Life Is Good wires field; Knicks Go 2nd in final - petsitterbank

Life Is Good wires field; Knicks Go 2nd in final

Photo: John Voorhees/Eclipse Sportswire

Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Life Is Good was great.

Racing’s newest superstar was so extraordinary in the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational that the highly-anticipated speed duel with burner Knicks Go never materialized Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Click here for Gulfstream Park entries and results.

Life is Good was so great that he took command at the outset for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and eventually dusted Knicks Go by 3 1/4 lengths in a tour de force that led Todd Pletcher to rank the 4-year-old son of Into Mischief at the top of the list among horses he has trained in his Hall of Fame career.

“I can’t think of one better than him,” said Pletcher, adding, “He has tremendous mechanics. He’s just phenomenal.”

Life Is Good, a front-running 5¾-length winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in his previous start, completed a special afternoon for Pletcher. He sent out Colonel Liam to a successful defense of his title in the $1 million Pegasus Turf (G1) in yet another reminder of his training acumen. Colonel Liam had not raced since June 5.

Life Is Good, owned by Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm and CHC, Inc., prevailed for the sixth time in seven career starts while his earnings soared to $2,834,200 with the winner’s share of $1.78 million. His only defeat came by a neck to Jackie’s Warrior in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) on Aug. 28 at Saratoga. He had an apology. It was his first start after he underwent surgery on his left hind ankle in late March and was removed from the barn of embattled Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert in favor of Pletcher.

Life Is Good was viewed as a Triple Crown threat before the injury sidelined him for the spring classics. There is no telling what kind of marvelous campaign may lie ahead, judging by the way he dispatched Knicks Go, the certain Horse of the Year, in that rival’s final start.

Knicks Go, as dedicated a front-runner as fans will ever see, was expected to rocket to the lead from the rail for jockey Joel Rosario. That never happened to the consternation of trainer Brad Cox.

“It looked like he broke all right and then kind of got outrun a little bit,” Cox said. “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.”

Given the short run into the first turn, Knicks Go was in serious trouble almost from the start as his four-race winning streak was abruptly snapped. He had not lost since he ran fourth in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on June 5. “We had the first turn right away, and sometimes if you don’t break right away and then just go, you kind of have to deal with that a little bit.”

There was no dealing with Life Is Good as he cruised through an opening quarter of a mile in 23.12 seconds, a half in 46.35 seconds and three quarters in 1:10.15 en route to a final time of 1:48.91 that could have been faster if Ortiz had asked for more.

The final race for Knicks Go before he heads to the breeding shed was hardly what his owner, Korea Racing Authority, was looking for. A last rousing performance may have been needed to complete his Hall of Fame resume. But he was not the same horse that blitzed last year’s Pegasus field by a geared-down 2¾ lengths in a time of 1:47.89.

“It’s bittersweet,” Cox said of his horse’s forgettable exit. “He means a lot to us. I’m glad he’s going off healthy and happy to be a stallion.”

Stilleto Boy finished third.

With Life Is Good handling his first try at a mile and an eighth as powerfully as he did, the 1 1/4-mile, $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 26 at Meydan Race Course is likely next on the schedule. And why not?

“It’s just great to see him do it around two turns like that against a very high-class horse, Horse of the Year in Knicks Go,” said WinStar president Elliott Walden. “To take on the champ like that and kind of beat him at his own game, it just shows you how brilliant Life Is Good is.”

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