The name of the winner of the 2021 Sham Stakes might as well be the year’s motto: Life is Good.
And getting better.
The dark bay son of Into Mischief (by Harlan’s Holiday) had won a maiden on his debut that staggered the speed figure makers, as the colt coasted home by 9 1/2 lengths on Nov. 22 at Del Mar. The sheets and graphs and figs were all very strong on this powerful-looking bay, and Life is Good had been working well and looking good in the meantime.
In the meantime, both the second and fourth in the maiden won by Life is Good have returned and won their maiden specials. Second-place Wipe the Slate (Nyquist) came back on Dec. 26 to win and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. On Jan. 3, the fourth-placed Centurian (Empire Maker) made his second start and won by 3 3/4 lengths, going a mile and a sixteenth in 1:44.88. This looks like a key maiden, and more black type is likely to come to its participants.
For his stakes debut on Jan. 2, Life is Good was the 1-to-5 favorite and won the Grade 3 Sham by three-quarters of a length over Medina Spirit in 1:36.63. The second-place finisher had 13 lengths on third-place Parnelli (Quality Road), and Medina Spirit (Protonico) was the peanut butter in a price sandwich among the top three finishers.
Whereas the winner sold for $525,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale and Parnelli sold for $500,000 at the same auction, Medina Spirit brought $1,000 at the 2019 OBS winter mixed sale as a short yearling, then resold last year at the OBS June (in July) sale of 2-year-olds in training for $35,000.
As a great breeder once said, “Horses can’t read their pedigrees or their press clippings, and it’s a good thing.”
Although the “thousand-dollar wonder” made a race of it, Life is Good was strong to the end, and the son of leading sire Into Mischief became the 84th stakes winner for the top Spendthrift Farm stallion.
Life is Good was bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West, who also bred and raced Maximum Security (New Year’s Day). The Wests’ racing manager, Ben Glass, said: “Life is Good was a really nice colt. We liked him a lot, but the consensus at the time was that the Into Mischiefs wouldn’t go a mile and a quarter. So Mr. West told me to go ahead and put him in a sale.
“We breed enough foals every year that we have to sell some, and we have to sell some of the nicest ones because people notice if the yearlings don’t include some serious prospects. For the nicer horses, we put a proper reserve on them, and if they bring it, they sell. Mr. West told me to put a half-million reserve on the Into Mischief colt,” and he brought $525,000 from China Horse Club and WinStar Farm LLC.
Owned by two of the principals behind Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy), Life is Good went into training with the man who trained the last two Triple Crown winners, Bob Baffert. The bay colt is now unbeaten in two starts and is poised to race along the same path that 2020 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic (Into Mischief) trod a year ago.
Nor is Life is Good the only Into Mischief colt pointing toward the classics. On the same day and a continent’s width away from Santa Anita, the bay Mutasaabeq (Into Mischief) won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream, covering the mile in 1:35.98. This was the progressive colt’s third victory in five starts, and it was his first stakes victory on dirt.
After finishing third in the G1 Hopeful last summer, Mutasaabeq had tried turf and won the G2 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland, then finished unplaced in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after an eventful trip.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for Shadwell Stable, Mutasaabeq was bred in Kentucky by Black Ridge Stables LLC. He is out of the Scat Daddy mare Downside Scenario, a half-sister to G3 stakes winner Cool Cowboy (Kodiak Kowboy). Winner of a maiden special, Downside Scenario sold to Black Ridge for $250,000 at the 2018 Keeneland January sale when she was carrying Mutasaabeq.
Expectations are that Mutasaabeq will try the classic trail, and he and Life is Good are two more examples of why Into Mischief is such a popular stallion: his racers are fast, enthusiastic competitors and everybody wants one.
Not surprisingly, the dam of Life is Good is already booked back to Into Mischief for a 2021 mating. Beach Walk is in foal to Candy Ride, carrying a colt, and due in the coming weeks. For breeders, it’s simple. Glass said, “We love Into Mischief. We bred three mares to him in 2017, including Beach Walk, and bought a share in him. Then we sold the best one, and if we had to do it again, we’d probably do the same thing.”