Gauging Races

When Life is Good broke his maiden with an impressive performance at Del Mar, he created quite a buzz and bandwagon. I had heard about the colt and that he was really good well before the race, so I was anxious to see him run. Obviously, he lived up to the hype, and off a two year old maiden win, he sparked talk of the Kentucky Derby. Being trained by Bob Baffert certainly didn’t hurt the enthusiasm for the colt.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to judge a horse off one win. I don’t care what they do or how they look doing it; you just don’t know much off one race. I’m more concerned with his second race, which we’ll get to in a minute. As for debuts like the one Life is Good ran, I look at the same things most others do. The time. The visual appearance. The gallop out, the Thorograph number, and the competition. Most important to me is if it turns out to be a key race in one of two ways. First, do any horses come out of the race to win their next starts, and do any of them become nice or stake horses.

Life is Good ran back, going two turns and a mile in the Sham Stakes. He won, but as many people who jumped on his bandwagon off the debut seemed to knock the win and jump off after the Sham. I think that’s premature.

Now I am not calling Life is Good the Derby winner or next coming of anything. I’ll just say if you are disappointed with his race in the Sham you might not know what to look for with a horse like this in the care of Bob Baffert.

The Sham was not the end goal. It was not supposed to be Life is Good’s best race. It was a foundation builder designed to make him work a little and go around two turns.

If you are looking at the prospect of winning classics, you don’t want or expect your horse to run his “A” race every start. Just like at Tiz the Law. He fizzled after all those hard starts at two and three.

Bob likes to win Derbies. That’s what he is thinking with every move he makes with his good newly turned three year olds.

Life is Good probably was about 75-80% for his two-turn debut and won it anyway. He seemed to have everything aced, but things got close late. He may have shot down a bit, but it looks to me like he got just what he needed out of the race and ran a race he can move forward off of. That’s what you want to see when you’re pointing for a peak effort in May. It’s only January.

It’s not realistic to expect horses to be machines and run their best or the same every time. More often than not, they won’t. An angle I like to play off of is exactly what I pointed out here. While most will be cautious about Life is Good next out, I expect a forward move. I’m not saying he’s a winner. We don’t know where he’s running or against who. What I am saying is downgrading him off a race he used as a building block could be a mistake.

In racing, it pays as a bettor to go against the grain and the masses. You have to be right less when you play that way, and considering we play a game where we are all wrong more than right, that’s a smart way to go about it. I look to jump on the bandwagon everyone is jumping off, if there is a sound reason, of course. In this case, I believe there is. Time will tell.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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