Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Life Is Good

January 4th, 2021

Let the comparisons begin.

Already there are striking similarities between Life Is Good and 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic. Not only do they share the same trainer, Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert, they’re both sons of Into Mischief and they both joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with victories in the Sham (G3) and San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita.

But does Life Is Good have the pedigree to handle racing 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May? That’s a key question for handicappers to consider when analyzing his chances.

Granted, Into Mischief has already sired a Kentucky Derby winner. Authentic was a rare gate-to-wire winner under the Twin Spires, and he later reiterated his talent with a confident victory in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

But Authentic arguably defied his pedigree during an unusual year when the Derby was run in September due to COVID-19. Prior to the emergence of Authentic, Into Mischief was primarily known as a sire of sprinters and milers, albeit very talented ones: Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winners Covfefe and Gamine; two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents; Canadian champions Conquest Enforcer and Miss Mischief, both best running a mile or less. The list goes on and on.

Of course, it wasn’t entirely unexpected for Into Mischief to sire a route runner the caliber of Authentic. Into Mischief has been steadily rising through the sire ranks, leading all North American stallions by progeny earnings in 2019 and 2020. Last year, his runners earned a record ~$22 million, with Authentic contributing more than $7 million of the total. With an increasing number of foals on track, Into Mischief was bound to sire a classic winner eventually.

But was Authentic a long-winded fluke, or is Into Mischief more capable of siring classic routers than we realize? The jury is still out. Into Mischief is also the sire of 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) third-place finisher Audible, but by and large the distance capabilities of his progeny have topped out at 1 1/8 miles. This is in keeping with Into Mischief’s own proficiency as a racehorse; the highlights of his career included a victory in the 1 1/16-mile CashCall Futurity (G1) and a runner-up effort in the 7-furlong Malibu (G1).

On the other hand, Into Mischief is a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup winners Beholder and Mendelssohn, two talented runners who thrived racing a mile or farther. Beholder was fast, but stretched her speed to trounce males in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1), and Mendelssohn proved sufficiently stout to set a stakes record in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby (G2).

Getting back to Life Is Good, the bottom half of his pedigree is just as befuddling. His dam, Beach Walk, failed to win in five starts while showing a preference for short distances. In four starts sprinting, she never missed the trifecta and ran pretty much the same race every time, flashing speed before weakening in the final furlong. Her lone off-the-board finish coincided with her only start around two turns, a sixth-place effort racing a mile at Oaklawn Park.

But Beach Walk’s own tendencies aside, there’s no reason to think she can’t pass stamina on to her foals. Her first foal won going a mile, and Beach Walk is a daughter of Distorted Humor, a versatile stallion best known for siring 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Funny Cide and 2010 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Drosselmeyer. As a broodmare sire, Distorted Humor appears in the pedigrees of all types of runners, ranging from sprinter-milers like Champagne (G1) hero Practical Joke (a son of Into Mischief) to Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate and Hong Kong Triple Crown winner Golden Sixty.

Beach Walk’s dam, Bonnie Blue Flag, displayed more speed than stamina while placing in multiple Grade 1 sprints. But she in turn is a daughter of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, a four-time Grade 1 winner over distances ranging from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles. As a general rule, Mineshaft passes stamina to his progeny, with the best of them excelling almost exclusively over a mile or farther. Belmont Stakes runner-up Fly Down, Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Effinex, and Florida Derby (G1) winner Dialed In (himself a successful sire) are just a few examples.

In short, Life Is Good’s pedigree can be interpreted in many different ways. There’s plenty of speed, no doubt, but there are also several doses of classic stamina interspersed.

In the past, handicappers might have considered Life Is Good’s pedigree too speed-oriented for success in the Kentucky Derby. But times have changed, and brilliant miler speed is often the recipe for success under the Twin Spires. Life Is Good is not the son of a Derby winner out of the daughter of a Derby winner, but there’s a chance his bloodlines have combined in precisely the way necessary for success racing 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May.