Photo: Carson Dennis/Eclipse Sportswire
Coach Todd Pletcher has long highlighted the $12million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse as part of a two-race plan for Life is Beautiful. Although his newborn 4-year-old passed his first test when he dispatched Knicks Go by 3 1/4 lengths in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher seems less certain about what what could be the next step.
“For the moment, we are not committing to anything. We’ll see how he bounces back,” Pletcher said after his horses finished their morning workout at Palm Beach Downs on Sunday. “Obviously we look all year round. There is always a risk in going to Dubai. You kind of give some time when you come back. We’ll let everyone settle in after the weekend and review it and come up with a game plan.
Traveling to the United Arab Emirates from the United States has had a physical and mental impact on many horses. Understandably, the Hall of Fame coach is reluctant to do anything that might diminish the luster of Life Is Good displayed during an authoritative tour de force in the September 25 Kelso (a rout of 5 1/ 2 lengths), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (5 3/4 lengths) and now the Pegasus World Cup.
“It’s a long way to go and a long way to go. Historically, horses need a bit of time once they’ve returned. If you succeed there, it is definitely worth it. But there is a certain risk. This will be part of the discussions we will have.
Pletcher continued, “There is no rush to decide right now. We’ll get him back on track and see how he trains and come up with a plan, probably within the next two weeks.
The distance from the Dubai World Cup itself – 2,000 meters, or about 1 1/4 miles – should not worry owners WinStar Farm and CHC, Inc. Not after how easily the Into Mischief colt handled the Pegasus, his first attempt at a mile and an eighth.
“It certainly gives us confidence. He was able to handle the mile and an eighth, and we saw that in his training – you definitely wouldn’t be concerned about distance limitations with the way he trains,” Pletcher said.
Raw speed was never in question with Life Is Good. The question was always whether he could be persuaded to hold it around two rounds.
“I think we’ve made progress in that direction,” Pletcher said. “He settled in and he showed in the Dirt Mile and in the Pegasus that he had a high cruising speed that he was capable of going with. You don’t want to take him back, but you don’t want him I think we’re finding that balance.
Led by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Life Is Good displayed stunning acceleration to ensure the highly anticipated match race with Knicks Go Horse of the Year and Joel Rosario never materialized.
“I didn’t think Life Is Good’s first move was great. If you look at the pan, he actually came out fourth,” Pletcher noted. “But the second, third and fourth jumps really got him going and he was able to clear and that made a big difference.”
The defending Knicks GB champion, in the last start of his career before becoming a stallion, is certainly not used to hanging around. He never made a serious bid as his unpressured rival completed the mile and an eighth in a comfortable 1:48.91.
In the race leading up to the showpiece event, Colonel Liam repeated the $1 million Pegasus Turf for Pletcher, even though he hadn’t raced since last June.
“Both winners did very well. They chilled quickly and had a lot of energy this morning,” said Pletcher, knowing that life doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to fragile Thoroughbreds.