Speaker’s Corner, Life Is Good will duel Saturday at Belmont

Speaker’s Corner, Life Is Good will duel Saturday at Belmont
Photo: Chelsea Durand / NYRA

A change of plans has ignited a potential rivalry between high-profile, older colts Life Is Good and Speaker’s Corner, who are expected to meet Saturday in the seven-furlong, Grade 2 John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park.

“Per Michael Banahan of Godolphin, Speaker’s Corner will re-route and run in Saturday’s G2 John Nerud,” read a Tweet on Sunday night from Ryan Martin, a spokesperson for the New York Racing Association.

The move represented a pivot from the position Banahan took during the weekend, when he told NYRA, “We’re going to sit back a little bit. ... We’ll just let him get back and see what direction we go in.”

Click here for Belmont Park entries and results.

Speaker’s Corner, who had won three graded stakes to start the year, faded to a third-place finish last out June 11 in the Met Mile (G1), losing to Flightline and Happy Saver. It marked the first time in six tries that he had lost a race in open company. His victory April 9 in the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct yielded a 114 Beyer Speed Figure, still the best of the year, according to Daily Racing Form.

Trained by Bill Mott, the 4-year-old Godolphin homebred by Street Sense was being aimed for the Forego (G1) on Aug. 27 at Saratoga. Since that still is two months away, that may remain the long-range goal for the summer.

“We don’t feel like we want to stretch him out,” Banahan had told NYRA. “We tried that last year, and he probably doesn’t want to do that the top end.”

Life Is Good already had been committed to the Nerud for his comeback from a fourth-place finish March 28 in the 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup (G1). The WinStar-owned 4-year-old by Into Mischief already has Grade 1 victories in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, in which he got a 110 Beyer. Life Is Good has been trained by Todd Pletcher since last summer, when he was transferred from the West Coast barn of Bob Baffert.

The last time Life Is Good cut back to less than a mile, he lost to eventual Eclipse Award winner Jackie’s Warrior in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) last August at Saratoga.

Entries for the $250,000 Nerud will be taken Wednesday for Saturday’s card, which also includes the one-mile Dwyer Stakes (G3).

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