Life Is Good, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., wins the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 6, 2021. Bill Denver /Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

Breeders’ Cup Notes: Pegasus World Cup in Play for Dirt Mile Winner Life Is Good

Edited Press Release

Life Is Good, whose 5 ¾-length victory in the Dirt Mile (G1) was the biggest winning margin of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, will get a vacation at WinStar Farm in Kentucky before launching his 4-year-old campaign.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said the Into Mischief colt was fine Sunday morning and that a start in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park could be on the schedule.

“That’s what we’d spoke about prior to the race that our sort of two-race plan was the mile and then stretch him out further in the Pegasus,” Pletcher said Sunday. “He certainly ran well enough to proceed in that direction if everything goes smoothly, but we haven’t really had any time to really firmly discuss our entire plans yet. I’m sure once everybody gets back to their headquarters, we’ll have that conversation.”

Life is Good came into the Dirt Mile with a big reputation and he delivered a strong performance, leading from gate to wire under Irad Ortiz Jr. He completed the mile in 1:34.12 after opening fractions of :21.66, :44.94 and 1:08.76.

“It was everything that we were hoping for and then maybe even more,” Pletcher said. “The horse had trained spectacularly coming into the race and I felt like he was sitting on a big race. When he broke cleanly, you could tell they were going quickly and there was some other horses trying to be involved. My first concern was just, hopefully, he hadn’t gone too fast, but it seemed like he was relaxed and settled. 

“In spite of the fact that he was rolling right along, he was doing it comfortably. I think that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect from him. It’s one of those horses that’s extremely fast, has a very high cruising speed and the ability to continue doing it. What was even more impressive to me than, than the :21 and four and 44 and change and 1:08 and change, is that he essentially won geared down.”

Pletcher said that Shadwell Stable’s 3-year-old filly Malathaat came out of her third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in good order and will continue racing in 2022. The winner of the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks and Alabama is a top contender for the Eclipse Award.

Malathaat, was a half-length back at the wire of the Distaff, which had extremely fast early fractions of :21.84 and :44.97 that ultimately melted the speed horses.

“I thought she ran a great race,” Pletcher said. “She, unfortunately, didn’t come out on the winning side, which is frustrating when you have one as talented as she is, and you’re not able to win. It was really a strangely run race. There was such a blazing opening quarter and half and things got kind of tricky for the closers in the far turn, because the pack was coming back so rapidly as the closers were starting to build up momentum.”

Malathaat, the 7-2 second choice in the wagering, was well off the pace early, and rallied with the other closers.

“Being on the inside, she kind of had to encounter some traffic there and got in some tight quarters, turning for home” Pletcher said. “She bumped with the runner-up (Dunbar Road) a little bit. And then finally regained some momentum late and was only beaten a nose and a half a length. Maybe with a slightly different trip, it could have altered the outcome. As always, she showed up and ran a big race and I think proved that she’s the best 3-year-old filly in her crop.”

Pletcher said that Malathaat will ship to Shadwell Farm in Kentucky for a rest and rejoin his stable in Florida this winter.

Spendthrift Farm’s homebred Following Sea emerged from this third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) under John Velazquez in good order, Pletcher said, and will ship back to Belmont Park this week. 

Pletcher said the Cigar Mile and the Malibu are being considered for the son of Runhappy. 

“I thought he ran a terrific race,” Pletcher said. “Drawing the rail in the Sprint you’re always concerned, and I think that that ended up perhaps costing us the race. He was making a really good move at the top of the stretch and for a brief moment, there was a hole open that closed before he could get there. He had to check lost all of this momentum and then re-rallied to be third. Johnny (Velazquez) felt pretty strongly that if he had gotten through, when that gap was open, that he could have won. A little frustrating with the outcome, but very, very pleased with his performance.”

Aloha West in good order after Breeders’ Cup Sprint triumph

Aloha West, ridden by Jose Ortiz, wins the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 6, 2021. Bill Denver /Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West exited his 11-1 victory in fine order, per trainer Wayne Catalano.

“He looks great to me,” Catalano said Sunday morning. “He’s some horse. He’s a monster. We’ll chill out for a little bit after this and get him back to Lexington. We’ll put him in the hyperbaric chamber for a few days and then I’ll talk to Aron Wellman and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and make a plan for him for next year.

“Everybody keeps bringing up that I got a good Breeders’ Cup record, but all I know is I’ve won four,” he continued. “We have been fortunate enough to have some runners who could get the job done. It really is satisfying to win with an older horse. With the younger horses, they come along and do their thing and the other horses aren’t quite caught up to them. That’s the way that works. But, I’m just very grateful for the opportunity to develop this horse and run in and win another Breeders’ Cup race. It’s unbelievable.”

The 4-year-old colt became the sixth Maryland-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race, joining Cigar, Safely Kept, Knicks Go, Concern and Sharing. Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go would go on to add a seventh trophy to the Free State mantle when taking the Classic later Saturday afternoon.

“My assistant trainer Lacy Pierce got on him when he first came to us off the farm and she said ‘this is a runner.’ She really liked him immediately,” Catalano continued. “He kept getting better. The other day after his breeze for the race when he came home in 22 and change and came back like he had a morning jog, I told Aron (Wellman, principal of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners) that this horse was training unbelievable and just might be the best horse I’ve ever had my hands on. He was blown away by it. This horse should have won the (Grade 2) Phoenix, but was slammed out of the gate and went wide around.

“Yesterday, when he started down the backside and passed a couple of horses, I thought ‘OK he’s putting in his run and we might have a chance,’ and then I thought as he’s coming down the lane that he could maybe get there, but at the wire, I wasn’t too sure. Then they showed (the finish replay) three times – the first time I thought we didn’t get there; second time I wasn’t sure; third time I thought ‘maybe I got there!’

Aloha West is the second Breeders’ Cup winner for Darley stallion and 2007 Classic runner-up Hard Spun, following 2019 Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run, and improved Catalano’s record to four wins from 15 starters, amassing just short of $4 million in prize money. Aloha West improved his own record to 9-5-2-0 with a career bankroll of $1,311,068 and won his first graded stakes in his second try, following a runner-up effort in October’s Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. He is Catalano’s first older horse to win a Breeders’ Cup, as his previous three were in 2-year-old races.

“We have wound it down a bit with my barn, but I’m hoping I get another couple of horses like him and win a couple more Breeders’ Cups – but this is the one right now,” Catalano concluded. “I’m looking to have some good ones and enjoy my family and my grandkids – three boys and one baby girl on the way. Life is shorter than you think.” 

Royal Ascot on the 2022 agenda for Golden Pal 

On Sunday morning, Wesley Ward was pleased with how star pupil Golden Pal exited his second Breeders’ Cup victory. Last year’s Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) winner doubled up by taking the Turf Sprint (G1) in brilliant gate-to-wire style under Irad Ortiz Jr. Ward confirmed that the Coolmore-owned 3yo colt will ship out late Monday night and focus on two major goals in 2022, Royal Ascot and a Breeders’ Cup return.

“He’s great. He’s ready to go home,” Ward said. “I’m feeling good. I’m happy this horse won. I’ve been singing his praises for a long time and he’s the best one we had running. I’m excited to run him in the Breeders’ Cup next year at Keeneland. He’s going to be a four-year-old and faster. We’ll point to Royal Ascot with him and the (Group 1) King’s Stand (Stakes) and prep at Keeneland in April in the Shakertown. If he can win in England, he can really stamp himself as a stallion, hopefully.

 “He’s a lot like (former trainee and current Coolmore stallion) No Nay Never, who would have won (the Turf Sprint) if it were a five-furlong race, instead of down the hill,” Ward continued. “They’re both mentally so composed and never turn a hair. Yesterday, you could see him in the paddock just getting himself prepared mentally and getting focused.”

A son of 2010 Juvenile (G1) winner Uncle Mo and 2015 Turf Sprint runner-up Lady Shipman, Golden Pal earned a third Breeders’ Cup trophy for his sire, who also begat 2015 Juvenile winner Nyquist. Ward earned his sixth Breeders’ Cup trophy and second of the weekend, following his third consecutive Juvenile Turf Sprint victory with Twilight Gleaming (IRE). It was his first win in the Turf Sprint after 11 losses. 

Letruska to remain in training

Though St. George Stable’s multiple Grade 1 winner Letruska ended her outstanding season on a down note as the 8-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, trainer Fausto Gutierrez said Sunday that she came out of the race fine and will stay in training in 2022. 

After attending a torrid early pace, Letruska ended up 10th of 11 under Irad Ortiz Jr. She was second to Private Mission through opening fractions of :21.84, :44.97 and 1:09.70. 

“That race was very, very fast in the beginning,” Gutierrez said, “and we saw the result. The five horses that were in the back were the five horses that arrived in the front. That’s what happened.”

Letruska won six of eight starts in 2021, four of them Grade 1 races, and is the leading contender for the Older Dirt Female Eclipse Award. Gutierrez said the mare will have some time to recover from her busy campaign and that he will develop a schedule for next year.