THERE may not have been a Grade 1 contest stateside last weekend but there were still a few Grade 1 performances.
We already knew Life Is Good was good but then Olympiad maintained his winning 2022 run in impressive style in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill to firmly launch himself into the big time and a possible Saratoga match-up between the two.
Life Is Good was returning to the races for the first time since a March 26th defeat in the Dubai World Cup in the four-runner Grade 2 John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park.
Back over seven furlongs, he was up against a decent and fast opponent in Speaker’s Corner, but Life Is Good was as quick as ever and scored a decisive victory under Flavien Prat.
Pushed by the Carter Handicap winner Speaker’s Corner, recently third behind the unbeaten Flightline in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, through quick fractions of 22.19, 44.70, and 1m 8.83secs, Life Is Good pulled away to score by five lengths over that rival in 1m 21.70secs for the seven furlongs and made it seven wins from nine runs with earnings of $3,551,700.
“He is just an incredible horse. We’re excited to see what happens the rest of the year. It’s nice to see. They couldn’t pull him up,” WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden was quoted by BloodHorse.
The son of Into Mischief, owned by China Horse Club and WinStar will be a strong favourite for the Grade 1 $1 million Whitney Stakes over nine furlongs at Saratoga in August as he seeks to add to his 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes wins.
“Now we get five weeks for the Whitney and we’ll see if we can take another step forward. We’re blessed to have him,” Todd Pletcher said of the colt who cost $525,000 at the Keeneland September Sale.
There was also an eye-catching run on the Belmont card when Charge it, well beaten in the Kentucky Derby, ran away with the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes by 23 lengths and has Grade 1 company in his sight again at Saratoga.
The latest star to emerge on the US scene, Olympiad, made it five from five this season in overcoming speed horses Caddo River and the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun and then repelling Americanrevolution to win the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Olympiad chased fractions of a half mile by Caddo River and Mandaloun in 46.45secs, to 1m 10.64 for six furlongs. He surged to the lead on the bend and opened up a lead in the straight over Americanrevolution, who was still two and a quarter lengths behind the winner at the finish.
“The whole team did a great job to get him back here and it’s very special to win the Stephen Foster again. He has such a big stride and it’s so powerful in the late stages of his races,” said Kenny McCarthy, assistant trainer to Bill Mott.
Olympiad ran the nine furlongs in 1m 47.66secs, not far off Victory Gallop’s track record in the 1999 Foster. He was given a 111 Bayer speed figure while Life Is Good was given 112.
“I think as he’s gotten older he’s gotten faster in each start. He’s a great horse and has shown his talent all year long. It will be a fun rest of the year,” said winning jockey Junior Alvarado.
Proxy took third, well ahead of Mandaloun who was on his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Saudi Cup last February.
Olympiad, who was ranked behind Flightline, Country Grammer, Life Is Good and Jackie’s Warrior before the race, hasn’t lost since finishing fourth to Americanrevolution in the Cigar Mile in December.
“I thought it was a very game win this afternoon. There were some nice horses in this field and I thought he did things rather easily. It was really nice to see him win like that,” BloodHorse reported from Bill Mott.
Olympiad’s next run is likely to be in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga where he would meet Life Is Good.
There were two decent performances by fillies too as classic winner Shedaresthedevil took the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Stakes over nine furlongs at Churchill Downs.
She is owned by Flurry Racing Stables, Qatar Racing Ltd & Whisper Hill Farm and trained by Brad Cox, she had won the Kentucky Oaks at three and this was a 10th success and fourth Grade 1 for the five-year-old daughter of Daredevil.
At Gulfstream Park on Saturday, the six-year-old mare Ce Ce ran away with the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Invitational Stakes under Victor Espinoza by six and a quarter lengths to maintain her consistency that has brought her 14 placings from 18 runs.