News and STORIES

Life Is Good’s Withdrawal from the Triple Crown

Author: Ryan Knuppel
Published: Wednesday March 24, 2021
Life Is Good, one of the top contenders for the Triple Crown, was pulled out of contention by trainer Bob Baffert due to an undisclosed injury. It’s not expected to be career-ending, but it will result in the three-year-old colt pulling out of not only the Santa Anita Derby in April but also the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

What Life Is Good’s withdrawal means

Having already qualified for the Run for the Roses, Life Is Good’s withdrawal may move to reduce the points needed to gain an invitation to the Kentucky Derby. The horse that may benefit the most is Proxy, currently with 34 qualifying points and out of chances to add to that total. After a fourth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, the Michael Stidham colt was clearly on the bubble.
Despite finishing ahead of Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon, both of whom have earned invitations to the Kentucky Derby, Proxy wasn’t able to grab a win in three tries at The Fair Grounds. Two-second place finishes prior to the Louisiana Derby show that Proxy can run with the best and might be able to contend in the Kentucky Derby if given a chance.
The move from tenth to ninth in the standings may prove to be significant following the Arkansas Derby on April 10, the final 100-40-20-10 points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The top 18 horses in the United States section of qualifying, along with a horse from Europe and Japan, are awarded invitations to Churchill Downs.
Another Bob Baffert horse, Medina Spirit, also has 34 points, but he’ll have another shot at earning more at the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 at the track of the same name. Unlike Proxy, Medina Spirit has a win in a prep race at the 10-4-2-1 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on January 30. He edged a quality field that included the Louisiana Derby winner, Hot Rod Charlie, who finished less than a length behind Medina Spirit in third place.

Essential Quality moves to the top

The bigger beneficiaries of the Life Is Good absence are the top contenders to win all three Triple Crown races. They include Essential Quality, who, with 40 points and an eighth-place standing, is now all but guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby. But more importantly, it moves the Brad Cox trained colt to the top of the hopeful list prior to his last prep race in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Park on April 3.
Essential Quality is unbeaten in four races but has yet to enter one with a points payout higher than 20-8-4-2. That will change at the Blue Grass, a 100-40-20-10 race that could move him to near the top of the standings. Brad Cox has had recent success in the Breeders’ Cup Series but has yet to have one of his horses capture a Triple Crown race.

Other challengers

The aforementioned Hot Rod Charlie sits atop the point standings with 110 points, but aside from his Louisiana Derby victory, it hasn’t been particularly impressive, at least not when compared to Essential Quality. His only other victory came in a maiden race at Santa Anita on October 2. He followed that up with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but came in second to a surging Essential Quality to lose by ¾ of a length.
With Life Is Good on the sidelines, Greatest Honour, winner of the Holy Bull Stakes, and Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, may be the biggest challenger to Essential Quality. The Claude McGaughey III entry will have a chance to add to his 60 qualifying points at the 100-40-20-10 Florida Derby on March 27, again at Gulfstream.