September 18, 2021

Life Is Good to Pletcher; Charlatan retired to stud

Life Is Good
Life Is Good and jockey Mike Smith win the San Felipe Stakes (Benoit Photo)

Two high-profile runners for the embattled Bob Baffert made headlines Thursday. While multiple Grade 1 hero Charlatan was retired to stud, onetime Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Life Is Good is on the comeback trail – but will switch to the Todd Pletcher barn.

Life Is Good posts first work back

Knocked off the Derby trail by injury in late March, CHC and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good underwent surgery at Rood and Riddle to remove a bone chip from his left hind ankle. The undefeated colt was sent to WinStar to convalesce and then begin limbering up for farm trainer Destin Heath.

On Thursday, Life Is Good returned to the worktab at Keeneland, striding three furlongs in :37.00. According to WinStar CEO Elliott Walden, the Into Mischief colt galloped out a half-mile in :49.40.

Life Is Good twice beat stablemate Medina Spirit in early-season Derby preps. After holding him off in the Jan. 2 Sham S. (G3), Life Is Good romped by eight lengths, despite drifting out badly, in the March 6 San Felipe S. (G2). His ankle problem was diagnosed after a bullet work a couple of weeks later.

Medina Spirit went on to finish first past the post in the Kentucky Derby, only to test positive for betamethasone. In the aftermath, Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs and by the New York Racing Association.

As Baffert continues the legal wrangling, Life Is Good’s connections needed to make plans. WinStar had already moved Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner Country Grammer to Pletcher, who also inherited Spendthrift Farm’s promising Following Sea from Baffert.

Walden, in a message disseminated to Horse Racing Nation and other media, described the rationale for moving Life Is Good to Pletcher:

“The plan is to ship to Todd Pletcher in the coming weeks with a possibility of running in New York later this year. With the ban on Bob in Kentucky and New York right now, our opportunities are limited. We will continue to evaluate the situation with Bob and appreciate everything he has done with Life Is Good.”

Charlatan to Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa

The Charlatan announcement was not surprising, considering that the once-beaten colt had been shelved last month. Last seen finishing a gutsy second to British star Mishriff in the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup, the son of Speightstown was earmarked for the May 1 Churchill Downs S. (G1). But he dropped off the worktab after April 12 and ended up missing that target.

Charlatan regrouped with an eye toward the June 5 Metropolitan H. (G1), only to come up with another unspecified issue. News came in mid-May that the four-year-old was headed to Margaux Farm for rest and evaluation.

Charlatan
Charlatan and jockey Mike Smith win the Malibu Stakes © BENOIT PHOTO

Charlatan retires with a 5-4-0-1 record and $4,047,200 in earnings, most ($3.5 million) from his Saudi venture. Prominent on the 2020 Derby trail, the chestnut won his first two starts at Santa Anita and wired a division of last year’s Arkansas Derby (G1). Charlatan was initially stripped of that stakes win following a positive test for lidocaine, but he was reinstated as the official winner in April.

An injury ruled him out of the pandemic-delayed Kentucky Derby. In his only ensuing start at three, Charlatan was brilliant in the Dec. 26 Malibu S. (G1). That seven-furlong dash was his lone springboard to the Saudi Cup over a demanding 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) at King Abdulaziz Racetrack, where Mishriff outstayed him late.

A $700,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Charlatan was produced by the Grade 2-winning Quiet American mare Authenticity.

“We’re very proud of everything Charlatan accomplished in his brief but brilliant career,” said Tom Ryan of SF Racing, which campaigned the colt in partnership with Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, breeder Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John D. Fielding, and Golconda Stables.

“He’s one of the most perfect physical specimens to come to stud in recent times,” Ryan added, “and there’s no doubt he will be supported accordingly. On behalf of the SF racing partners we wish John (Sikura) and the team at Hill ‘n’ Dale the very best.”

Charlatan will arrive at Hill ‘n’ Dale’s magnificently restored Xalapa property near Paris, Kentucky, on Friday. His stud fee is to be determined.

Hill ‘n’ Dale President John G. Sikura commented on the new recruit:

“Horses with Charlatan’s immense ability combined with superior pedigree, conformation, depth of female family and star-quality appeal are a very rare commodity. He is one of the most talented horses I have seen run who combines world class sprinter/miler speed with the ability to carry it around two turns. He is a striking individual who should impart size, substance, balance, and brilliance to his foals. It is an honor to have Charlatan set the standard of excellence as the first stallion whose career we launch here at Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa.”