The highly touted four-year-old Life Is Good, with Irad Ortiz in the irons, bested the only slightly more highly touted Knicks Go to take the 2022 Pegasus World Cup and, perhaps more crucially, denied Knicks Go’s unprecedented pre-retirement bid to win the race twice. Life Is Good, who went off at slightly higher odds than his rival, paid $3.60 to win, Knicks Go paid a disheartening but not unexpectedly low $2.10 to place. Stilleto Boy knifed his way into show, paying $2.80. The two heavy favorites’ $2 exacta provides a window on the low payouts that such a top-heavy match-race-within-the-race creates, at $4.80.
Life Is Good had created considerable trackside chatter in training, putting up some hot fractions and generally becoming the man about town, all of which was precisely and presciently noted by our own Bluegrass Wise Man in this piece earlier today. The point is that by taking the race Life Is Good could usher in a metaphorical passing of the mantle of a nationally renowned Thoroughbred as Knicks Go heads on toward retirement.
That process, among other things, accelerated today, but it wasn’t fully realized. Life Is Good ran well and led wire-to-wire, but at the wire Knicks Go was laboriously clawing back what had been a four-length lead, and Life Is Not Good didn’t seem to finish his Pegasus with enormous authority. It left a whiff of room for doubt until his next confrontation with a big talent. Down the road, if the stars align, Flightline springs to mind as a worthy competitor to Life Is Good.
At the same time, the victor’s Pegasus performance erases the level of doubt that Life Is Good’s light record cannot be improved. It very much can, and this race did that. His modest earnings, thanks to the Stronachs, have been increased by orders of magnitude, and he’s now been certified as a young-ish force on the sport’s big stages.
For his part, Knicks Go’s “loss” of having merely placed in one of the sport’s richest races doesn’t affect his record, his hard-earned oceans of regard, or, heading into the halcyon days at stud, his bookings. He didn’t seem like his best self today and never commanded the race as we have seen him do many times, at one point running third behind a game Stilleto Boy before finally pulling into second and holding that to the wire. Working around Stilleto Boy seemed to cost Knicks Go more than it seemed that work should. In the last two furlongs he seemed to discover that he’d left too much to do to get it done before the wire — Life Is Good had turned him into a closer, a role Knicks Go was unsure he liked and one he didn’t have room at the finish to master.
Bottom line, if this second place in his second consecutive Pegasus forms part of Knick’s Go’s swan song, it’s a very well paid one and a passable valediction. His trainer Brad Cox was fearless at Knicks Go having drawn the rail in this race, and in the larger sense Cox, along with the rest of the horse’s connections. should welcome Knicks Go’s golden future. Knicks Go has little for which to apologize, and stellar career to celebrate. He was one of the big boys.