SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – At this time last year, coach Todd Pletcher and his staff got acquainted with Life is good (Into naughty). About 400 days after his arrival and with four wins from six races, the flying pony was an undoubted standout in Pletcher’s powerful and deep stable.
Next up for Life Is Good in a season that could yield the Eclipse Prize and possibly even Horse of the Year Title is the $1 million GI Whitney S. Saturday at Saratoga Racecourse. The historic Whitney, first held in 1928 in memory of Payne Whitney, who died the previous year, has long been the preeminent race for the older horses on the Saratoga schedule. Life Is Good tops the group of three horses the Hall of Fame trainer will enter Wednesday morning and is likely to be the favorite in the nine-hair race. Pletcher is also participating Happy Saver (Super Savings) and Americanrevolution (Structure), but acknowledges that Americanrevolution is not a key to entering the race.
At the start of the meeting, Pletcher responded to a question about the 4-year-old’s boastfulness by describing Life Is Good as an elite-level hybrid.
“I think people who watch horses and see a lot of horses, we can appreciate how special he is,” says Pletcher. “You just don’t see too many people doing that and over the years we would define some horses as what we call ‘one percent.’ You know, one of the top percentiles. And he’s in the top 1% out of 1%. “
For Pletcher, that’s pretty much a compliment.
“He’s just a super talented horse,” Pletcher said this week. “He was very consistent, not only in racing, but also in training. Just love what he does. He goes out every day with enthusiasm. Every breeze is good. Looks like coming into this race as good as any because we’ve got him. “
Since being transferred from WinStar Farm and China Horse Club co-owners from coach Bob Baffert to Pletcher early last summer, Life Is Good has won the GII Kelso, GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational and GII John A. Nerud. He finished second to champion Jackie’s Warrior (Music by Maclean) in GI H. Allen Jerkens on his debut for Pletcher and finished in fourth place after leading most of the way at the G1 Dubai World Cup.
Whitney is expected to draw Bill Mott trained Olympiad (Sightstown), the winner of all five of his starts this year, and Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow), who has several Class I wins on his résumé and has made over $5 million.
“Good horses,” said Pletcher. “Hot Rod Charlie is a fighter. He has run some of the best races and so has the Olympiad. That’s just the area you’d expect you to be up against in Whitney. “
Life Is Good, bred by Gary and Mary West, was purchased for $525,000 as a 2019 Keeneland puppy. He easily won the starter at just 2 years old and opened his 3-year-old campaign with won in GIII Sham and GII San Felipe. An injury knocked him off the Triple Crown trail in March and he was moved into Pletcher’s care as he resumed training in June.
In terms of his strong work ethic, Pletcher says it’s hard to pick a start as Life Is Good’s best performance.
“I think all of his races are in some way impressive, even in Dubai, when he’s running in quicksand,” he said. “But I think Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is incredibly impressive. He basically just gave it to them from the first step, and generated fractions like he did, and then convincingly won. “
From that high point through the end of 2021, Pletcher says there have been more outstanding games this season.
“He went back to Pegasus and it was like a race with two horses, with Knicks Go (Payer) – Similar style, free-running style,” says Pletcher. “We have committed to allowing our horse to run his race. He broke well and brought it to him. I think both of those races were super impressive. And then there was Nerud last time. Speaker corner (Street Sense) was coming up with some big races and the like, he brought it to him. He has so much natural speed and such high airspeed and the ability to carry it over a ground distance is what makes him so unique and successful.”
Since winning the seven-point Nerud on July 2, Life is Good has gone three times above the main track at Saratoga. On Saturday, he worked four clothes with a ratio: 48.25 under the Amelia Green exercise wheel. This is the eighth fastest of 98 works at a distance.
Pletcher said that while Life Is Good was jovial in the morning, it was not correct to call him an easy-to-train horse.
Pletcher said: “A skilled racer was needed and Amelia has done his job brilliantly. “She was able to help him relax a bit. He enjoys his training. If he’s allowed to, he’ll do it. “
WinStar and China Horse Club also own Americanrevolution, the December GI Cigar Mile winner. Pletcher says he’ll definitely be entered into the Whitney, but calls him an insurance policy.
“You never know what can happen and there will be a day off,” he said. “By having another horse in there gives you some more security that way.”
Pletcher said: Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver will start. Never worse than third in 10 career starts, Happy Saver finished second in four consecutive races, three of which were Division I events.
“He’s a Class I winner and there are plenty of options to ride him in Alydar,” says Pletcher. “For a first grader to drop out of class like that, we didn’t really feel it made much sense. If the top horses don’t open fire for some reason or get hit a bit in a speed showdown, you never know what might happen.”
Much of Whitney’s attention at the Graveyard of Lovers will be on Life Is Good and whether he can give Pletcher his fourth win in the race and his first since Cross Traffic in 2013. are not.
“He was a very willing horse every day,” Pletcher said. “Very generous. He wants to compete. If he sees a horse on the track while galloping, his natural instinct is that he wants to engage that horse and get past it. It’s nice to have that, but we also don’t want him to overdo it on a daily basis. That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on, trying to keep him as steady and comfortable as possible but still allowing him to be himself.”