Life Is Good's injury jumbles Derby

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The disappointment of Saturday’s news that Life Is Good was injured and off the Triple Crown trail was palpable. The story was still developing when Twitter laid bare the feelings of those who were all in on his bandwagon. Or at least paying attention to it.

“I’m sad to see Life Is Good off the Derby trail,” was one reaction. “He’s a freak, and he’d have been a deserving 6-5 on May 1.”

One visitor to Las Vegas asked, “Got any future Derby bet ideas with Life Is Good out of the picture?” 

“I wish Life Is Good was in the Kentucky Derby,” someone wrote from New York state. “I was gonna get 3-1 on Concert Tour.”

“Feeling bad for those future Derby bettors who had Life Is Good at 2-1,” was a reaction from Michigan. “No, I’m not. You’re dumb if you bet that.”

One person’s rue is another person’s schadenfreude.

Life Is Good closed at 2-1 in last month’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager, although he was still as long as 7-2 in Nevada pools. That was before he was diagnosed with “a very small chip in his left hind ankle.” That was how trainer Bob Baffert described the injury Sunday to XBTV. So all those wintertime bets on Life Is Good to win the Derby hit the floor on the first day of spring.

Only the uninitiated do not know that, unlike race-day wagers, fixed-odds futures bets are immediate action. That risk makes a long-shot payoff literally that much more rewarding — and an early bet at short odds that much less prudent.

At the same time, one prop became a winner the moment Life Is Good went to the shelf. Circa Sports offers yes-or-no betting with higher limits on the four or five shortest-priced choices in its futures. Will a particular horse win the Kentucky Derby? In the case of a “no” bet, immediate action is an advantage. It becomes a winner if the horse in question loses the Derby or does not even get there.

As Life Is Good’s odds to win the Derby got shorter, the cost to lay a “no” bet also shrunk. By the time he was taken off the board Saturday, he was -450. The $450 it cost to bet that he would not win the roses turned into a $100 profit. At least it will May 1, when the bets are formally graded and the winners paid. Life Is Good’s “no” price ranged at any given time from -1700 to -450.

On its own merit, a 1-17 bet might not look inviting. But combined with other wagers, it can come in handy. Any bettor who got Life Is Good last month at + 950 to win the Derby might have found -450 a good price to lay off the original stake with a “no” wager.

Circa also offers multisport bets, so an odds-on wager for a horse not to win the Derby can be used to try to fatten a parlay.

Not that these are sure things. Authentic, who supposedly could not get 1¼ miles, swallowed the money of skeptics who got him at -780 to -1900 thinking he would fail to win last year’s Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile, the supposedly unbeatable Tiz The Law, 7-10 at post time to win the roses, was 6-5 at Circa to fail. That turned into an ideal hedge for those who got him during the summer at longer win odds. 

The yes-or-no prop provides an alternative to the incessant grousing from fortune hunters and their acolytes about short futures odds. For those who do not like the lousy prices, they have a choice besides passing on them altogether. Or tweeting about them.

DERBY FUTURES: WHO’S HOT?

Hot Rod Charlie (+ 950 Circa, 12-1 William Hill). Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill might have been serving the final days of a medication suspension, but his stable was still responsible for the winner of Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. But this Oxbow colt retains an enigmatic quality. He was 94-1 when he came in second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then he was a 5-2 disappointment finishing third in the Robert B. Lewis, his 3-year-old debut. He was 5-2 again when he won at Fair Grounds last weekend, with Joel Rosario taking him to the lead early. When he races forward, he is 2-for-2. When he has been more than a length off the early lead, he is 0-for-5. Speed has been a big reason six of the last nine Kentucky Derby winners have come from California. Maybe that is quite literally the way forward for Hot Rod Charlie.

Collaborate (22-1, 30-1). Greatest Honour will attract most of the money in Saturday’s Florida Derby, but this $600,000 Into Mischief colt from the Saffie Joseph Jr. barn will also be short-priced. He is coming off a geared-down, 12½-length maiden victory going 1 mile last month at Gulfstream Park. That is also where he offered his most recent positive impression last week, breezing 4 furlongs in 47.05 seconds in company with a stakes-winning filly. It was reported to be the fastest time of that day’s 51 workouts at the distance. Whether Collaborate was a one-hit wonder might be answered this weekend.

Rock Your World (40-1, 50-1). Bettors and bookmakers appear bullish on this horse’s chances to succeed going from turf to dirt April 3 in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. The $600,000 colt sired by Candy Ride won his first two races for trainer John Sadler, setting the pace in his stakes debut and stalking the lead going a mile in last month’s Pasadena Stakes. Sadler is confident Rock Your World can get the 1⅛-mile distance of the Santa Anita Derby. With the absence of Life Is Good, winning the race might have gotten a little easier.

DERBY FUTURES: WHO’S NOT?

Mandaloun (25-1, 30-1). His sixth-place effort as the 6-5 favorite in the Louisiana Derby sent him crashing back to earth. For once this Into Mischief colt did not respond to jockey Florent Geroux’s urging. He faded from a close third to finish sixth, 11¾ lengths behind Hot Rod Charlie. Trainer Brad Cox said he might nominate Mandaloun for the Lexington Stakes on April 10 at Keeneland just in case he thinks he needs another race. There is certainly no need for more qualifying points. If anything, Cox needs to figure out what went wrong at New Orleans.

Proxy (50-1, 45-1). The horse who finished second in the Lecomte and Risen Star had blinkers added by trainer Mike Stidham. He then went the wrong way in the Louisiana Derby, finishing fourth. Maybe getting banged around on both sides at the start of the race discouraged him, especially since he could not see the traffic on either side. With seven major preps left, the 34 points already earned by this Tapit colt put him on the qualifying bubble. Whether Proxy has what it takes to win the roses, then, could be a moot point.

Lamutanaatty (300-1, 110-1). Trainer Chad Brown got this debut winner back to regular workouts this month but appears to have no race in mind for him. Bought for $700,000 by Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stable, the Into Mischief colt (yes, another one) has not been nominated for any of the remaining Derby points preps. This late in March, outta site could mean outta time.

In addition to this report, Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday morning at VSiN.com and more frequently for coverage of big events. You can also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. Gulfstream Park and Fox Sports TV analyst Acacia Courtney previews Saturday’s Florida Derby. Ralph Siraco of Race Day Las Vegas handicaps weekend races. The RFRP is available for download Friday and free subscription now at iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.

 

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