01/06/2011 4:00PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Life At Ten

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Barbara D. Livingston

When trainer Todd Pletcher was seeking a ready-made horse for owner Candy DeBartolo in fall 2007, he contacted Gary Young, a respected clocker and bloodstock agent in Southern California, and asked him to find a horse who was ready to win next time out.

Young suggested a 2-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon who had raced just once, finishing second in that debut.

That horse was Life At Ten, and, as Young predicted, she won her next start. But over the course of the next two seasons, the oversized filly could not break through to the next level.

“She’s not as big as Zenyatta, but she’s big,” Pletcher said.

Finally, in fall 2009, Life At Ten began to reach her potential. She closed the year with a pair of victories, then during 2010, at age 5, continued to blossom. She developed into one of the leaders of her division, winning 5 of 6 starts, including a pair of Grade 1 races, before an inglorious final outing in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

Life At Ten – who is out of the Rahy mare Rahrahsixboombah – made her first start of 2010 in February at Aqueduct, following a brief freshening necessitated by a quarter crack. Sent off the favorite in the Rare Treat, she blitzed her overmatched rivals.

“Warming up, I don’t think a horse could instill more confidence in a rider,” jockey Richard Migliore told Daily Racing Form right after the Rare Treat. “The more I warmed her up, the more I felt like she was a cinch.”

Pletcher decided to aim higher, but in increments. Nearly two months after the Rare Treat, Life At Ten was sent to Hawthorne, where she beat a surprisingly strong field for a Grade 3 in the Sixty Sails Handicap. That intermediate step propelled Life At Ten into the Ogden Phipps on June 12, where she earned her first Grade 1 win with a front-running victory over Unrivaled Belle, whom she would face three times in 2010.

John Velazquez rode Life At Ten for the first time in the Phipps, and he would be aboard her the rest of the year.

Their next stop was Delaware, where Life At Ten, in a virtual replay of the Phipps, led from start to finish in the Delaware Handicap, winning by three lengths. The win was her sixth straight, with those victories ranging in distances from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles.

Life At Ten’s front-running style met its match in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Life At Ten tried to go with Rachel Alexandra, the defending Horse of the Year, during the early portion of the race and paid dearly. She faded to finish third, more than 10 lengths behind Rachel Alexandra, as Persistently swept by the exhausted leaders to win.

A change of tactics was in order for the Beldame, Life At Ten’s final prep for the Breeders’ Cup. She rated in third and then rallied past Unrivaled Belle for a two-length win.

“One thing we did in the Beldame was get her back off the pace,” Pletcher said. “We wanted to reverse the tactics of the previous race, which didn’t go so well.”

Life At Ten made her final start of the year in the Ladies’ Classic, and the performance turned controversial. Before the race, Velazquez told a national television audience that Life At Ten was not warming up as sharply as in prior races. When the gates opened, she showed no interest in competing. Pletcher believes Life At Ten reacted poorly to a prerace Lasix shot.

Life At Ten will have a chance to atone for that black mark. She got some time off after the Breeders’ Cup at Florida’s Payton Training Center, which is owned by Pletcher’s father, J.J., then was scheduled to return to training at Palm Meadows in January and race in 2011.

PAST PERFORMANCES: Life At Ten's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park >>