Life Is Good avoided a highly anticipated speed duel with Knicks Go in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by 1/ST BET by outsprinting the defending champion to a clear early lead that he would never relinquish on his way to a decisive 3 ¼-length victory.
“I don’t want to get in trouble with any other owners I have trained for, [but] I can’t think of one that is better than him,” Life Is Good’s Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “What makes him so special is his ability to run fast, the high cruising speed and [then] keep going. He’s just got tremendous mechanics. Just a phenomenal talent.”
The 6th running of the Pegasus World Cup, the first major stakes for older horses on the national racing calendar, headlined Gulfstream Park’s 12-race program that also featured the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat, and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational (G3) presented by PEPSI, as well as four other graded stakes.
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Life Is Good’s impressive victory in the Pegasus World Cup gave back-to-back wins on the card to his Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and his three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who teamed to win the Pegasus World Cup Turf with defending champion Colonel Liam one race earlier. Pletcher also saddled Abaan for a victory in Saturday’s $200,000 W. L. McKnight.
CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm LLC’s Life Is Good was slightly favored over Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go at 4-5 odds for what bettors clearly perceived as a two-horse race. The 4-year-old son did his best to make it a one-horse event by breaking sharply and opening a clear early lead heading into the first turn.
Pegasus World Cup Replay
“I respect the other horse a lot. I thought it was going to be a match race. But going into the first turn, my horse was so fast, so I just let him do his thing. I felt like a lot of horse and I couldn’t wait to let him run,” Ortiz said.
Knicks Go, who had been expected to break right with the Pletcher trainee from his rail post position, surprisingly was in third heading into the first turn after also being outrun early by longshot Stilleto Boy.
Life Is Good maintained a clear lead along the backstretch and into the far turn after setting fractions of 23.12 and 46.35 seconds for the first half-mile of the 1 1/8-mile feature. Knicks Go advanced to second on the backstretch under Joel Rosario in futile pursuit of the loose-on-the-lead Life Is Good, who would continue on his way to a comfortable victory in 1:48.91.
Colonel Liam Repeats in Pegasus Turf
For the second straight year, Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam came into the Gulfstream Park stretch with only one horse – his stablemate – to beat in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat.
And, for the second straight year, that’s exactly what he did.
Colonel Liam, racing for the first time since last summer, was given clear run throughout by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and came with a steady run through the lane to reel in pacesetter Never Surprised and edge clear to a one-length triumph.
The fourth running of the Pegasus Turf and the sixth renewal of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by 1/ST BET on dirt, both at 1 1/8 miles, and the inaugural $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) presented by PEPSI headlined a blockbuster Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series program featuring seven graded-stakes worth $5.2 million in purses.
His victory in 1:47.48 over a firm course made Colonel Liam ($5.20) the first repeat winner of the Pegasus Turf, having rallied to edge Largent by a neck in 2021. All three horses are trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
“I was actually pleased with how well he was traveling early on. You could see he got in a good position and had a lot of horse,” Pletcher said of Colonel Liam. “He moved to Never Surprised early and kept finding more, and Never Surprised dug in. It was great race for both horses.”
Pegasus World Cup Turf Replay
A 5-year-old son of Liam’s Map, who was a multiple Grade 1 winner on dirt for Pletcher, Colonel Liam hadn’t started in 239 days since an eighth-place finish in the June 5 Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park. He had eight works since arriving in South Florida for his return.
“You just hope you’ve done enough with him. He has talent,” Pletcher said. “We need everything to go exactly as planned. We didn’t have time for a prep race. We put all of our chips in this race. I’m glad it worked out.”
Never Surprised had won two straight races including Gulfstream’s Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby, the race Colonel Liam used as a springboard to last year’s Pegasus Turf, and was hustled to the front by jockey Luis Saez after drawing the far outside in a field of 12. Pressed by Fort Lauderdale (G2) winner Doswell through six furlongs, Never Surprised remained on the lead approaching the stretch when Ortiz set Colonel Liam down for a drive to the wire.
Never Surprised stayed up for second, a half-length ahead of Space Traveller, who made a dramatic rally up the rail to edge Atone by a neck for third. Cross Border, third in the 2021 Pegasus Turf, finished fifth. Sacred Life, Doswell, Hit the Road, Channel Cat, Field Pass, March to the Arch and Flavius completed the order of finish.