HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Life Is Good went to the lead right away and stayed there, winning the $3 million Pegasus World Cup with ease Saturday and denying Knicks Go what would have been a storybook finish to his career.
The 4-year-old — who may have been the Kentucky Derby favorite last year if not for an ankle injury — flashed his speed from the moment the gate opened, drawing five lengths clear after just a quarter-mile and was never challenged.
The victory capped a huge day for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who also teamed up to win the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf with Colonel Liam just before the main event.
Life Is Good returned $3.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Knicks Go — the likely Horse of the Year for 2021 after winning, among other things, the Pegasus and the Breeders’ Cup Classic — returned $2.10 and $2.10. Stilleto Boy, a 25-1 shot behind the 4-5 co-favorites, paid $2.80 to show.
“It was a tremendous effort,” Pletcher said about Life Is Good. “He broke clearly … He’s just a special horse.”
It was Pletcher’s first Pegasus World Cup win, and afterward, the seven-time Eclipse Award winner as the game’s top trainer heaped enormous praise on Life Is Good.
“We’ve had a lot of great ones,” Pletcher said. “I can’t think of one that’s better than him.”
For Knicks Go, it was a bittersweet end.
It was already determined that he would be retired to stand stud after this race, and the second-place finish denied him a chance to push his career earnings past the $10 million mark. He settled into third place in the early going, battled the whole way but never could put a scare into Life Is Good.
“That horse was really fast. He was a lot better horse today than us,” Knicks Go trainer Brad Cox said. “Look, we were second best. Congratulations to Todd Pletcher, one of the best to ever live. No shame in running second today to him.”
Assuming he comes out of the Pegasus with no injury concerns, another big-money race likely awaits Life Is Good in his next outing. The Dubai World Cup would figure to be something his connections would consider.
“He’s unreal,” Ortiz said. “He’s the best horse I sat on in my whole life.”
PEGASUS WORLD CUP TURF
Colonel Liam went back-to-back for Pletcher and Ortiz, winning the Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus World Cup turf for the second consecutive year.
Colonel Liam, the 8-5 favorite, watched another Pletcher trainee in Never Surprised bolt from the outside of the 12-horse field to the early lead. Never Surprised held it most of the way, before Colonel Liam pulled up alongside in the stretch and eventually got to the front.
Colonel Liam returned $5.20, $3.60 and $3. Never Surprised, at 7-2, held on for second and paid $5.20 and $4.20.
“It was a great race for both horses,” Pletcher said.
Space Traveller, a 12-1 choice, emerged from a wall of pursuers at the end to get third and pay $6.20 to show.
“We needed everything to go exactly according to plan,” Pletcher said.
Ortiz was emotional after winning the turf race for the third time in four years. He was diagnosed with a small fracture in his left knee earlier this month and was originally told that he might not be able to compete in the Pegasus races.
“It was a tough month, obviously,” Ortiz said. “I have to thank a lot of people … and Todd Pletcher for letting me ride the horse.”
PEGASUS FILLY AND MARE TURF
In the inaugural running of the Grade 3, $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf, heavily favored Regal Glory was pushed five wide in the early going and had to rally from deep in the pack for the win under jockey Jose Ortiz and for trainer Chad Brown.
Sent off at 4-5, Regal Glory returned $3.60, $2.80 and $2.40. She was 2 1/2 lengths ahead of 19-1 shot Alms ($11.20, $6.40), while Shifty She — who had the lead entering the stretch — settled for third and paid $4.80.
Sweet Melania, the second choice at 5-1, finished last in the 10-entrant field.