Big Race Weekend
By Dick Jerardi
Parx-based horses were in three major stakes races last Saturday in New York. None won, but several gave good accounts of themselves. And there was a Parx legend in one of those races who demonstrated exactly how to ride a speed horse.
There were also three significant Kentucky Derby preps, with one transcendent performance delivered by a colt trained by Mr. Derby himself, Bob Baffert, a man who could very well have a record seventh Derby win by sundown on May 1.
The Danny Velazquez owned and trained Laobanonaprayer tried open company in the Busher Invitational at Aqueduct after two dominating New York bred stakes wins last fall. The 3-year-old filly was kind of stuck behind horses much of the trip in the Busher and ran on respectably to finish fourth when finally clear. After missing some training time at Parx, she figures to do much better in her next start whether in open company or back with NY breds.
Share the Ride, trained by Miguel Penaloza, has been an amazing success story since being claimed last July for $16,000. The 6-year-old has won two graded stakes and placed in two more. Coming back in just two weeks in The Tom Fool Handicap, Share the Ride ran his first poor race on dirt for owner Ramirez Silvino, finishing last of six. It was Parx alum Kendrick Carmouche, atop the jockey standings at Aqueduct, who ended up in the winner’s circle.
There were two-speed horses in the race, Chateau and Happy Farm. After 50 yards, there was only one-speed horse as Carmouche got Chateau to fly out of the gate, leaving Happy Farm and the others in his wake, loose on the lead and long gone, a classic demonstration of how to take advantage of a horse’s natural speed.
Lake Avenue was a runaway winner of The Heavenly Prize Invitational, but Portal Creek, trained by Carlos Guererro, set a strong pace before finishing second. The Michael Moore-trained Flashndynamite was a solid third. Those two mares have combined to win 20 races and more than $500,000
Jerome winner Capo Kane was swimming in deep water for trainer Harry Wyner when he was sent off at 11-1 in The Gotham. Chad Brown had the favorite, Baffert the second choice.
Capo Kane was never really a factor, checking in sixth.
That result almost certainly takes him off the Derby trail, but there are still nice 3-year-old races out there for the colt to win.
Weyburn, a 46-1 shot, won a stretch-long duel with 5-1 Crowded Trade to win the Gotham and get a solid 95 Beyer Speed Figure.
The Tampa Bay Derby was won by unbeaten 15-1 shot Helium in his first try on dirt after two wins on the Tapeta at Woodbine last fall. His 84 Beyer Speed Figure strongly suggests this colt by grass star Irononicus is no threat to win the Derby.
The performance of the day and the year so far came in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
Life Is Good was 1-5 in his Del Mar debut last November. The colt won by 9 ½ lengths. The son of Into Mischief was 1-5 again when he won Sham Stakes on Jan. 2. The margin was just three-quarters of a length, but that was an illusion as jockey Mike Smith stopped riding the colt in the final few hundred yards.
There was nothing illusional about Life Is Good in the San Felipe. Sent off at 1-2 against a field that included a graded stakes winner, two graded stakes-placed horses, and an impressive winner of a very fast maiden race, Life Is Good stamped himself as the Derby favorite in a race he dominated from start to finish.
Life Is Good and stablemate Medina Spirit was separated by just three-quarters of a length in the Sham. In the San Felipe, Medina Spirit was again second, but this time, the margin was 8 lengths as Life Is Good was simply brilliant.
How brilliant? Life Is Good got a 107 Beyer Figure, a number that routinely wins the Derby. So, yes, Baffert has another major star. How good is to be determined but Life Is Good has already produced a Beyer series of 91, 101, 107 so who knows just how good this colt might be.