By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Saturday is shaping up to be
an action-packed day of racing from coast to coast, with the $1 million Whitney
S. (G1) at Saratoga leading the way.
The prestigious 1 1/8-mile
"Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) has drawn half
a dozen entries, representing some of the best horses in training. Five are
proven Grade 1 winners, including the brilliant #6 Life Is Good, who figures to start as the favorite.
It's hard to knock anything
Life Is Good has accomplished while recording seven victories from nine starts.
He was sensational last fall, parlaying a blowout Kelso H. (G2) triumph into an
easy score in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He was just as impressive in
the Pegasus World Cup (G1) to kick off 2022, leading all the way to beat
Breeders' Cup Classic hero Knicks Go by 3 1/4 lengths.
Life Is Good faltered when
stretching out over 1 1/4 miles in the Dubai World Cup (G1), but he set a fast
pace that day and was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths. He subsequently bounced back
with an impressive score in the seven-furlong John A. Nerud S. (G2) at Belmont
Park one month ago, dueling Grade 1 winner Speaker's Corner into submission
before pulling clear to win by five easy lengths.
So isn't Life Is Good a lock
to win the Whitney? Not necessarily. Life Is Good is arguably at his best as a
sprinter/miler, and although he won the Pegasus over 1 1/8 miles, he appeared
to be growing a bit leg-weary down the homestretch while running the final
furlong in :13.71. I wonder if the Whitney distance is just a bit longer than
ideal for Life Is Good.
In some respects, Life Is
Good reminds me of Quality Road, a brilliant sprinter/miler who dominated the
2010 Metropolitan H. (G1) and won the 2009 Amsterdam S. (G2) by setting
still-standing Saratoga track record for 6 1/2 furlongs. Quality Road
successfully stretched his speed over 1 1/8 miles on multiple occasions,
including when trouncing the 2010 Donn H. (G1) at Gulfstream, which was the
precursor to the Pegasus World Cup.
But when Quality Road
squared off against a deep field in the 2010 Whitney, he was caught in the
final strides by Blame, an up-and-coming Stephen Foster S. (G1) winner with
stamina to spare. Blame had won four straight graded stakes leading into the
Whitney and later added the Breeders' Cup Classic to his stellar resume.
All this is a way of saying,
if Life Is Good has parallels to Quality Road, then might #4 Olympiad be this year's Blame? Certainly there are some striking
For starters, Olympiad has
won four straight graded stakes against increasingly tough competition. He's
actually 5-for-5 this year and 5-for-5 since stretching out around two turns,
with his winter/spring campaign including scores in the Mineshaft S. (G3), New
Orleans Classic S. (G2), and Alysheba S. (G2).
For another, Olympiad enters
the Whitney off a victory in the Stephen Foster S. (G2). In the Foster, Olympiad
tracked and pressed sharp fractions of :23.05, :46.45, and 1:10.64 before
seizing a clear lead and holding off 2021 Cigar Mile (G1) winner #1 Americanrevolution to win by 2 1/4
This effort produced a
powerful 111 Beyer speed figure, one point higher than the 110 Life Is Good
posted in the Pegasus World Cup. Olympiad combines tactical speed with a
relentless finishing power well-suited to running long, so I'm optimistic he
can use his stamina to run down Life Is Good in the final furlong and spring a
mild Whitney surprise.
Americanrevolution and Dubai
World Cup runner-up #2 Hot Rod Charlie are
logical contenders for the minor awards, but don't forget about #5 Happy Saver. The 2020 Jockey Club
Gold Cup (G1) winner has never missed the trifecta and enters the Whitney off
four straight runner-up efforts in tough graded stakes. He put up a good fight
to finish second behind Olympiad in the Alysheba and most recently occupied the
runner-up spot behind superstar Flightline in the Metropolitan H. (G1),
counting Speaker's Corner and 2021 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West
among his beaten rivals.
Happy Saver has done his
best work running 1 1/8 miles or farther, so I can definitely envision a
scenario where he grinds out a top-three finish in the Whitney, possibly at
solid odds if bettors throw support behind Hot Rod Charlie and
2nd: Life Is Good
3rd: Happy Saver
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the Whitney?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.