Horse Racing: Life Is Good takes care of business in sloppy Woodward

Life Is Good and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., win the Grade I Woodward at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Life Is Good and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., win the Grade I Woodward at Aqueduct on Saturday.

HORSE RACING Life Is Good did the dirty work on Saturday.

Sent off at odds of 1-20, he went about his business and handled three rivals to win the Grade I Woodward by 1 1-2 lengths on a sloppy track at Aqueduct.

That keeps him on a collision course for an east-vs.-west matchup against Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Life Is Good uncharacteristically displayed a relaxed pace while leading the Woodward field into the turn and down the backstretch, then had to fight off a challenge from Law Professor coming off the second turn, but did so with authority.

Now it’s on to Lexington, Kentucky, for what will be Life Is Good’s final career start before being retired to stud.

“You could tell going into the first turn he had his ears straight up and was really relaxed,” trainer Todd Pletcher told the New York Racing Association. “That was good, but it also maybe plays against his strength a little bit to be that turned off.

“Part of his brilliance is being able to go fast and keep going. It was the logical tactic for today, but I don’t think it’s his preferred running style. His real weapon is his high-cruising speed and the ability to keep going.”

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Long shot Thomas Shelby scratched to bring the nine-furlong Woodward field to just four horses.

Life Is Good, whose previous start was a commanding victory in the nine-furlong Whitney at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 6, was 1-9 on the morning line for the Woodward.

Law Professor, ridden by Jose Ortiz, appeared to be making a show of it when he moved up to get on even terms with Life Is Good heading into the stretch. But Life Is Good was simply too good.

“I was confident that he would respond when asked, but it was his first time over a sealed-off track, and this track has not been playing real fast since the meet began,” Pletcher said. “Any time you’re a prohibitive favorite like that, you’re concerned about those things.

“This was one of those, where there was only one satisfactory outcome, and that’s to win. We wanted to make sure we did that, while also keeping in mind that we have a bigger goal in five weeks, so we tried to balance that out the best we could.”

“The track didn’t help too much – it’s not that fast,” Irad Ortiz said. “He just was quiet, he was relaxed and we waited and he gave me everything he had from the quarter pole to the wire. If I asked him a little earlier, he could go faster and keep going.”

Also on the card, the Chad Brown-trained Blazing Sevens won the Grade I Champagne to put him in position for a run at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which Blazing Sevens’ sire, Good Magic, won in 2017 to clinch an Eclipse Award.

Blazing Sevens was coming off a third in the Hopeful on closing day of the Saratoga meet.

In another race with BC Classic implications, Hot Rod Charlie beat Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike by a head in the Grade II Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs.

“It was an incredible effort,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “Rich Strike ran a winning race, as well.”

Rich Strike, who had finished off the board in the Belmont Stakes and Travers since his Derby win at odds of 80-1, actually headed Hot Rod Charlie in deep stretch, but Hot Rod Charlie was able to regain a short lead just before the wire.

“It’s a tough beat, but we are so proud of the step forward our horse took today,” Rich Strike’s trainer Eric Reed said. “It was a big ask of him to run against these type of older horses, and he proved he is just as talented. He was a little bit closer to the pace today, but he was still able to fight hard to the wire.”

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