Not only was China Horse Club and WinStar Farm's Life Is Good a decisive, front-running 5 ¾-length winner of the Dirt Mile, he powered to his first Grade 1 win with such a dynamic display of early and late speed that the crowd gasped when track announcer Larry Collmus informed them that the son of Into Mischief sprinted through the opening quarter-mile in :21.88.
Good? Oh, he was much better than that.
"He was great," Elliott Walden, CEO, president, and racing manager of WinStar Farm, said about the colt trained by Todd Pletcher. "When (jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) came back after the race, he told Todd that he thought he was going :23 and :47."
It's rare that a horse can dash through a :44.94 half-mile and trick an Eclipse Award-winning rider such as Ortiz into believing that he was running some 10 lengths slower, but Life Is Good has that dynamic blend of talent and speed that allows him to make something demanding look simple.
"He's an exceptional talent," Pletcher said after Life Is Good's fifth win in six career starts. "Sometimes when you expect to win, it's hard to win, but he did it."
Switched to Pletcher’s barn from Bob Baffert over the summer, Life Is Good was valiant in defeat when he finished second to Jackie’s Warrior in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes in August. After that race, a plan was crafted to use the Dirt Mile as a springboard to the top 2022 races. Since then he has reeled off wins in the Kelso Handicap and Dirt Mile and is now poised for longer and richer tests next year.
Life Is Good, who led by a length much of the way before pulling away in the stretch, covered the mile in 1:34.12 as the 7-10 favorite with Ortiz putting a finger to his lips as he crossed the wire in a tribute to jockey Miguel Mena who died when struck by a vehicle in Louisville earlier in the week.