1 to 35-1, the same odds as trainer John Shirreffs’s Grade 3 winner Red Flag opened this week. Trainer Brad Cox’s maiden winner Caddo River made his first futures appearance at 40-1, the price that former favorite Jackie’s Warrior carries.
William Hill will have company soon in the domestic betting market. Circa Sports of Las Vegas is expected to post its first prices next week. Churchill Downs will operate its first pari-mutuel 2021 Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool this holiday weekend, from noon Thursday to 6 p.m. Sunday ET.
Following is William Hill’s full list of Kentucky Derby futures (last Monday’s odds are in parentheses where there were changes):
8-1 Essential Quality
12-1 Life Is Good (opener)
30-1 Highly Motivated (45-1)
35-1 Classier (40-1), Red Flag (opener)
40-1 Caddo River (opener), Jackie’s Warrior
50-1 Dr. Schivel, Hot Rod Charlie, Olympiad (75-1)
60-1 Jaxon Traveler, Vittorio (90-1)
75-1 Cazadero, Get Her Number, Huntsinger, Keepmeinmind, Midnight Bourbon, Mutasaabeq, Spielberg (70-1), Stayin’ Out Late
85-1 Savile Row (100-1)
90-1 Santa Cruiser (opener), Team Merchants (125-1)
100-1 Calibrate, Effinity, Founder, Hidden Stash, Hyperfocus, Known Agenda (125-1), Reinvestment Risk, Rombauer, Sittin On Go, Smiley Sobotka, Speaker’s Corner (125-1), Super Stock, Swill, Ten For Ten, Therideofalifetime, Whiskey Double (130-1)
110-1 Mandaloun (125-1)
120-1 Boca Boy, Gagetown (opener), Eagle Orb (150-1), Freedom Fighter (130-1), King Fury, Pickin’ Time, Seminole Beach (130-1), Uno (opener)
125-1 Bolden, Brooklyn Strong, Chicks For Free, Ethical Judgement, Eucharist, Girther, Greatest Honour, Inspector Frost, Judge N Jury, Next, No Cents (140-1), Prisoner, Scarred, Slashing, Starrininmydreams
130-1 Cousin Larry, Likeable
135-1 Angkor (150-1)
140-1 Bold Minister, Herd Immunity, Kenny Had a Notion (75-1), Raison d’Air, Sonic Brees, Sound the Charge, Waist Deep
150-1 Ambivalent, Ascot Storm, Awesome Gerry, Belafonte, Blue Gator (125-1), Bob’s Edge (opener), Breeze On By, Cajun Commander, Camp Hope, Fauci, Fury Kap, Hendavid, Hendrick, Highway Bound, Hold the Salsa, Kwist, Lugamo (120-1), Nova Rags, Poppy’s Pride (200-1), Positivity, Restored Order, Roderick, Run Snappy, Saffa’s Day, Thranduil, Tiz Mandate (opener), Twilight Blue, Ultimate Badger, Waspirant, Weston (100-1), Work Out
175-1 Big Daddy Dave, Garoppolo, Hercules, Horn of Plenty (150-1), Lookin For Trouble (150-1), Real Talk (125-1), Schnell, Seazan (160-1), Son of a Beast, Upstriker, Xtreme Mayhem
200-1 Al Heybay, Ampersand, Big Flame, Boomer, Dalton, Superman Shaq, Tiz Handsome (150-1), What’s Up Surfer, Wyfire
225-1 Famous Gent (200-1), Tacoflavoredkisses
250-1 Basso (175-1), Erawan (150-1), It Can Be Done, Momos
300-1 Advance Cash (250-1),
350-1 Valiant Thor