June 19, 2024

Life Is Good, Olympiad square off in six-horse Whitney

Life is Good wins the John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Of the last four winners of the $1 million Whitney S. (G1) that went on to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), two won the year-end championship event (Gun Runner and Knicks Go) and the other two finished second (McKinzie and Improbable).

Six older horses will vie for an automatic entry into the Classic in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Whitney at Saratoga, and hope that recent trend of Whitney winners continues on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.

Heading the field is 6-5 morning line favorite Life Is Good, who drew post 6. An authoritative winner of the Pegasus World Cup (G1) over Knicks Go in January, Life Is Good subsequently faded to fourth over a tiring surface in the Dubai World Cup (G1), his first and only attempt to date at 1 1/4 miles.

Returning to the races July 2 in the seven-furlong John A. Nerud (G2) at Belmont, Life Is Good pulled away late from top one-turn specialist Speaker’s Corner to win by five lengths.

Second choice Olympiad will get his most difficult test to date, but enters off five consecutive wins to start his four-year-old campaign. After sweeping Fair Grounds’ two leading events for older horses, the Mineshaft (G3) and New Orleans Classic (G2), the Bill Mott trainee dominated the Churchill spring meet with back-to-back scores in the Alysheba (G2) and Stephen Foster (G2).

Happy Saver and Americanrevolution, Grade 1-winning stablemates of Life Is Good in the barn of Todd Pletcher, will look to reverse recent form with Olympiad. Happy Saver was second in the Alysheba prior to a runner-up run in the Metropolitan H. (G1) behind Flightline, while Americanrevolution was the runner-up in last month’s Stephen Foster.

Grade 1 veteran and multiple classic-placed Hot Rod Charlie outfinished Life Is Good when they last met, in the Dubai World Cup, with Hot Rod Charlie finishing second to Country Grammer. The Doug O’Neill charge was upset in his June 18 comeback, losing by a head to Mind Control in the Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth Park.

The outsider in the Whitney field is 37-start veteran Zoomer, distantly-placed in the Westchester (G3) earlier this season but a seven-length winner over $50,000 claiming rivals at Saratoga on July 17.