With the summer he’s having, Life Is Good could not be more appropriately-named.
The 4-year-old Todd Pletcher trainee took the lead sharply out of the gate in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 6 and never looked back, keeping daylight between himself and rivals Happy Saver and Hot Rod Charlie throughout the 1 1/8-mile contest. Under Irad Ortiz Jr., he posted fractions of :23.20, :46.84, 1:10.93, and 1:35.68 with a final time of 1:48.97.
The track was rated as good and had been harrowed ahead of the Whitney after a rain shower two races prior.
Stablemate Happy Saver came second, making it a Pletcher exacta, with Hot Rod Charlie third.
Life Is Good is co-owned by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club and came to this race off a July 2 win in the G2 John Nerud at Belmont. Prior to that he was fourth in the G1 Dubai World Cup, which marked the only time in his ten-race career that he has finished worse than second. He is the reigning winner of the G1 Pegasus World Cup, and was also the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year.
The Whitney is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, meaning Life Is Good is now automatically qualified for a spot in that race if his connections choose to take it.
Life Is Good was a $525,000 yearling at the 2019 Keeneland September Sale, where he was bought by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing from consignor Paramount Sales. He is the son of Into Mischief and Beach Walk, by Distorted Humor. he was bred by Gary and Mary West Stable.
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G1 Whitney Quotes
Todd Pletcher, winning trainer of Life Is Good (No. 6, $3.70*) and runner-up Happy Saver (No. 5): “There are so many factors to worry about with heat, the humidity, the track’s been playing pretty demanding, but during the race, it looked like he was always in control. I thought he was in good position. It looked like he kept finding more and I was happy to see him get there.
“When you feel like you’re bringing over the best horse, you worry about everything. Today we got the rain, the deep track, the heat and humidity. All those things can be concerning, but he was able to overcome all of that and just show how brilliant he really is.
“To me it’s the premier older horse race in the country outside of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. So, it means a lot.
On Happy Saver: “He just kept finding. Happy Saver ran super. It looked like for a second like he was going to get right there. Johnny [Velazquez, aboard No. 5, Happy Saver] said when he had to angle him off the rail, you could tell Life Is Good kind of found a little more.
“I think we’ll play it by ear and see how he bounces out of this. He put forth a big effort today and ran great. I was proud of his effort. We’ll see what’s next, we could wait for the Woodward or come back for the Jockey Club [Gold Cup]. We’ve got some options.”
Elliott Walden, president and CEO of co-owner WinStar Farm (No. 6): It felt like he was the best horse all along and he showed it today.
“It’s real exciting, that’s what we’re here for. These kind of dreams and these kind of horses. To have [Triple Crown Champion] Justify and this horse three years later is just incredible.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr., winning jockey aboard Life Is Good (No. 6): “He’s a nice horse. He deserves all the credit. He does things easy. He might make things look easy but he was running since the three-quarter [pole] all the way to the wire. He was the speed of the race, honestly. He’s fast out of the gate. He broke good and then I just let him do his thing.
“This means a lot. It’s a great race to win. I’m happy for the connections and the horse, too. He stayed and just never quit. He was in control and the horse deserves all the credit. I just ride him and he was in the front the whole time.
“When we got to the three-quarter pole and along the backside he changed leads and he just took off. Two jumps. He was strong. After that, I didn’t want to fight too much with him and he surprised me today. I just started to let him do his thing. It was a little early but I had just a little hold of him. I can’t fight too much with him.
“I was clear [in the stretch]. I looked and came down a little bit. I know if he felt somebody that he would give me another run and more. I know he’s coming back a little, the track is not that fast, so if he feels somebody he will fight. I know he will fight, so that is why I was looking.”
John Velazquez, jockey aboard runner-up Happy Saver (No. 5): “He [Life Is Good] was two lengths in front of me, there was nothing I could do. Even if I claimed foul there was nothing they were going to do – he was clear. Obviously, he was really clear when he went in and I pulled mine out and that was it. We just switched positions, that’s all it was. He was that clear when he went in that I went outside with no trouble at all.
“I thought he ran really well. From the three-sixteenths pole, I thought I had a really good chance but the other horse had another gear. When I put him out, he stayed the same pace and the other one had another gear, so he won. “
Bill Strauss, co-owner of third-place Hot Rod Charlie (No. 2): “The effort was there. He was moving well and he always tries. He just didn’t get there today. I was surprised he didn’t finish second. I don’t know if the winner would have been beaten today. He came back quite tired. We’ve been training down at Keeneland and I think if you train over this surface, it gets them fitter than being at Keeneland.
“We’ve talked about using the [Grade 2] Lukas Classic [on October 1 at Churchill Downs] as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup, but the horse will tell us. We’ll see how he trains out of this.”
Flavien Prat, jockey aboard third-place Hot Rod Charlie (No. 2): “I was pleased with my trip. He ran his race. Turning for home, I thought he was going to give me a good kick. He made a good run, but the winner never stopped.
“He broke well and I had myself where I wanted to be. He was traveling well. When I tipped him out, I thought he was going to go by.”
Junior Alvarado, jockey aboard fourth-place Olympiad (No. 4): “He didn’t run at all. He didn’t run his race. Not even close. If he ran his race at least I’d say, ‘we finished second.’ But he didn’t run his race. At the half-mile I knew I was in trouble. He wasn’t traveling or picking it up like he normally does.
“I gave him a chance to regroup at the three-eighths and start picking it up again to see if he would start doing it and nothing. At that point I knew he wasn’t showing up. No excuses for the track [conditions]. Good horses are supposed to handle the track and anything else. That is not the excuse. If he had a problem with the track he should at least try to the eighth-pole, but he was done very early for me.”