Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) has one international participant in Mexico’s undefeated Kukulkan, a 30-1 shot for reasons to be mentioned below, but the new $7 million Turf (G1) features a couple of major win candidates in Japan’s Aerolithe and Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand. Before diving into the profiles, a preamble on their light 112-pound imposts in the Turf and the unsettled weather forecast: Aerolithe and Magic Wand are both receiving an extra weight break for racing without Lasix. As distaffers taking on males, they were already getting a five-pound concession. Subtract a further seven pounds as the Lasix-free incentive, and you have two proper Grade 1 performers, in a race with no domestic standout, enjoying a substantial advantage at the weights. Presumably that’s why Magic Wand will be ridden by Wayne Lordan, not Ryan Moore – a smart move by the Coolmore brain trust, especially since Lordan has piloted her very well before. Aerolithe figures to team up beautifully with Florent Geroux, so even if he’s a little over, she’ll still be carrying much less than she does at home. Interestingly, the only other entrant capitalizing on the no-Lasix weight break is Channel Maker. The Bill Mott charge will carry 117 pounds, compared to his favored stablemate Yoshida and the rest at 124. On a less enthusiastic note, rain is expected in the Gulfstream Park area later in the week, with an additional chance on Saturday. Hopefully the course misses the worst of it and remains reasonably quick. Aerolithe and Magic Wand are not as effective on a rain-slowed surface. Indeed, Breeders’ Cup fans may remember that Magic Wand trudged home fourth in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at a soggy Churchill Downs. Aerolithe originally had designs on the Breeders’ Cup herself, in her case the Mile (G1), only to be grounded by logistical obstacles from Japan. The two internationals bring otherwise contrasting profiles. Aerolithe has already beaten top-level males but ventures outside her comfort zone at the 1 3/16-mile trip, while Magic Wand has proven stamina over much further but tries open company for the first time. AEROLITHE: Bred by Japan’s famed Northern Farm from familiar American bloodlines, the gray gets her color from sire Kurofune, a son of the Deputy Minister stallion French Deputy. Kurofune was a dual surface threat, capturing the NHK Mile Cup on turf and clinching champion dirt horse honors in the 2001 Japan Cup Dirt. Aerolithe is out of Asterix, by Neo Universe (a champion son of Sunday Silence) from a productive female line. Aerolithe counts as her second dam Grade/Group 3 winner Isle de France, third dam multiple Grade 1 winner Stella Madrid, and fourth dam champion sprinter My Juliet. Several Japanese champions hail from this family, including Mikki Isle and Lucky Lilac (out of 2011 Ashland [G1] victress Lilacs and Lace). As a May 17 foal, Aerolithe promised to improve with maturity for jockey-turned-trainer Takanori Kikuzawa. The Sunday Racing runner did well to take a Tokyo newcomers’ race in June of her juvenile season in 2016, and then-regular rider Norohiro Yokoyama had a high regard for her. She placed second in her next three, notably a pair of classic trials in the 2017 Fairy (G3) at Nakayama and Daily Hai Queen Cup (G3) back at Tokyo, where her tendency to take a fierce hold early may have told late. In the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) at Hanshin, Aerolithe was held up near the back of the pack from post 12 and rallied for fifth in a blanket finish. It was the first time she’d encountered less-than-firm turf, but she’s also not best suited to deep-closing tactics. Instead of stretching her out for the next fillies’ classic, connections kept Aerolithe to a metric mile, at the price of taking on the boys in Tokyo’s NHK Mile Cup (G1). She rewarded the decision by earning her biggest win so far, and following in the hoofsteps of sire Kurofune. Breaking like a shot from post 16, Aerolithe eased a few lengths back, cruised up full of run turning for home, and took command. She saw out the trip so well that she re-broke when challenged by Rieno Tesoro, forging 1 1/2 lengths clear in a snappy 1:32.3. Yokoyama commented that Aerolithe would be even better later in the season. The still-developing filly indeed grew and packed on more weight – of the good kind. Aerolithe next tackled older distaffers, and stepped up to about nine furlongs, in the Hokkaido Shimbun Hai Queen (G3) at Sapporo. Under the lightest weight she’s carried – 115 pounds – she showed just what she’s capable of when allowed to roll up front. Reeling off fast fractions, but well within herself and not tugging like a run-off, Aerolithe held sway by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:45.7. The maturing sophomore tried an extra furlong in the last fillies’ classic, the Shuka Sho (G1), where she went off favored. Unfortunately the ground at Kyoto came up soft, and Aerolithe failed to relax in an inside stalking spot, finding the pace too slow over the longer trip. As a result she tired down lane, and Yokoyama took care of her in seventh. The respective top two in the Shuka Sho, Deirdre and Lys Gracieux, have since advertised their merits on the international stage. Deirdre, third to Benbatl in the Dubai Turf (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, was most recently a terrific second in the Hong Kong Cup (G1), and Lys Gracieux just missed in the Hong Kong Vase (G1). Aerolithe has achieved some significant formlines herself during her 2018 campaign. Returning versus males in the February 25 Nakayama Kinen (G2), she chased the pace in hand, got perhaps too much of a breather on the turn, looked swamped, then produced a late spurt to snatch second in a tight finish. Kikuzawa observed that she was crowded by the winner (Win Bright) at that last corner, just as she lost position. In any event, Aerolithe displayed good courage in close quarters when she had reason to back out. Finishing unplaced were Mile Championship (G1) hero Persian Knight and then-reigning Dubai Turf queen Vivlos. Aerolithe got a rider switch to Keita Tosaki for the May 13 Victoria Mile (G1), back among distaff company, and wound up fourth. Two things influenced the result: she threw her left front shoe coming out of the gate, and a “good” course likely blunted her high speed. Tosaki had a modified version of “feet in the dashboard” before she advanced into contention and found herself outkicked late. Still, Aerolithe stuck on admirably to go down by less than a length – the only time she’s ever been out of the top two at left-handed Tokyo. Conditions were favorable in the prestigious Yasuda Kinen (G1), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” over the same track and trip. Traveling like a dream stalking the hot pace on firm ground, Tosaki produced her in the stretch, in what looked like a winning move until she got mugged by Mozu Ascot in a stakes record-equaling 1:31.3. Aerolithe beat Persian Knight again, and Lys Gracieux was among the also-rans. Aerolithe resumed from her summer vacation in the October 7 Mainichi Okan (G2) going about nine furlongs at her beloved Tokyo. Enjoying a perfect ride from Joao Moreira, she broke on top and used her stride to dictate the pace. Once she was in that free-wheeling zone, she was unstoppable, as glimpsed by her final 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :33.8. The Grade 2 boasted a deeper cast than her prior Grade 1 win, for she whipped Stelvio and Kiseki (the eventual second to Almond Eye in the record-setting Japan Cup [G1]). With the Breeders’ Cup off the table, Aerolithe set her sights on the November 18 Mile Championship (G1) at home. Whether she just doesn’t care for Kyoto, or paid the price for her tactics from post 15, she ran well below form in 12th. Jockey Ryan Moore hesitated before bustling her to the lead, likely out of fears of being parked out too wide. Just how much that affected her performance is unclear, but the change of gear at an awkward point in the race took her out of her rhythm. What is certain is that she’d beaten Stelvio and Persian Knight, the respective top two, before. Hence the key to Aerolithe is helping her reach that high cruising speed on her terms, the golden mean between her extremes of over-racing or being restrained. Geroux strikes me as just the right kind of partner for her style, and she was a wire-to-wire threat until Fahan Mura joined the party. While Aerolithe could beat her to the punch from post 4, Fahan Mura poses a complicating factor if they hook up. Aerolithe can get 1 3/16 miles on a course like Gulfstream in the right circumstances, but she won’t want a pace duel, particularly on less-than-firm ground. Yet Geroux can mastermind a winning trip regardless. Since Aerolithe is adaptable, the best play might be to let the one-dimensional Fahan Mura go and use her as the fast-moving target, who can stretch the field and allow Aerolithe to hit her rhythm in pursuit. In that scenario, Aerolithe will be first on the premises to overtake Fahan Mura. However the tactics sort out, Aerolithe is overpriced at 8-1 on the morning line, and she’ll rightly be a lot shorter by post time. MAGIC WAND: Since the O’Brien filly was treated in detail in the international scouting report for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, we’ll make this the executive summary with an update. When Magic Wand gets her preferred conditions, she’s top-notch. Her record looks spotty because of unsuitably soft ground (in both the Oaks [G1] and Breeders’ Cup) and the infamous Ballydoyle virus that struck in midsummer. She was discovered to be sick after her flop in the Irish Oaks (G1), and she badly needed her first start back in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1), where she ran a sneakily-good fifth to Sea of Class (the one who almost caught Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe [G1]). The real Magic Wand is the one who aced the Ribblesdale (G2) by four lengths at Royal Ascot, wired the Cheshire Oaks over next-out Epsom winner Forever Together, missed by a head in the Prix Vermeille (G1) (with Lordan aboard), and finished a close second in the Prix de l’Opera (G1). Considering that Magic Wand bossed Wild Illusion in the 1 1/2-mile Ribblesdale, and was only beaten a length after Wild Illusion arguably got the better trip in the 1 1/4-mile Opera, it’s clear that their respective finishing positions in the Breeders’ Cup were affected by the ground. Wild Illusion ran up to form, just getting caught by Sistercharlie, while Magic Wand was stuck on one gear in fourth. Watch how she’s right in the hunt but can’t quicken: Aside from hoping that the rain doesn’t mess her up at Gulfstream too, the biggest question mark is the shorter trip. Magic Wand is tactical going longer, but she’ll likely find herself further back off a hot pace. If the Pegasus does indeed become a searing, end-to-end gallop, it would suit her by putting a premium on stamina. But as a filly who’s spent nearly her entire career at upwards of 10 furlongs, she’ll still have to be plenty sharp in the finish. The other question is how forward a Ballydoyle horse can be in January. O’Brien’s turf horses are often not fully cranked even when they ship for Dubai World Cup night, and that’s two months away. Can Magic Wand be fit enough to win now? Maybe for $7 million she is, especially considering that Coolmore didn’t even bother to enter a second-stringer (with Hunting Horn in the W.L. McKnight [G3] on the undercard). KUKULKAN: The Mexican Triple Crown winner would be an incredible shock in the Pegasus on dirt, but a horse who compiles a perfect 14-for-14 record (including two on an off track) deserves a mention. Trained by Fausto Gutierrez, the grandson of Point Given, Bernardini, and Grade 1 heroine Mayo on the Side drubbed short fields of fellow sophomores at Hipodromo de las Americas, the Mexican Derby being a case in point. The Cuadra San Jorge homebred goes straight to the front in a common canter, toys with them, letting his foes come closer before drawing off again under wraps, ears flicking around, to complete the classic sweep. Making his U.S. debut in the December 8 Caribbean Classic at Gulfstream Park, Kukulkan was similarly dismissive, not to say contemptuous. Here he rates off the pace, scythes through them in the blink of an eye on the far turn, and opens up. Now for the obvious rubs. Kukulkan took 1:54.80 to negotiate 1 1/8 miles over the Pegasus track and trip. And he was being urged along for a good bit of the stretch. If ridden out to the wire, he goes a little faster, but he’s got a few more seconds to find on the Pegasus principals. Moreover, Kukulkan’s company so far has been extremely restricted, not only geographically, but by age as well. Even the Caribbean Classic was for three-year-olds bred in qualifying countries. He’s been crying out for competition, and now he’ll get it. It goes without saying that the Pegasus represents a quantum leap. While the crafty Frankie Dettori will give him every chance to do himself justice, it’s difficult to see how he bridges the class gap. Aerolithe photo by Lauren King/Coglianese Photography