It’s not too early to fight Life is Beautiful (Into Mischief) with some of the finest horses of the modern era. That’s how good he was on Saturday at Gulfstream when he topped a field that included the soon-to-be-named 2021 Horse of the Year The Knicks will (Paynter) in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. in what was nothing short of a sensational performance.
But is he even the best horse in training?
It’s a rare and special time for horse racing, which has been blessed with not just one but two horses that appear to be generational talents that could be among the best to ever race.
The other, of course, is line of flight (Tapit), the fabulously talented but lightly run million dollar yearling whose effortless win in the GI Runhappy Malibu S. drew comparisons to superstars like Ghostzapper (Awesome Again). He received a 118 Beyer in the Malibu win, better than Life Is Good’s best number, which is the 110 Beyer he picked up in the Pegasus.
Who is better? The debate has already begun, but that’s a question that can only be answered on the racetrack. Unfortunately, the two aren’t exactly on a collision course to meet.
Flightline returned to the work tab Sunday at Santa Anita. In his first job since Dec. 19, a week before the Malibu, he ran four furlongs in 47.80. Afterwards, coach John Sadler told the Daily race form Jay Privman Flightline would then begin March 5 GII San Carlos S. at seven furlongs. The next departure after that will probably be the GI Metropolitan H. which will take place on June 11.
As for Life Is Good, his next start is likely to be at the G1 World Cup in Dubai on March 26.
“We’re going to get together this week and talk about it,” said Elliott Walden, president and CEO of racing operations for WinStar Farm, co-owner of Life Is Good. “He will not run in the Saudi Arabian Cup, back in four weeks. So Dubai would be the next option. We’ll see how it comes back and then start planning for the whole year.
As for the Met Mile, Walden wouldn’t rule it out, but said if Life Is Good were to take place in Dubai, it might eliminate the Met Mile from consideration. The next place that could bring Flightline and Life Is Good together is the GI Whitney S. Sadler indicated that as a possible departure for Flightline and Walden said Sunday that it’s a race that is also under consideration for Life Is Good. If all else fails, there’s always the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race the two stars are headed for.
“It would be fabulous if these two got together,” Walden said. “It would be great for horse racing. I think it’s more a question of when than if. We didn’t dodge anyone. We said right after the Dirt Mile what we intended to do. We want to do good through our horse and I know that John Sadler wants to do good through his horse. He’s a terrific coach. At some point they will meet and it will be great for the race.
Life Is Good has made its first three starts for coach Bob Baffert. When Baffert ran into trouble with the New York Racing Association, which tried to suspend him, Life Is Good was transferred to Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
“I can’t think of a horse [I trained] better than him,” Pletcher said after the Pegasus.
“For me, Life Is Good is right up there with Justify,” Walden said. “Justify won the Triple Crown and went undefeated. Bob [Baffert] early on compared it to American Pharoah and Justify. You think of all the good horses Bob had and all the good horses Todd had and it’s pretty amazing to think he’s part of this elite company.
Walden, a former trainer, sees characteristics in Life Is Good that set him apart from most other horses.
“What separates Life is Good from the rest of the good horses I’ve been around is the fact that he never had a bad day,” he said. “Most horses will get an average workout from time to time, even though they are very good horses, or they may look flat. This horse has never had a bad day on the racetrack. That’s something , the more I’ve been around the more I see, that’s a feature of the greats.
That Life Is Good, which was the 4-5 favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., won was no surprise, but few could have imagined it could have beaten a horse as fast as Knicks Go and opened up. by 3 1 /2 lengths over his rival. Walden said the plan was to do whatever it takes to take the lead.
“That was the game plan,” Walden said. “I know people say it’s hard to fathom, but that horse was ahead of Jackie’s Warrior in Saratoga in the Allen Jerkens. Why wouldn’t he be in front of Knicks Go? I know Knicks Go is a great horse and a deserving champion, but I had no doubt he could be up there with Knicks Go. Not saying I thought he would be three or four lengths ahead him, but I never thought he would back down from his speed, just because of what happened in Saratoga. To be ahead of Jackie’s Warrior as he was showed the speed and athleticism of Life Is Good.