ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said he saw just what he had hoped from talented 3-year-old Life Is Good, who secured a third graded stakes victory when defeating elders in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso over a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
The son of leading sire Into Mischief was never in doubt throughout the journey, commanding the compact field through every point of call under Irad Ortiz, Jr.’s expert engineering and glided home a 5 ½-length winner.
Life Is Good garnered a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for the win.
“We were very pleased with he way he ran. He seemed to settle pretty nicely,” said Pletcher. “He got into a good rhythm and Irad asked him at the top of the stretch to go along and he did. He dropped right down to the rail and I was happy with it.”
Pletcher said Life Is Good, owned by CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm, is a likely candidate for the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on November 5 at Del Mar.
“That’s what we had talked about beforehand and yesterday definitely encouraged us to continue that path,” Pletcher said. “I’ll talk to all the connections, and we’ll firm up a plan, but that’s what we talked about before.”
Favored in all five of his career starts, Life Is Good was an impressive three-time winner in California while racing for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, including victories in the Grade 3 Sham on January 2 and Grade 2 San Felipe on March 6, both at Santa Anita. He returned to action in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 28 at Saratoga where he was a game second to Jackie’s Warrior.
Pletcher took a similar route with 2011 Kelso winner Uncle Mo, who was second in the H. Allen Jerkens [then run as the King’s Bishop] off a layoff en route to an in hand Kelso score.
“I’ve thought about that, they both were coming back in the same two races off a layoff,” Pletcher said. “They were both talented horses and have speed and ability to carry it over a distance. They were two super star horses.”
Pletcher could arrive at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with at least two solid contenders after Mind Control displayed a game effort in the Parx Dirt Mile at its namesake track on Saturday. The 5-year-old Stay Thirsty bay registered his first triple digit speed figure in 23 lifetime starts, garnering a 104 Beyer when fending off Grade 1 Met Mile winner Silver State in deep stretch to win by a head.
Mind Control #3 with John Velasquez riding surges past Silver State #6 and Ricardo Santana to win the $200,000 Parx Dirt MileS Saturday. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
A graded stakes winner in four straight years, Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stable’s Mind Control made his first start going two turns since finishing a distant seventh in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Nevertheless, Pletcher said he was confident that two turns would not be out of reach.
“He was game,” Pletcher said. “That other horse [Silver State] looked like he had him, but he fought right back. It was good to see him get the win. We thought he would handle two turns and we were happy to see him do it.”
Pletcher said the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is under consideration but not etched in stone for Mind Control, who also earned an entry into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with a victory in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud – a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier.
“I have to talk to [Red Oak Stable racing manager] Rick Sacco. He wanted to run in the Parx Mile to see where we are,” Pletcher said. “I’ll give it a few days, talk with Rick and come up with a game plan.”
Mind Control, an earner of over $1.4 million, has won all six of his graded stakes scores at NYRA tracks. Following his juvenile season in 2018, which saw Mind Control garner an upset score in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga, he secured victories in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct before a triumphant return to the Spa in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial while racing for trainer Gregg Sacco.
After earning Grade 3 wins at Aqueduct in the 2020 Toboggan and Tom Fool, Mind Control snapped an eight-race losing streak in his debut for Pletcher in the John A. Nerud.
Always Shopping winning the Gazelle at Aqueduct April 6, 2019, with Manny Franco up. (NYRA/Coglianese)
Pletcher breezed impressive debut maiden winner Annapolis over the Belmont inner turf in company with dual surface graded stakes winner Always Shopping. Both horses finished their half-mile moves in 48.00 seconds – the second fastest of 20 recorded works at the distance.
A Bass Stables homebred, Annapolis is on target for the Grade 2, $200,000 Pilgrim on October 3.
“He worked great. Hopefully everything goes smoothly this weekend, and we’ll target the Pilgrim,” Pletcher said.
Annapolis, a bay son of War Front out of graded stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare My Miss Sophia, was an impressive winner at first asking over Saratoga’s inner turf on September 4, where he made up 7 ¼ lengths to secure a 4 ½-length debut win, garnering a 74 Beyer.
Pletcher added that Always Shopping, a Repole Stable homebred daughter of Awesome Again, will eye the Grade 3, $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya on October 3.
Also, on the work tab for Pletcher was Repole Stable’s Midnight Worker, who breezed a half-mile in 48.44 on the inner turf. He could make his debut on grass in the Grade 3, $150,000 Futurity on October 10 at Belmont Park – a “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 2, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on November 5 at Del Mar.
“We worked him last week [on the turf] and I thought he worked okay, but I think today he worked better,” Pletcher said. “We’re confident after today that he handled it pretty well so that opens up a few options, the Futurity being one, also considering the [Grade 2] Bourbon at Keeneland.”
Overstep breaking his maiden under Irad Ortiz, Jr., at Belmont September 25. (NYRA/Coglianese)
Pletcher saddled two juveniles Nest and Overstep to debut scores on Saturday at Belmont.
Nest, a Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House-owned daughter of Curlin, was a five-length winner going 1 1/16 miles over the main track in the Saturday opener, producing a 70 Beyer for the score.
The $150,000 Tempted on November 4 at Aqueduct could be an option moving forward, according to Pletcher.
“We’re very pleased with the debut,” Pletcher said. “She handled a lot of ground which was good to see. I need to go over it thoroughly with Mike Repole and Aron Wellman [of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners], but probably something like the Tempted would make the most sense.”
Five races later, Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Overstep, a New York-bred son of Into Mischief, dazzled going six furlongs with a 6 ¾-length win over the main track.
Pletcher said the bay colt, bred by Chester and Mary Broman, could target the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow on October 30 for New York-bred juveniles going a one-turn mile.
“I thought he was impressive,” Pletcher said. “He was well in hand the last part. I think something like the Sleepy Hollow would make the most sense for him.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Life Is Good winning the Kelso last weekend at Belmont. (NYRA/Coglianese)