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ELMONT, NY – After exiting his narrow H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) defeat at Saratoga in good order, trainer Todd Pletcher’s Life Is Good makes his final start before the Breeders’ Cup at Belmont Park in Saturday’s $300,000 Kelso Handicap (G2) on the same card before five older fillies and mares likely to compete in the $200,000 Athenia Stakes (G3).
The Kelso is slated as race 4 on Saturday’s 11-race card, while the Athenia begins the final Daily Double in race 10.
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Life Is Good will attempt to make his second start off a layoff a winning one while taking on older horses for the first time as he headlines the Kelso, a one-turn mile on the main track.
Life Is Good, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, arrives at the Kelso off a sharp runner-up effort to Jackie’s Warrior in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 28 at Saratoga Race Course. The son of leading sire Into Mischief posted swift fractions in the 7-furlong event before engaging in a dramatic stretch duel with Jackie’s Warrior, which saw Life Is Good miss by a neck.
Life Is Good entered the H. Allen Jerkens off a 6-month layoff from wins at Santa Anita Park over eventual Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit in both the Sham (G3) on January 2 and the San Felipe (G2) on March 6 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Life Is Good breezed a 1/2-mile in 48.46 on the Belmont dirt training track on September 22.
“He ran a giant race off the layoff and has trained well since then,” said Pletcher, whose previous Kelso coups came with Uncle Mo (2011), Graydar (2013), and Anchor Down (2016). “He’s an enthusiastic horse to train. In both works, he was well in hand, especially in his last breeze. He kind of fools you watching him. He doesn’t look like he’s going that fast, but then he gallops out in 1:25 and change.”
Pletcher credited his team as well as the crew at WinStar Farm for an excellent job preparing Life Is Good for his Saratoga return.
“Everyone did a great job bringing him back,” Pletcher said. “He did a lot of training at Keeneland and trained extremely well at Saratoga. He’s just a very talented horse so I was not surprised he had run so well off the bench. It was an ambitious goal to run in a Grade 1, but he’s a very talented horse and ran terrific. He came out of it well and has continued to train great.”
Pletcher said a solid effort from Life Is Good on Saturday would likely result in a trip to Del Mar for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on November 6.
“Right now, we’re thinking about the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Obviously, we need to run here and assess how he does, but that’s what we’re thinking at the moment,” Pletcher said. “He certainly trains like a horse that’s capable of running further and hopefully that’s the case down the road.”
Life Is Good brags a record of 4-3-1-0 and field-best earnings of $374,200.
Bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stable, Life Is Good is out of the Distorted Humor mare Beach Walk.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who piloted Vyjack to victory in the 2014 Kelso, will climb aboard Life Is Good for the first time from post 2.
Jackie’s Warrior Outduels Life Is Good In H. Allen Jerkens Thriller
Shooting Star Thoroughbreds’ Chance It arrives off a third-place finish to talented sprinters Yaupon and Firenze Fire in the 7-furlong Forego (G1) on August 28 at Saratoga.
The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained son of Currency Swap made his first start outside his native Florida in the Forego, where he rated a close third to the inside of the top two finishers, dropped to fifth around the far turn, but re-established position to complete the trifecta.
Chance It, who boasts a consistent 10-4-4-1 record, was a close second in his previous 2 starts this season and will be in pursuit of his first victory since capturing the Mucho Macho Man in January 2020 at Gulfstream Park.
Manny Franco has the call from post 3.
Trin-Brook Stables’ Informative will attempt another graded stakes upset for trainer Uriah St. Lewis. The 4-year-old son of Bodemeister lit up the Monmouth Park tote board when capturing the Salvator Mile (G3) on June 12, where he went off at 79/1 odds.
Informative, who boasts 2 wins in 5 starts at the Kelso distance, will go back to 1 mile following unplaced efforts in the 10-furlong Suburban (G2) in July at Belmont Park and the 9-furlong Charles Town Classic (G2) on August 27.
Eric Cancel will have the call from post 4.
Flying P Stable will look to add to their string of recent upset stakes wins on the NYRA circuit when sending out last-out winner Fort Peck for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Flying P Stable’s Locally Owned posted an 18/1 upset over the Diodoro-trained Lone Rock (co-owned by Flying P Stable) in Saturday’s Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational at Belmont and Fort Peck will look to continue the trend this weekend.
A 6-year-old son of Fort Larned, Fort Peck was triumphant in his debut for Diodoro when scoring for a $50,000 tag on August 7 at Saratoga.
Ramon Vazquez will ride from post 1.
Completing the field is Three Diamonds Farm’s Doubly Blessed, who will try to make amends following a distant seventh in the Forego. The son of Empire Maker will make his third start over Big Sandy following a close second to Locally Owned in an April optional claiming tilt at 1 1/16 miles, followed by a victory at the same distance in May.
Hall of Famer and 4-time Kelso-winning jockey Javier Castellano will ride from post 5 for trainer Mike Maker.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle Pocket Square and Miss Teheran in Saturday’s $200,000 Athenia (G3), a 9-furlong inner turf test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Belmont Park.
Brown has won 4 of the last 5 runnings of the Athenia and has totaled 5 wins overall, including scores by Pianist (2013), Roca Rojo (2016), Off Limits (2017), Rymska (2018), and Tapit Today (2020).
Juddmonte homebred Pocket Square, a 4-year-old Night of Thunder chestnut, enters from a 4 1/2-length optional-claiming win traveling 9 furlongs on the Saratoga Race Course turf on August 25.
A Group 3 winner as a juvenile in France for trainer Roger Charlton, Pocket Square posted a debut win for Brown in a 1 1/16-mile Keeneland allowance tilt in April. She followed with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in Grade 1 company in the 1-mile Just a Game in June at Belmont and the 9-furlong Diana in August at Saratoga.
“We had very high hopes for her coming out of the allowance win at Keeneland and we tried her in some ambitious spots. She has always trained well,” said Brown’s Belmont-based assistant Dan Stupp. “She came back into form at Saratoga and hopefully that gave her confidence. She’s made a good appearance at Belmont this fall.”
Doubledown Stables’ Miss Teheran, a 5-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Teofilo, captured a 1-mile optional-claimer on the Saratoga turf on August 1 and rallied to finish second last out in the 1 1/16-mile Miss Liberty on August 28 at Monmouth Park. The late-running chestnut boasts a record of 13-4-4-1 with purse earnings of $199,372.
“She had a little bit of a trip and came with a nice late kick, but didn’t quite get the job done. She gave a good account of herself and we were pleased with her effort,” Stupp said of the Miss Liberty try. “Obviously, we would have liked to have won but she showed up off her allowance win at Saratoga and gave another good effort.”
Miss Teheran has breezed back twice at Belmont since the Miss Liberty, including a 1/2-mile effort in 50.05 Saturday on the Belmont main track.
“She’s had a couple maintenance works and seems to be doing well,” Stupp said. “She’s a very honest filly and tries every time. She’s a one-run late filly – save a little ground, get a little cover and then get out and make her run.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the call aboard Pocket Square from post 4, while Manny Franco will guide Miss Teheran from post 2.
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Godolphin homebred Lake Lucerne, a 4-year-old Dubawi bay, enters from a narrow nose score in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming event on September 1 at the Spa.
Out of the multiple Grade 1-winning Awesome Again mare Round Pond, Lake Lucerne launched her career in England with trainer John Gosden, which included a maiden score in March 2020 at Chelmsford.
Transferred to the care of trainer Brendan Walsh, Lake Lucerne rallied to finish fourth in her North American debut in February at Gulfstream Park and followed with a 3 1/4-length allowance score in May traveling 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs turf.
Jose Lezcano has the call from the inside post.
Rounding out the field are Group 2-placed Made In Italy (post 3, Junior Alvarado) for trainer Graham Motion and 2-time winner Stand for the Flag (post 5, Dylan Davis) for conditioner Rob Atras.
Spice Is Nice is entered as Main Track Only.
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