Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner and Eclipse Award candidate Life Is Good will open his 4-year-old season in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, a race trainer Todd Pletcher lacks on his Hall of Fame resume.

Life Is Good-Pegasus
Irad Ortiz Jr. points the way for Life Is Good after his dominant Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile victory last month. The next stop on the colt’s race itinerary is the Jan. 29 Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. (Image: Skip Dickstein)

Pletcher won the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational last year with Colonel Liam, who will return to defend his title in the same race on the Jan. 29 card. His best finish in the dirt edition of the race is a third with Neolithic in 2017.

The Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Turf headline Gulfstream Park’s seven-graded stakes card that day. They also give Pletcher, who owns 18 Gulfstream Championship Meet titles, a chance to burnish his Hall of Fame credentials.

The races give race fans a chance to see Dirt Mile champion Life Is Good tangle with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Knicks Go in an early 2022 marquee matchup. Knicks Go will also return to defend his Pegasus title in what will likely be his farewell race before he heads off to stallion duty.

Life Is Good was very good in the Dirt Mile

Life Is Good comes into the Pegasus off one of the most dominant Breeders’ Cup outings of any winner. His 5 ¾-length romp as the 3/5 favorite in the Dirt Mile was the largest victory margin of any Breeders’ Cup winner. And it whetted the appetite to see what the son of Into Mischief can do in 2022.

“He’s an extremely impressive horse to watch train. What everybody saw in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in his training,” Pletcher said.

This promises to be a clash of two front-runners. Knicks Go’s ability to seize the lead and take all the oxygen out of his competitors is well-documented. All you need to do is watch his 2 ¾-length front-running victory in the Classic.

One turn, two turns, neither faze him

As for Life Is Good, he’s set the pace in all six of his races. Unlike Knicks Go, who had trouble with one-turn races, Life Is Good found the winner’s circle in one-turn jaunts like the Kelso, which he won by 5 ½ lengths. He also won two-turn trips, such as the Grade 2 San Felipe, which he won by eight lengths, and the Dirt Mile.

The only race he hasn’t won in six events is the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at Saratoga. Life Is Good held the lead into the stretch before Jackie’s Warrior nosed him out by a neck. That race came at seven furlongs and after a 5 ½-month layoff, none of which detracts from the fact Life Is Good won races at distances from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

“He’s got speed and the ability to carry it over a route of ground,” Pletcher said. “He’s just a very, very talented, impressive horse. We’re optimistic that he’ll continue to stretch out. He certainly trains like a horse that wants to go further. We’re excited about getting him back for next year.”

Can Colonel Liam find his command again?

Colonel Liam, meanwhile, opened 2021 as the older male turf horse to beat. He won the Pegasus World Cup Turf, then grabbed the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial and the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. But, after a miserable eighth by nearly 11 lengths in the Grade 1 Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Pletcher put him on the shelf for the duration of the year.

Colonel Liam emerged with two, three-furlong workouts in December. Both came on dirt at Palm Beach Downs: a bullet 37.67-second work out Dec. 10, and a 38.26-second effort on Dec. 2. That latter workout was Colonel Liam’s first since a 48.05-second turf breeze at Saratoga on July 24.

“He’s at Palm Beach Downs now and training really well. We’re looking forward to having him defend his Pegasus World Cup Turf title,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, everything goes smoothly. He’s doing well at the moment.”