Kentucky Derby Rankings: Life is Good puts down a marker

Bob Baffert's Life is Good consolidated his position atop of our Kentucky Derby Rankings this week
Bob Baffert's Life is Good consolidated his position atop of our Kentucky Derby Rankings this week

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Last Saturday we saw a trifecta of Kentucky Derby Prep Races and whilst the Gotham along with the Tampa Bay Derby failed to give us an obvious insight into what might happen at Churchill Downs on May 1, that wasn't the case over in Santa Anita for the San Felipe. Life is Good has been high on our boards throughout the prep season and now he's solidly number one for two of our trio with J.N. even joining us (albeit joint with Essential Quality).

This week it is our in-house handicapper who gives us his rundown of his top ten with all our charts listed below...

Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders
  • Position
  • J.N.
  • Neil
  • Sean

Position

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Last Updated:

J.N.

  • Essential Quality
  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Known Agenda
  • Highly Motivated
  • Rock Your World
  • Super Stock
  • Midnight Bourbon
  • Concert Tour
  • Medina Spirit
  • Mandaloun
  • 13 April 2021

Neil

  • Essential Quality
  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Highly Motivated
  • Known Agenda
  • Medina Spirit
  • Rock Your World
  • Super Stock
  • Soup and Sandwich
  • Greatest Honour
  • Concert Tour
  • 13 April 2021

Sean

  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Medina Spirit
  • Essential Quality
  • Rock Your World
  • Highly Motivated
  • Dream Shake
  • Concert Tour
  • Known Agenda
  • Midnight Bourbon
  • Mandaloun
  • 13 April 2021

#1 Life Is Good:  He didn’t just solidify his spot atop this list with an eighth-length win in the G2 San Felipe over the weekend, he began to pull away from the competition. Not only was he visually impressive in victory, but the 107 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for the effort is one of the fastest races ever for a 3-year-old at this time of year. He’s now recorded two triple-digit Beyers in just his first three starts, both around two turns, and is still dripping with upside. No one is even remotely in the same league as him right now.

#2 Medina Spirit:  After finishing second in the Sham behind Life Is Good, there was a slight temptation to rank him above his stablemate as a wise-guy selection; it should go without saying, but that impulse no longer exists. Despite getting soundly beaten in the San Felipe by the other-worldly Life Is Good, I thought he ran quite well — so well I believe he still deserves to occupy the No. 2 spot on this list, which is both a testament to his ability and that of his more ballyhooed stablemate. At this point it’s hard to imagine how he closes the gap on Life Is Good, but a lot can still happen on the Derby Trail.

#3 Essential Quality:  No one is going to confuse the G3 Southwest with a top Derby prep, but it was an excellent starting point for last year’s 2-year-old champ as he returned with gusto in his sophomore debut. I still get the impression that he’s more of a precocious sort than a supreme talent, however it’s hard to argue with his success as he’s now a perfect 4-for-4 in his career. I’m taking more of a wait and see approach to his development, but I can’t deny that right now he’s among the very best of his crop.

#4 Dream Shake:  Obviously putting this horse so high on the list just underscores how strong I think the San Felipe was as a prep. Dream Shake finished a well-beaten third in the San Felipe, 10 ¼ lengths behind Life Is Good and 2 ¼ off Medina Spirit, but all in all it was an encouraging performance for a horse that was making just his second career start and first around two turns following an unbelievably impressive debut win going 6 ½ furlongs. I thought he more than backed up that first-out win and he still has an extraordinary ceiling.

#5 Hot Rod Charlie:  He was a little disappointing in the Robert B. Lewis since he could only get third after sitting a good trip, but for now I’m keeping him entrenched in the No. 5 spot on this list. He showed me so much as a 2-year-old, particularly with a stunning placing in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he shipped cross-country and was the first to attack a scalding pace, and his last race was likely just a prep for bigger things. His trainer Doug O’Neill knows how to handle a Derby winner and I’m going to keep the faith, at least for one more start.

#6 Mandaloun:  This one was bounced out of this list following a mediocre run in the G3 Lecomte, but that proved to be a hasty decision as he came back with a much-improved effort to win the G2 Risen Star. The track was speed-favoring at Fair Grounds on the day of the Risen Star, but I still believe Mandaloun ran really well and earned a 98 Beyer that puts him among this crop’s best. Perhaps most importantly, his breakthrough victory came going 1 ⅛ miles, so it would seem we have a true stayer on our hands.

#7 Greatest Honour:  He hasn’t yet run as fast as the others around him on this list, but he’s passed the proverbial eye test with flying colors. Greatest Honour is still going to need to step his game up after beating a lackluster bunch in both the G2 Fountain of Youth and the G3 Holy Bull, but I believe he has the makeup to do just that. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey tends to bring his horses along slowly, so don’t be surprised if this one continues to make strides.

#8 Jackie’s Warrior:  This horse was a pretty big disappointment in the Southwest, but I’m not going to give up on him just yet. Although he was soundly beaten by Essential Quality in the Southwest, the track may have played a big hand in that as inner paths appeared to be a distinct disadvantage over the sloppy surface and he was inside throughout. I think his ceiling is somewhat limited, which is why he’s relatively low on this list, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him snag a big prep in his next race.

#9 Proxy:  He’s now twice been overshadowed in Derby preps at Fair Grounds, but this guy is quietly developing into a very nice 3-year-old. His runner-up performance behind Mandaloun in the Risen Star earned him a very respectable speed figure, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue to progress with added ground. Any further improvement from him and he’ll be shooting up this list in no time.

#10 Weyburn:  I didn’t think much of the G3 Gotham ahead of time, but the race came back legitimately fast and Weyburn was dead-game in victory. What’s more is that his guy looks like he’ll run all day, and I’m not even sure he was fully cranked for the Gotham since it was his first start of the year for the patient Jimmy Jerkens.

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