Life Is Good romps to Kelso victory at 1-9

Life Is Good romps to Kelso victory at 1-9
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s talented sophomore Life Is Good displayed his natural capabilities while backing up his heavy 1-9 favoritism with a 5 ½-length score in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap going a one-turn mile over the Belmont Park main track.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Life Is Good, a bay son of Into Mischief, was facing older horses for the first time in the Kelso. He arrived off a game runner-up finish in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) on Aug. 28 at Saratoga Race Course, where he battled down the stretch with Jackie’s Warrior, coming up a neck shy of victory. Life Is Good resumed his winning ways on Saturday, commanding the field through every point of call and strolled home in hand under Irad Ortiz Jr.

Life Is Good was sharp leaving post 2 posting splits of 23.53 seconds for the quarter-mile and 46.58 for the half-mile over the fast track. As the field approached upper stretch, Life Is Good was asked for more run under Ortiz Jr.’s right-handed encouragement and was wrapped up by the eighth-pole, crossing the wire in a final time of 1:34.37.

Fort Peck finished 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Doubly Blessed, who completed the order of finish. Informative was scratched.

Chance It was pulled up by jockey Manny Franco down the backstretch and walked onto the equine ambulance under his own power. Dr. Anthony Verderosa, NYRA’s veterinary department director, advised Chance It incurred a tendon injury to his left foreleg.

Life Is Good added a third graded stakes triumph to his ledger, which also include victories at Santa Anita in the Sham (G3) on Jan. 2 and the San Felipe (G2) on March 7 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

“He’s a nice horse,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He went fast and kept going. He did everything smooth and easy. As soon as I asked him, he took off. He responded really well.”

Pletcher earned a third victory in the Kelso, having previously saddled Anchor Down (2016) and Uncle Mo (2011).

“He’s been training super and we were looking forward to getting him going again,” Pletcher said. “I thought he was very impressive.”

Pletcher said he left the trip in the capable hands of Ortiz Jr.

“We weren’t going to send him away from there, but it looked on paper like he was the main speed,” Pletcher said. “What we were focused on was getting him to settle a little bit, stay on the rail and relax. I thought he did that beautifully today. He asked him to run a little bit at the top of the stretch and wrapped up on him late. He galloped out well.”

Pletcher said a start in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar will likely be in the works.

“That’s what we had talked about prior to this race,” Pletcher said. “I’ll assess how he comes out of it and talk to the connections.”

Banking $165,000 in victory, Life Is Good enhanced his lifetime earnings past the half-million mark to $539,200 through a record of 5-4-1-0. He returned $2.10 for a $2 win wager.

Bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stable, Life Is Good is out of the Distorted Humor mare Beach Walk and was bought for $525,000 out of the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

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