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ELMONT, NY – China Horse Club and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good rebounded impressively from his last-out first career defeat by rolling home an easy-as-he-pleased winner of Saturday’s $300,000 Kelso Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park.
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Facing older horses for the first time, Life Is Good broke from post 2 under Irad Ortiz Jr. as the heavy 1/9 favorite and went right to the early lead in the scratch-shortened field of four.
Life Is Good rattled off comfortable opening fractions of :23.53 and :46.58 down the backstretch before Fort Peck ranged up to challenge in the far turn, but Life Is Good repelled his bid as he neared the top of the stretch.
The Todd Pletcher trainee instantly opened up to an insurmountable advantage before jogging across the wire 5 1/2 lengths much the best, completing the one-turn fast dirt mile event in 1:34.37.
“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.”
“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.”
Fort Peck took second by 3 3/4 lengths over Doubly Blessed to complete the order of finish.
Chance It was racing in second down the backstretch when jockey Manny Franco pulled him just a 1/4-mile into the race. He was vanned off and according to NYRA was inspected by Dr. Anthony Verderosa, NYRA’s Veterinary Department Director, who advised that Chanice It sustained a tendon injury to his left foreleg.
Informative scratched, opting to compete in the Parx Dirt Mile Stakes; he finished last in the field of seven.
Life Is Good’s win was his third in a graded stakes following the Sham (G3) and San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita Park earlier this year. The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt, purchased for $525,000 as a yearling, improved his record to 5-4-1-0 with $539,200 earned and will likely target the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar for his next start.
“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.”
Life Is Good returned $2.10 to win and $2.10 to place. Fort Peck paid $6.10 to place. There was no show betting.
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