Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stable’s Imperative has secured the 12th and final spot in the starting gate for Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), co-owner Ron Paolucci mentioned via Twitter. As first reported by Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee, Tyler Gaffalione has the mount in the Gulfstream Park feature. The multiple Grade 2 veteran joins the cast after McKinzie was ruled out, as expected, Friday by Bob Baffert. McKinzie is bound for the February 2 San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita, and Baffert told track publicity that the March 9 Santa Anita H. (G1) is on the radar. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith told Racing Post that the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) is on the agenda, so stay tuned as McKinzie’s plans unfold. Imperative’s signature wins came in the 2014 and 2017 editions of the Charles Town Classic (G2). Also successful in the Poseidon H. on the inaugural Pegasus undercard two years ago, the Bernardini gelding went 0-for-6 last season. But Paolucci, ever willing to roll the dice, believes it’s worth risking the $500,000 entry fee.

Transferred to trainer Anthony Quartarolo last summer, Imperative exits a distant ninth in a Gulfstream allowance December 7. The nine-year-old gelding has since recorded three useful moves over the track. After drilling a bullet half in :46.92 on January 5, he breezed five-eighths in 1:01.57 on Friday. The premier Pegasus contenders have been polishing off their preparations this weekend. Horse of the Year finalist Accelerate, a virtual lock to be named champion older male at Thursday night’s Eclipse Awards, blazed five furlongs in a bullet :58.80 at Santa Anita Saturday. The John Sadler charge, piloted as usual by assistant trainer Juan Leyva, posted the fastest of 45 works on the day. The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) hero will be making his swan song in the Pegasus. “The track has a good bottom to it,” Sadler said. “It’s still got a little moisture in it and I wanted to go on Saturday all along (rather than Sunday if track condition warranted postponing). We got here and walked on it about four in the morning and felt it was pretty good, so cross your fingers and off we go.” Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) romper City of Light shipped from Santa Anita earlier in the week and therefore got in a work Saturday at Gulfstream. After he ripped a bullet half-mile in :47.26 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard, trainer Mike McCarthy was delighted with how well his stable star took to the surface. “I thought it was a very good work,” McCarthy said of the best-of-104 move. “It looked like the horse got over the racetrack nicely. Javier was very pleased. He cooled out well and looks good. “Javier worked him the week before the Breeders’ Cup, and I told him just basically a carbon copy of what we had then, and it was pretty much what I saw. That’s more or less what we see from him all the time.” The only horse to beat Accelerate in 2018, in the Oaklawn H. (G2), City of Light will join him in the Lane’s End stallion barn following the Pegasus. Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Gunnevera negotiated six panels in 1:13.20 Saturday at Gulfstream Park West. The popular closer will try to improve on his third in last year’s Pegasus for trainer Antonio Sano, who just became an American citizen. Reigning Florida Derby (G1) winner Audible, third to Triple Crown sweeper Justify in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), sped four furlongs in a bullet :48.42 Saturday at Palm Beach Downs. The Todd Pletcher colt hopes to bounce back from a surprising loss in his Harlan’s Holiday (G3) prep. Cigar Mile (G1) victor Patternrecognition strode his half in :49.45 at Palm Meadows Saturday for Chad Brown, while Cigar runner-up True Timber covered the same ground in :51.95 on Friday. Hitherto wintering at Belmont, the Kiaran McLaughlin charge was posting his first work since arriving at Palm Meadows. Preakness (G1) runner-up Bravazo registered his fourth straight bullet at Oaklawn Park, scorching three-eighths in :35.80 on Thursday. Most recently collecting his sixth Grade 1 placing when second in the Clark H. (G1), the D. Wayne Lukas colt vanned to Gulfstream Saturday morning, and hit the track early Sunday.
Bravazo toured Gulfstream Park’s main track on January 20, 2019, in advance of the Pegasus World Cup (G1) (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Lauren King
“The first morning out there you just want to see how he handles everything, and we went real light because it was a 22-hour van ride yesterday,” Lukas said. “It was an easy little gallop just to let him see things. “I wouldn’t worry about him. We put him in the trailer and he’s used to it. He eats well on the trip, we give him plenty of room, and he handles that very well. I keep thinking we should take a break maybe and miss a race or two and the next thing I know he’s feeling so good and jumping around. He’s actually trained really well coming into this one. This two months, 2 1/2 months (since the Clark), is probably the longest break he’s had.” Seeking the Soul, second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and third as the defending Clark champ, blitzed five panels at Fair Grounds in :59.80 Saturday. Fifth in last year’s Pegasus when incurring an injury, the Dallas Stewart veteran hopes for better luck in his return visit. Upwardly mobile Tenacious winner Tom’s d’Etat breezed four furlongs at Fair Grounds in :48.40 with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan Sunday – hours before owner Gayle Benson’s New Orleans Saints go for the NFC title. The Al Stall Jr. trainee brings a four-race winning streak into the Pegasus. “His last work was the work that focused on getting him ready for the race,” Stall said of last Sunday’s five-furlong bullet in 1:00. “This work was just part of the schedule, kind of did enough to get a day off tomorrow. Looked like he always does, like he was just galloping, going around there with the greatest of ease. So we were really happy with it. Shaun was happy.” Also working Sunday was Stronach Stables’ homebred Something Awesome, who exercised five-eighths in 1:00.20 at a muddy Gulfstream for trainer Jose Corrales. The current Charles Town Classic victor was last seen placing second in a November 16 allowance at Laurel. The lone international contestant in the Pegasus on dirt, unbeaten Mexican Triple Crown champion Kukulkan, flew to Miami Friday and settled into Gulfstream. Trainer Fausto Gutierrez told track publicity about his Wednesday work at home, a seven-furlong breeze in 1:29 with a gallop-out in 1:42. “He did it easy. I’m very pleased,” Gutierrez said. “The last two furlongs he did very, very easy. Everything is good.” Kukulkan is already a winner over the track, having strolled home in the December 8 Caribbean Classic, and now he gets the services of Frankie Dettori for his acid class test. TOP PHOTO: Accelerate works five furlongs in a bullet :58.80 over Santa Anita Park’s fast main track on January 19, 2019 (c) Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson