March 30, 2023

Pletcher in catbird seat with Life Is Good in John A. Nerud, Charge It in Dwyer

Life is Good with Irad Ortiz riding wins the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar Race Track (Photo by Horsephotos)

One of the most anticipated graded stakes of the holiday weekend will come early Saturday afternoon when Life Is Good and Speaker’s Corner clash in the $250,000 John A. Nerud S. (G2) at Belmont Park. Scheduled as Race 4 on the card, post time for the Nerud is 2:34 p.m. ET.

The seven-furlong Nerud serves as a comeback race for the brilliant Life Is Good, easy winner of the Pegasus World Cup (G1) in late January over Horse of the Year Knicks Go. The son of Into Mischief was favored next out in the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, but weakened to fourth in the 1 1/4-mile event after setting the pace on a tiring surface.

“It was the wrong racetrack for him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We were a little concerned about that going in. I thought they would have it a little tighter on that night, but it didn’t play to his style at all.”

The Nerud will serve as Life Is Good’s prep for the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga in early August.

Speaker’s Corner has strong claims with a return to his best form. The Bill Mott trainee kicked off the season with three straight graded wins, including the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) and Carter H. (G1). However, he was well below par in the Metropolitan H. (G1) three weeks ago, fading to a distant third behind Flightline after setting the pace.

Among the three others likely chasing scraps is War Tocsin, who’s placed three times in graded company this year.

Later in the card, Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Charge It will be a strong favorite to win the $250,000 Dwyer S. (G3) for three-year-olds over one mile.

The Pletcher-trained Charge It was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by the more experienced White Abarrio in the April 2 Florida Derby, which marked only the third lifetime start for the son of Tapit. Following a debut second in early January, Charge It waltzed by 6 1/2 lengths in breaking his maiden over a mile at Gulfstream.

Charge It was last seen in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but made no impact when finishing 17th of 20, beaten 28 lengths.

“He displaced a soft palate, which we did a minor surgical procedure on since then,” Pletcher said. “I think we got that corrected, so hopefully he’ll come back to top form.”

The least exposed of Charge It’s Dwyer rivals is Nabokov. A maiden winner by more than three lengths in mid-May for owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown, Nabokov is an Uncle Mo full brother to the Grade 2-winning filly Mopotism.