Racing Roundtable: Life Is Good, Olympiad set for scorching battle in Whitney

Profile Picture: TwinSpires Staff

TwinSpires Staff

July 5th, 2022

In this week's Racing Roundtable, James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson look ahead to the Whitney S. (G1) and Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga, as well as the promising future of debut winner Damon's Mound.

Who’s the horse to fear heading into the Whitney (G1): Life Is Good or Olympiad?

James Scully: Olympiad has closed the gap, registering a career-best 109 Brisnet Speed rating for his powerful 2 1/4-length score in Saturday’s Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs, but Life Is Good remains the horse to beat in the Aug. 6 Whitney at Saratoga. Life Is Good rebounded stylishly from his setback in the Dubai World Cup (G1), recording a sharp five-length victory in Saturday’s John A. Nerud (G2) at Belmont. And his speed is so dangerous, as witnessed by a convincing wire-to-wire win over Knicks Go in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream earlier this year. Olympiad has really come on at age four for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, recording five straight wins, and it promises to be an enticing matchup between two of the top three Horse of the Year contenders (along with Flightline) at the midway point of the season.

Vance Hanson: Both colts turned in terrific efforts to win their respective races on Saturday, but inclined to think Life Is Good is still the horse to beat in the Whitney. His blazing speed and ability to carry it nine furlongs is a huge asset, and Olympiad hasn’t yet faced a talent like Life Is Good. With that said, let’s see who else shows up. If Life Is Good happens to receive significant pressure early, Olympiad might work out another ideal trip from just off the pace.

Ashley Anderson: Life Is Good beat last year’s Whitney S. winner, Knicks Go, by 3 1/4 lengths in January’s Pegasus World Cup (G1) at 1 1/8 miles, then faded to fourth when stretching out to about 1 1/4 miles in the Dubai World Cup (G1). The Todd Pletcher pupil rebounded in Saturday’s seven-furlong John A. Nerud S. (G2) with a five-length romp among a field of four, and should relish the return to nine furlongs. However, Olympiad appears more dangerous after facing tougher in the Stephen Foster to notch his fifth straight victory. The Speightstown colt bested second-place finisher Americanrevolution, another Pletcher trainee, by 2 1/4 lengths and finished nine lengths ahead of 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun, who came home fourth.

Will Charge It make his presence felt in the Travers (G1) after a 23-lenth Dwyer win?

JS: Possibly. His 23-length win in Saturday’s Dwyer (G3) at Belmont was spectacular, netting the first triple-digit Speed rating (106) of his young career, but it did come at a one-turn mile against suspect competition. And considering Charge It has never won at two turns, and really hadn’t run a hard race (flipped a palate finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby [G1]) since the Florida Derby (G1) in early April, the July 30 Jim Dandy (G2) seems key to his development — he needs to be tested before stretching back out 1 1/4 miles against elite company in the Aug. 27 Travers. If trainer Todd Pletcher elects to bypass the 1 1/8-mile prep race, and trains Charge It up to the Travers from an eight-week layoff, I’ll fade the talented but inexperienced colt and look for more down the road from Charge It.

VH: The Dwyer result was pretty lopsided, and once again proved Charge It is a pretty dangerous horse around one turn. His two-turn record remains less accomplished, though, and the 10-furlong trip of the Travers will be a far more serious test. While a capable Travers substitute for sidelined stablemate Mo Donegal, Charge It will still have something to prove when he meets up again with the best of his peers in late August.

AA: According to Pletcher, Charge It is still putting it all together, and his 23-length victory didn’t even show his “total best.” The Tapit colt lacked experience compared to many of his rivals in the Kentucky Derby, but took a huge step forward in the Dwyer, his first race in nearly two months, although against fairly weak competition. The gray three-year-old’s 110 E1 and 113 E2 Speed figures last out were both career highs. He should battle with Early Voting to set the pace in the Travers, but I think he’ll need his “total best” to finish ahead of better rivals in the 1 1/4-mile test.

What’s your long-term view of spectacular juvenile debut winner Damon’s Mound?

JS: Damon’s Mound established himself as an exciting presence in the two-year-old ranks, overcoming a slow start to win his career debut under wraps by a 12 1/2-length margin at Churchill on Saturday, and the Michelle Lovell-trained Girvin colt received an encouraging 93 Speed figure after completing the six-furlong maiden special weight in 1:09.84. His pedigree does not suggest he’ll relish classic distances next year, but outliers are always possible. And until more evidence is produced, I’m always hesitant to make long-term projections for once-raced juveniles this early in this season. I hope to see Damon’s Mound and unbeaten Gulfport, a 12 1/4-length winner of Monday’s Bashford Manor S. at Churchill, square off in a two-year-old stakes at Saratoga.

VH: The first crop of Girvin, including Damon’s Mound, are off to a tremendous start this spring and summer. However, I’m not convinced this colt is going to be the “classic type,” given his pedigree. Girvin himself won twice at 1 1/8 miles, in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Haskell Invitational (G1), but was well beaten in both tries going longer. And you have to go back many generations in the female line to find a stakes performer of substance. Damon’s Mound might very well represent “improvement of the breed,” but at this point my concern is his precocity is unlikely to translate into success going long by this time next year.

AA: Ahead of his 12 1/2-length romp on debut, trainer Michelle Lovell praised Damon's Mound as the most professional two-year-old she's had in her barn. The Girvin colt proved her right by besting 10 rivals at Churchill, and his 93 BRIS figure was one point faster than the rating Gulfport recorded in his debut three weeks prior at the track. However, like James and Vance, I need to see more from the juvenile, who will ship to Colonial Downs next. Though, according to Lovell, "the sky's the limit," and thus far, her opinion of Damon's Mound has been accurate.