HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Life Is Good avoided a highly anticipated speed duel with Knicks Go in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by 1/ST BET by outsprinting the defending champion to a clear early lead that he would never relinquish on his way to a decisive 3 ¼-length victory.
“I don’t want to get in trouble with any other owners I have trained for, [but] I can’t think of one that is better than him,” Life Is Good’s Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “What makes him so special is his ability to run fast, the high cruising speed and [then] keep going. He’s just got tremendous mechanics. Just a phenomenal talent.”
The 6th running of the Pegasus World Cup, the first major stakes for older horses on the national racing calendar, headlined Gulfstream Park’s 12-race program that also featured the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat, and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational (G3) presented by PEPSI, as well as four other graded stakes.
Life Is Good’s impressive victory in the Pegasus World Cup gave back-to-back wins on the card to his Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and his three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who teamed to win the Pegasus World Cup Turf with defending champion Colonel Liam one race earlier. Pletcher also saddled Abaan for a victory in Saturday’s $200,000 W. L. McKnight.
CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm LLC’s Life Is Good was slightly favored over Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go at 4-5 odds for what bettors clearly perceived as a two-horse race. The 4-year-old son did his best to make it a one-horse event by breaking sharply and opening a clear early lead heading into the first turn.
“I respect the other horse a lot. I thought it was going to be a match race. But going into the first turn, my horse was so fast, so I just let him do his thing. I felt like a lot of horse and I couldn’t wait to let him run,” Ortiz said.
Knicks Go, who had been expected to break right with the Pletcher trainee from his rail post position, surprisingly was in third heading into the first turn after also being outrun early by longshot Stilleto Boy.
Life Is Good maintained a clear lead along the backstretch and into the far turn after setting fractions of 23.12 and 46.35 seconds for the first half-mile of the 1 1/8-mile feature. Knicks Go advanced to second on the backstretch under Joel Rosario in futile pursuit of the loose-on-the-lead Life Is Good, who would continue on his way to a comfortable victory in 1:48.91.
“I loved when he got to the first turn the way he did,” said Pletcher, the 18-time Championship Meet titlist at Gulfstream. “He was going fast but he was in hand doing it. It looked like he was comfortable throughout. I felt like he was in control. He was going plenty fast enough and the track was wicked fast today.”
Brad Cox-trained Knicks Go, who was an impressive front-running winner by 2 ¾ lengths in last year’s Pegasus World Cup, continued to fight on in the stretch to finish second, a length ahead of Stilleto Boy and jockey Jose Ortiz.
“It looked like he broke alright and then kind of got outrun a little bit. I don’t know, that horse, the winner, he ran off the TV screen. The plan was definitely to go. I wanted to; we just got outrun,” Cox said. “I talked to Joel and he said he handled the track fine. He said a couple on his outside were moving along pretty good and it kind of got a little tight [early] so he took him back off of it a little bit and obviously the winner was just galloping on the lead.”
Life Is Good, who hadn’t run beyond 1 1/16 miles, was in the same position that Knicks Go was in last year when he attempted to carry his abundant speed 1 1/8 miles for the first time. The 4-year-old son of Into Mischief Life Is was top rated on 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby when he won his first three starts on the front-end impressively before going to the sidelines with an injury. After being transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, he was upset by Jackie’s Warrior by a head in the seven-furlong Allen Jerkens at Saratoga in late August but came back to capture the mile Kelso (G2) at Belmont by 5 ½ lengths and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar in front-running style.
“He’s just a phenomenally talented horse,” Pletcher said. “We see it every day from him. Every time we breeze him, he’s extra special. He has that unique ability to go really fast and just keep going.”
Knicks Go, who is widely expected to win the 2021 Horse of the Year title next month, came into the Pegasus on a four-race winning stretch in which he had beaten his opponents by a total of 21 ½ lengths while leading from gate-to wire. the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, is riding a spectacular four-race winning streak in which he has beaten his opponents by a total off 21 ½ lengths while flashing his brilliant natural speed from start to finish. The 6-year-old son of Paynter made his last start in the Pegasus World Cup before embarking on a stallion career in Kentucky.
“He’s been super good to us. We’re proud of him and we’re happy and excited that he’s retiring sound and healthy, and I look forward to training some of his babies in a couple of years,” Cox said. “He’s 6. It’s time for him to go off to stud. Hopefully, he’ll pass on his heart and determination and be a good sire.”
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Life Is Good and Irad Ortiz, Jr., romp to a Pegasus World Cup Invitational win. (Lauren King)