The third running of the Pegasus World Cup (G1) is probably the best betting race yet. In the first year, monsters Arrogate and California Chrome faced off, then Gun Runner romped last year. This year, the vacuum created by the early retirement of Justify has opened things up and while the race might lack quality, it certainly has many legitimate contenders. FREE Pegasus World Cup Invitational PPs courtesy of Brisnet! The post-position draw didn’t seem that important since the favorites were not affected but Patternrecognition (#12) drawing post 12 dramatically affects how the pace will develop. The speedball from Chad Brown’s barn is a need-the-lead type who, despite being six-years old, has never gone two turns. Jockey Jose Ortiz, who breaks his horses from the starting gate as good as anyone, has the mount. Patternrecognition comes off two wins going a one-turn mile, including the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct last out on December 1. Now he is asked to go nine furlongs and, while the wide draw might seem to be a disadvantage, there’s a chance it might help him. Knowing he is out there, I can’t imagine any of the other riders will want to get caught up in a speed duel so Ortiz can get over to the inside without expending a lot of energy. From there, it’s a matter of who makes the first move, but if the Gulfstream Park main track comes up speed-favoring, who knows how long his lead will last. Accelerate (#5) drew well for his stalking running style that has led to four straight brilliant Grade 1 wins. He has been training super at Santa Anita for this and he showed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) that he can take his show on the road. With retirement next, I have to assume that trainer John Sadler has all the screws tight as could be. At level weights, he is the one to beat. City of Light (#3) could get the perfect trip if he gets away from the gate. Fast enough, Javier Castellano could have him second behind Patternrecognition and be the first to make a move before the deep closers get unwound. He beat Accelerate going nine furlongs at Oaklawn Park despite a wide trip from post 11. I know jockey changes are overrated but Javier Castellano gets off Audible to stay aboard City of Light. Audible (#10) won the Florida Derby (G1) here last year going this distance and was a courageous third in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Off for six months, he returned with a come-from-behind win in a stakes race going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs then was beaten here in the Hal’s Hope (G3) on a sloppy track as the 1-10 favorite. A third start off the layoff on a track that he loves could be a winning situation but post 10 does not help him. Bravazo (#1) competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown and finished last year with a close second in the Clark Handicap (G1) going this distance in fast time at Churchill Downs. My issue with him is what kind of trip can Luis Saez work out from post 1 and, if many assume that last year’s crop of three-year-olds was weak, doesn’t that affect Bravazo who lost his last nine starts? WAGERING STRATEGY Trying to bet the Pegasus World Cup is a lot harder than trying to handicap the race. I could see any number of horses making up ground in the deep stretch and get into the exotics at juicy prices. I am not usually an exotic player but will give the trifecta a shot in here. Trifecta: #5 with #12 with all Trifecta: #5 with all with #12 Trifecta: #12 with #5 with all And, just in case Accelerate runs poorly: Trifecta Box: #1, #3, #10, #1 PHOTO: Accelerate seeks his fifth straight Grade 1 victory in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) on January 26, 2019, at Gulfstream Park (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Lauren King