The bulk of the anticipation for the Todd Pletcher team centers on Life Is Good and how he will fare against Knicks Go on Saturday in the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
What's next after this weekend for Life Is Good also will attract plenty of attention.
During a media teleconference Monday, Pletcher was asked whether, if Life Is Good wins Saturday, he might follow Knicks Go's path from last year and pursue the Saudi Cup.
"We're thinking more in the lines of going to Dubai World Cup, if everything goes well in the Pegasus," Pletcher said.
The $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) is Feb. 26. The $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) is March 26.
"Really, for us, we feel like the timing, from Jan. 29 back to Feb. 26 at Saudi, is a little bit tight, especially when you're expecting to have a demanding race in the Pegasus," Pletcher said. "And I think the flight would be leaving less than three weeks later to go to Saudi. But we haven't ruled anything out, but just kind of thinking about it. We feel like the probably the spacing from the Pegasus to the Dubai World Cup is a little bit better."
After winning last year's Pegasus World Cup, Knicks Go finished fourth in the Saudi Cup and fourth in the Met Mile (G1) before going on a tear and winning four graded stakes, including the Breeders' Cup Classic, on his way to becoming the frontrunner for Horse of the Year.
Knicks Go's other wins last year came in the Whitney (G1), the Cornhusker (G3) and the Lukas Classic.
"Certainly a lot of the races that he ran in are the kind of races that we're looking to down the road as well," Pletcher said.
Pletcher is juggling three contenders on the Pegasus World Cup card. In addition to Life Is Good, he has defending champ Colonel Liam and Never Surprised in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).
Life Is Good, an easy winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last out, "is in great form," Pletcher said. "He's a tremendous workhorse, and he's impressed us every every time we breezed him, and he continues to do that.
"He got a little bit of a break, following the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile win, at WinStar, was kept in light training there. Came into Palm Beach Downs with the Pegasus in mind. And fortunately everything's going according to schedule. We we couldn't be more happy with the way he's coming into it. Knock on wood, everything continues to go as well as it has."
Colonel Liam's victory by a neck in last year's Pegasus Turf was the second in a four-race winning streak. He has been working at Palm Beach Downs since taking a break after finishing eighth in the Manhattan (G1) in June at Belmont Park.
"He's been training super," Pletcher said. "He's a horse that perform best on the turf, but he works fine on the dirt. Gotten four really good five-furlong works in to him. Hasn't run in a little while, so we wanted to make sure we got some good solid works into him, which I think we've been able to do. And hopefully we have him tightened enough up to perform his best off the layoff."
Never Surprised is coming off a 6 1/4-length win in the listed Tropical Park Derby at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 26. He has finished first or second in each of his seven starts, with all the runner-up efforts coming in graded stakes.
"Never Surprised is a free-running horse, and he's got good natural speed. The key is trying to get him to settle and relax," Pletcher said. "I think he made a real step forward last time in the Tropical Derby; that was a very impressive performance. So we'll let him do his thing and hopefully he won't overachieve early on. But if he's able to just relax and settle on and kind of get away with a decent pace, then I think he can be dangerous."