Pletcher duo works for G1 Hopeful; Life Is Good in good order

August 29, 2021

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable’s 2-year-old Wit, dominant winner of the Grade 3 Sanford July 17, put in his final preparation for the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 6 with a half-mile breeze Sunday morning at Saratoga Race Course.

Wit, with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, went four furlongs in 49.22 seconds over a main track rated fast, ranking 16th of 24 horses at the distance. It was the fifth work in Saratoga since an eight-length triumph in the six-furlong Sanford for Wit, who went five furlongs in 1:01.42 on the Oklahoma training track August 23, the fastest of five horses.

“[It was] a good maintenance work,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He had a really solid work last week, so we were just kind of looking for the final prep, and it went smoothly.”

By Practical Joke out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Numero d’Oro, Wit fetched $575,000 as a yearling last fall at Keeneland. He was a six-length winner of his June 5 debut at Belmont Park, where he did all his prep work for the Sanford.

Wit’s sire, Practical Joke, winning the H. Allen Jerkens Handicap in 2017 at Saratoga. (Viola Jasko) 

Wit’s sire won the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens in 2017, formerly the King’s Bishop, in the first year it was renamed for the late Hall of Fame trainer. The Hopeful for 2-year-olds, like the Jerkens contested at seven furlongs, will be run on Labor Day, September 6 – closing day of the Saratoga meet.

“He’s a really easy horse to train. He’s very professional. He’s very responsive to whatever you want him to do,” Pletcher said. “He’ll sit off a horse and he’ll accelerate on command. He’s really been push-button so far.”

Wit worked in company with Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Power Agenda, purchased for $120,000 out of the same sale. A gutsy front-running nose winner of his debut, a six-furlong maiden special weight August 4 at Saratoga, Power Agenda was timed in 49.25 seconds and is also under Hopeful consideration.

“Power Agenda worked well also. We’ll see how he bounces out of it, but right now we’re leaning toward running both,” Pletcher said. “He showed that he’s got some fight to him. He had trained well leading up to it, so we weren’t surprised, but we’ve been happy with the way he’s come out of it.”

Pletcher said he was thrilled with the efforts of both Life Is Good and Following Sea, who respectively ran second and third in Saturday’s Jerkens. CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good set blazing fractions of 21.97 and 44.16 seconds and dug in through a protracted stretch duel with Jackie’s Warrior before coming up a neck short.

Life Is Good joined Pletcher’s stable earlier this summer and was racing for the first time since a victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe March 6 at Santa Anita for previous trainer Bob Baffert. The Jerkens marked his first loss in four career starts.

“Both horses came out of it in good order this morning,” Pletcher said. “[Life Is Good] ran a spectacular race off the layoff. [He] went really fast and just got nipped by a really good horse.”

Pletcher said there is no specific race yet picked out for Life Is Good following the Jerkens.

“We’re kind of surveying all of our options,” he said. “We’ll give it a little time just to digest the race and assess how he comes out of it. I think he’s versatile enough that there’s a lot of potential options.”

Spendthrift Farm homebred Following Sea made a late run to be third, 8 ¾ lengths behind the top two. In his prior start, he finished third in a three-way photo finish in the Grade 1 Haskell July 17 at Monmouth Park but was elevated to second following the disqualification of top finisher Hot Rod Charlie.

“I thought he ran on well,” Pletcher said of the Jerkens. “He got a little confused when he got hit by dirt. He hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with dirt in his face, but once he got going, I thought he put in a nice run down the lane to get up for third.”

Wertheimer and Frere homebred Happy Saver, unraced since suffering his first loss in five career starts in the Grade 2 Suburban July 3 at Belmont, remains on track to defend his 2020 victory in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Previously held at Belmont, the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup for 3-year-olds and up going 1 ¼ miles was moved to Saratoga this year and will be run Saturday, September 4.

Happy Saver, whose other stakes win came in the 2020 Federico Tesio last September at Laurel Park, has experience racing over at Saratoga, winning a 1 1/8-mile allowance last July in his second career start. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00.66 Saturday on Saratoga’s main track.

“He worked well yesterday and looked good this morning,” Pletcher said. “We’ve kind of been pointing for this for a little while.” 

NYRA/Saratoga Notes

Top Photo: Pletcher’s Life Is Good came in second to Jackie’s Warrior in the H. Allen Jerkens Handicap. (Chris Rahayel) 

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