If Flightline replicates his historic 19 1/4 length romp in the Pacific Classic several weeks from now at Keeneland Race Course, the other entrants for the Breeders’ Cup Classic are likely running for place.
But a host of talented challengers led by Whitney Stakes winner Life Is Good aim to push the undefeated Flightline to the limit in November’s $6 million Classic, annually the most prestigious race on U.S. soil for older horses. Following a front-running, two-length win in the Whitney, Life Is Good has been installed as the heavy 1/5 favorite in Saturday’s Grade I Woodward Stakes at Aqueduct Race Track.
Life Is Good, the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile champion, headlines a five-horse field in the $500,000 Woodward, being run at Aqueduct for the first time in more than two decades. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) moved the Belmont Park fall meet to Aqueduct as the Long Island track undergoes a lengthy renovation project.
In total, there are more than a dozen graded stakes this weekend ahead of November’s Breeders’ Cup World Championship. The weekend slate also includes the Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita Park, the Grade II Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs, and the Grade I Champagne Stakes for 2-year-olds at Aqueduct.
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A training session for Life Is Good?
Whereas the Woodward is typically contested at nine furlongs around one turn at Belmont Park, the Woodward on Saturday will be contested at two turns at Aqueduct. If Life Is Good breaks well from the gate, Saturday’s race could be over by the time he rounds the first turn. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Life Is Good has amassed more than $4 million in career earnings with eight lifetime victories.
Another Pletcher trainee, Keepmeinmind, may present the stiffest challenge to Life Is Good on Saturday. Keepmeinmind (6/1) enters the Woodward off a non-threatening finish in fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga Race Course. Keepmeinmind has one win in two starts this year, with the victory coming in a July allowance at Saratoga.
Law Professor (10/1) returns to the dirt in the Woodward after a victory on turf Sept. 1 in the FanDuel Tapit Stakes at Kentucky Downs. Thomas Shelby (10/1) and Informative (12/1) round out the field.
Well, @Brisnet has spoken on who it likes in the Woodward. Life Is Good is value at 1-to-20! pic.twitter.com/2uLpXvRqU9
— Ed DeRosa (@EJXD2) September 29, 2022
Other graded stakes on Saturday
Country Grammer leads a deep field in the Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita. Had Flightline not entered the Pacific Classic, Country Grammer would have likely notched a resounding win. Despite the defeat, Country Grammer finished seven lengths clear of the rest of the field in recording an Equibase figure of 103.
A 5-year-old trainee of Bob Baffert, Country Grammer also has a victory in the Dubai World Cup and a second-place finish in the Saudi Cup on his resume this year. Two others from the Pacific Classic, Royal Ship and Express Train, return for the Awesome Again.
A match race could ensue in the Grade I Champagne, traditionally one of the top prep races for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The regally bred Verifying, a half-brother to Midnight Bisou, enters as the 9/5 favorite. Verifying, the son of Justify, won his only career start in an August maiden special weight at Saratoga. Gulfport, the 2/1 second choice, finished second in the Hopeful on a sloppy track.
Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike returns to the track Saturday in the Grade 2 Lukas Classic. Rich Strike finished fourth in last month’s Travers Stakes, less than a length behind second-place finisher Cyberknife. Favorite Hot Rod Charlie finished third to Life Is Good in the Whitney, but still recorded an Equibase figure of 122.
ICYMI: Flightline Closes at 4-5 Favorite in Pool #2 of @Longines #BreedersCup Classic Future Wager.
Read more: https://t.co/pvmnem8b4i 🏇 pic.twitter.com/PQj7AUivFb
— Breeders’ Cup (@BreedersCup) September 7, 2022
After Epicenter captured the Travers in an eye-popping 2:00.72, trainer Steve Asmussen indicated that he feels privileged to take on a distinguished class of older horses in the Classic. Flightline closed the second Breeders’ Cup Classic futures pool at 4/5, ahead of Epicenter, Life Is Good, and Olympiad.
Photo: Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY