An intriguing All-Graded Stakes Pick 4 sequence is part of the wagering menu for the Pegasus Day card and concludes with the main event.
Here are my thoughts:
RACE 9: Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3)
Coal Front (#1) (9-5) is the morning-line favorite off of his 3 3/4-length score last month in the Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) over this racetrack. The five-year-old son of Stay Thirsty has won five of seven career starts, but he moves from the far outside to the rail and is likely to take heat throughout as he tries eight furlongs for the initial time. He can handle this group if he moves forward off the 98 BRIS Speed rating in his first try back from a freshening, but the price is far from appealing.
If Coal Front gets pressure from Conquest Big E (#3) (20-1), Breaking Lucky (#4) (9-2) and Aztec Sense (#6) (7-2), it could set things up for a runner from off the early pace.
Copper Town (#8) (6-1) had a less than ideal start last out in Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile (G1), his second race following a year-long break, tiring badly after a five-wide move toward the leaders on the turn, but the “other” Todd Pletcher trainee should get the right trip on Saturday. His upside makes him an intriguing alternative to the favorite.
Storm Advisory (#2) (12-1) and Unbridled Juan (#9) (8-1) are not without a chance at a price, but will need a lively early pace to get the best of this bunch.
I will use several.
RACE 10: W.L. McKnight Handicap (G3)
I love the chances of Zulu Alpha (#4) (4-1) in this $200,000 event over the grass. The six-year-old gelding was caught wide into the first turn and was farther off the pace than he prefers in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G2) in mid-November. With a better draw, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. should be able to save ground aboard the son of Street Cry just off what is likely to be a moderate early tempo. I expect Zulu Alpha to have more than enough left in the lane to hold off the late runners and earn his first victory of 2019.
The Mike Maker trainee is my single in the sequence.
RACE 11: Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1)
The inaugural rendition of this event run at 1 3/16 miles over the sod looks like a two-horse race between morning-line favorite Yoshida (#2) (5-2) and Bricks and Mortar (#7) (5-1).
Yoshida has not been seen since a fourth-place effort from well off the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The son of Heart’s Cry has not raced over the lawn since last August when he ran a disappointing fifth in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1), but has won four of 10 over the green throughout his career. Trainer Bill Mott is having a strong start to Gulfstream’s Championship Meet in South Florida and Yoshida comes in fresh. He is the deserving chalk.
That being said, I prefer the value of Bricks and Mortar. The five-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway raced for the first time in over 14 months in late December in a high-level optional claimer and was much more impressive than the running line suggests. If the Kentucky-bred can move forward off that effort he can earn his first Grade 1 score.
RACE 12: Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1)
Accelerate (#5) (9-5) merits major respect in his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at legendary Churchill Downs back in early November, but I do not trust him in this spot. The six-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky did little wrong in 2018, capturing six of seven and earning just over $5 million, but his lone loss came to rival City of Light (#3) (5-2) at this distance last April in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Furthermore, trainer John Sadler was able to finally win his first Breeders’ Cup World Championship race a few months ago, but the veteran conditioner’s lack of success in big races outside of California is still worrisome. Given the short price I think the Hronis Racing runner is worth taking a shot against in his first try over the unique Gulfstream Park surface.
City of Light is likely to take plenty of support at the windows off of his 2 3/4-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in Louisville, Kentucky. The son of Quality Road is my top choice and should get the jump on Accelerate. My only concern is whether he will be able to relax in the early going from an inside draw. There is a chance he gets caught up early with Patternrecognition (#12) (10-1), who is all but certain to be sent hard to the lead from his far outside draw. If City of Light can find a comfortable spot just off the pace on the backside, I like his chances to win this year’s Pegasus.
In addition to City of Light I will include two horses who will provide serious separation in the closing leg of the late Pick 4 if they are able to spring the upset.
Tom’s d’Etat (#6) (20-1) has a ton of talent, but has had battled health issues throughout his career. He won his only two starts in 2018, including a 3 1/2-length win in the $75,000 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds. It is a big step up in class for the G M B Racing runner, but if the top two fail to fire their best shot he could get to the wire first.
Seeking the Soul (#4) (12-1) also piques my interest. The Charles Fipke homebred son of Perfect Soul won just one of six in 2018, but ran a strong second to City of Light in the Dirt Mile and is the one who is likeliest to take advantage if they go too fast early on in this year’s Pegasus.
SUGGESTED WAGER ($1 Pick 4)
Race 9: 1+2+6+8+9
Race 10: 4
Race 11: 2+7
Race 12: 3+4+6
TICKET COST: $30
PHOTO: Zulu Alpha pulls away to win the Sycamore Stakes (G3) under jockey Channing Hill at Keneeland on October 18, 2018 (c) Coady Photography/Keeneland