Life Is Good Wins Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park
Life Is Good avoided a highly anticipated speed duel with Knicks Go in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) 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.
2022 Pegasus World Cup (G1) Results
- Winning Time: 1:48.91
- Winning Margins: 3 ¼, 1, 4 ¾
- Winning Payoff: $3.60
- Fractions: 23.12, :46.35, 1:10.15, 1:35.20, 1:48.91
- Order of finish: Life Is Good, Knicks Go, Stilleto Boy, Endorsed, Sir Winston, Chess Chief, Commandeer, Title Ready, Empty Tomb.
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.
"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.
"I loved when he got to the first turn the way he did," said Pletcher, the 18-time Championship Meet titlist at Gulfstream. "He was going fast but he was in hand doing it. It looked like he was comfortable throughout. I felt like he was in control. He was going plenty fast enough and the track was wicked fast today."
Brad Cox-trained Knicks Go, who was an impressive front-running winner by 2 ¾ lengths in last year's Pegasus World Cup, continued to fight on in the stretch to finish second, a length ahead of Stilleto Boy and jockey Jose Ortiz.
"It looked like he broke alright and then kind of got outrun a little bit. 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," Cox said. "I talked to Joel and he said he handled the track fine. He said a couple on his outside were moving along pretty good and it kind of got a little tight [early] so he took him back off of it a little bit and obviously the winner was just galloping on the lead."
Life Is Good, who hadn't run beyond 1 1/16 miles, was in the same position that Knicks Go was in last year when he attempted to carry his abundant speed 1 1/8 miles for the first time. The 4-year-old son of Into Mischief Life Is was top rated on 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby when he won his first three starts on the front-end impressively before going to the sidelines with an injury. After being transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, he was upset by Jackie's Warrior by a head in the seven-furlong Allen Jerkens at Saratoga in late August but came back to capture the mile Kelso (G2) at Belmont by 5 ½ lengths and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar in front-running style.
"He's just a phenomenally talented horse," Pletcher said. "We see it every day from him. Every time we breeze him, he's extra special. He has that unique ability to go really fast and just keep going."
Knicks Go, who is widely expected to win the 2021 Horse of the Year title next month, came into the Pegasus on a four-race winning stretch in which he had beaten his opponents by a total of 21 ½ lengths while leading from gate-to wire. the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, is riding a spectacular four-race winning streak in which he has beaten his opponents by a total off 21 ½ lengths while flashing his brilliant natural speed from start to finish. The 6-year-old son of Paynter made his last start in the Pegasus World Cup before embarking on a stallion career in Kentucky.
"He's been super good to us. We're proud of him and we're happy and excited that he's retiring sound and healthy, and I look forward to training some of his babies in a couple of years," Cox said. "He's 6. It's time for him to go off to stud. Hopefully, he'll pass on his heart and determination and be a good sire."
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PEGASUS WORLD CUP INVITATIONAL G1 POST RACE QUOTES
Todd Pletcher (Life Is Good, 1st): "We were committed to letting him run his race. You know Knicks Go is a fast horse. We didn't know for sure how it was going to play out. There was the potential for a speed duel there. He broke and I didn't think his first step was great, but he recovered pretty quickly and got the turn in good shape. Knicks Go maybe didn't bounce away as quick as he does sometimes so we kind of had the advantage at that point."
"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. 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."
Brad Cox (Knicks Go, 2nd): "It looked like he broke alright and then kind of got outrun a little bit. 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. I talked to Joel and he said he handled the track fine. He said a couple on his outside were moving along pretty good and it kind of got a little tight [early] so he took him back off of it a little bit and obviously the winner was just galloping on the lead."
"He's been super good to us. We're proud of him and we're happy and excited that he's retiring sound and healthy and I look forward to training some of his babies in a couple of years. He's 6; it's time for him to go off to stud. Hopefully he'll pass on his heart and determination and be a good sire."
Mike Maker (Endorsed, 4th): "I thought Endorsed ran super. I'm happy with him. It was a good show by the top two, as expected. No complaints."
Mark Casse (Sir Winston, 5th): "He needs a mile and a half. He thought he was just getting going. We knew it was a tall task, but he ran well. The winner is unbelievable. I'm proud of our horse. We'll look for a mile and a half."
Irad Ortiz Jr. (Life Is Good, 1st): "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. I just wanted to get to the second turn. But when I let him go, he kept going."
"They broke faster, the first couple of steps, than me. But as soon as I saw that I said, `I'm going to clear them because I know I've got speed.' I just let my horse break without asking him. When I saw Jose [Ortiz, on Stilleto Boy] was ahead of the other horse, I just asked my horse to go and he just moved right away and I was able to be in the lead."
Joel Rosario (Knicks Go, 2nd): "The trip I thought would be fine. We thought maybe we'd be on the lead. I thought Life Is Good probably had a little more speed than me. He ran his race. They came over a little bit on the first turn so I had to kind of just take him outside a little bit and let him relax from there, and hopefully at some point the horse would come back a little bit, but he didn't come back. He just kept going."
"He broke well out of there, but they were quicker than me right away. That's how it goes sometimes."
"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."
"He was fine. He was OK with it. You can see how he came home. The other horse it looked like he had the advantage when he went to the first turn and got the jump on us. He's a really good horse. He tried hard."
Jose Ortiz (Stilleto Boy, 3rd): "I thought Knicks Go was going to be fighting with Life Is Good, but it didn't happen that way. Life Is Good was way faster today. I was able to clear him also and I sat behind Life Is Good the whole time. I tried to save every inch of ground that I could. I was very close to the rail the whoel time. I thought my horse ran a huge race. I wish we got second, but Knicks Go is a nice horse and he dug in for second."
Edwin Gonzalez (Sir Winston, 5th): "The horse that went in front went fast. I think it was pretty easy for that horse, and he was going easy in front. When a horse like that goes easy in front, it's tough to beat him. My horse had a good trip. He made his run, and he never quit."
Tyler Gaffalione (Chess Chief, 8th): "Very fast horses, top-quality bunch there. I just kind of got outrun. He put in a good run but the race was over at that point."