Saratoga Race Course

Whitney winner Life Is Good pointing toward Breeders’ Cup Classic

Life is Good breaks out of the gate under Irad Ortiz, Jr. at the start of the Whitney at Saratoga on Saturday.
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Life is Good breaks out of the gate under Irad Ortiz, Jr. at the start of the Whitney at Saratoga on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Life Is Good has only run longer than a mile four times in his career and has run a mile and a quarter just once, but after he won the mile-and-an-eighth Whitney at Saratoga Race Course Saturday, trainer Todd Pletcher said they’re leaning toward the longer of two races at the Breeders’ Cup.

That would be the mile-and-a-quarter BC Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5, instead of the BC Dirt Mile, which Life Is Good won last year.

Co-owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm, Life Is Good won the $1 million Grade I Whitney by two lengths over stablemate Happy Saver, veering in front of Happy Saver at the eighth pole before resolutely holding off Happy Saver and Hot Rod Charlie for Pletcher’s fourth victory in the Whitney.

“I think yesterday was kind of the race that was going to tell us which direction to go, and I think based on that, we’d be looking at the Classic,” Pletcher said Sunday morning.

Life Is Good’s mile-and-a-quarter experience amounts to a fourth in the $12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in March.

That was the only off-the-board race of his career, and his only other loss was a second by a neck to eventual male sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior in the 2021 Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga.

Life Is Good received a 107 Beyer Speed Figure for the Whitney.

Pletcher said he might get one more start before the Breeders’ Cup, in the mile-and-an-eighth Woodward at Aqueduct on Oct. 1.

“He’s a super special horse,” Pletcher said. “He’s so consistent not only in his races, but in his daily routine. He’s eager to please every day.

“I was concerned about all of those variables, and we got a downpour that I kind of didn’t know what condition that would leave the track in. Then it got real steamy and humid and super-hot. The track all meet has been super challenging, but he was able to overcome it all.”

Happy Saver might run back in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which he won at Belmont Park in 2020, on Sept. 3 at Saratoga.

Pletcher also had Americanrevolution, also co-owned by China Horse Club and WinStar, entered in the Whitney as a backup, but he was scratched.

“We’ll target the Jockey Club,” Pletcher said. “At first, we thought he appeared to really like the off track in the Empire Classic last year, so we were kind of covering that base. Really, we thought if everything was a go with Life Is Good, we were most likely just going to wait on the Jockey Club. But if something would have went amiss with Life Is Good, we didn’t want to be in a position not to run him if it came up that way. But thankfully, it all worked out.”

TRAVERS ADDITIONS?

Two horses who had not been on the Travers radar are on it now as possible entrants.

Skippylongstocking won the Grade III West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer on Saturday by a length and a half over We the People.

It was the first stakes win of his career, after having finished third in the Wood Memorial, fifth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes for trainer Saffie Joseph.

Owner Ray Shattuck told Prairie Meadows that the Iowa-bred Ain’t Life Grand is heading to the Aug. 27 Travers.

Ain’t Life Grand won the Iowa Derby by a length and half on July 9 and followed up with a win by seven lengths at betting odds of 1-20 in the Iowa Stallion Series on July 23.

SALE THIS WEEK

The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearling Sale will take place at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion on East Avenue Monday and Tuesday starting at 6:30 p.m.

There are 213 hip numbers listed in this year’s catalogue, including No. 207, a bay colt by Into Mischief who is a half-brother to Hot Rod Charlie and Mitole, and No. 141, a bay colt by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Recent graduates of the Saratoga Sale include 2022 Met Mile winner Flightline; Bleecker Street; 2021 Coaching Club American Oaks winner Maracuja; and 2022 Pimlico Special winner First Captain, who was purchased for $1.5 million at the 2019 sale.

The final hip number scheduled for Monday is 106.

The sale is free and open to the public.

MAKER MILESTONE

Mike Maker notched his 3,000th career victory as a trainer on Friday when Palatial Times won the fifth race at Ellis Park in Kentucky.

“Every milestone is important, especially to the staff and clientele that have supported us over the years,” Maker said. “All credit to them, my name is just down as trainer.”

Among Maker’s top horses have been Hansen, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award winner for 2-Year-Old Male; and Furthest Land, who won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2009.

AROUND THE TRACKS

After a stewards inquiry, Piece of My Heart was disqualified from third to last in Sunday’s third race for leaving the gate before the official start. …

The Brad Cox-trained Shedaresthedevil, one of the top older dirt females in the country, was third in the Grade I Clement Hirsch at Del Mar on Saturday, after having won it last year.

Categories: At The Track, Sports

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