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Handicapping Insights: Pegasus World Cup Day saw top efforts on track but not from stewards

By Dick Powell

Some things never change. Watching the races from Gulfstream Park on Saturday reinforced my impression that no matter how much we complain, there is no one looking out for us. You could take the same column that I wrote last year and just update the latest individuals.

The “Déjà vu” began in the 9TH race, the Fred Hooper Stakes (G3) for older horses going one mile on the sloppy (sealed) track. A field of eight was entered and just as they were all loaded, there was a commotion on the outside. 3/2 favorite COPPER TOWN reared at the start and launched Javier Castellano into the stall to the right of him. He struck out with his front feet while rearing in a violent display.

At this point, you would expect Copper Town to be backed out and examined to see if he was okay. And, you would be wrong as Castellano got back aboard and away we go. Copper Town stalked the pace on the outside and dropped back to second last. If you had him anywhere on your ticket, you never had the chance to cancel your vertical plays as he was never examined by the vet. Nor did the stewards call out to the starting gate to tell them to back Copper Town out of the gate to be examined.

Trainer Mike Maker has an uncanny ability to get his runners excel in turf marathons and the William S. McKnight Stakes (G3) in race 10 looked like another example. Turning for home, ZULU ALPHA, had taken the lead for Irad Ortiz Jr. Brother Jose Ortiz had SOGLIO rolling coming out of the turn with dead aim on his brother. Both are trained by Maker.

No surprise that Ortiz Jr. drifted out with Zulu Alpha and brushed with Soglio, costing him his momentum at a critical stage. Zulu Alpha held on to win by a half-length. The official chart of the races says that Zulu Alpha brushed with Soglio in the deep stretch. We could all see it. But, there was no inquiry so there were no replays from various angles so that we could see what really happened.

Maybe Soglio drifted in while Zulu Alpha was drifting out. We will never know since without an inquiry or objection by the riders (Ortiz against Ortiz), there are no immediate video replays. Stewards cannot expect the riders to always file an objection. There are many reasons why they might not. So, it is up to the stewards to light the inquiry sign and show us the video evidence. I am not saying that there should or should not have been a disqualification. But there should have been an inquiry based on the real time running of the race.

Bill Mott’s debut winner HIDDEN SCROLL was electrifying with his 14-length win in the 4TH race going a mile in 1:34.82. Until JUSTIFY won last year’s Triple Crown with a debut on February 18, we would normally say he might make a nice Haskell Stakes (G1) horse later this year. But with history having been made, and both of them owned by Juddmonte Farms, who is to say that not even Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott might try to give it a shot. The Kentucky Derby (G1) is less than 100 days away but stranger things have happened.

BRICKS AND MORTAR lived up to the promise he showed as a three-year-old when he dominated the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1). Off only an optional claiming prep race here five weeks ago, trainer Chad Brown had him primed and Ortiz Jr. rode him to perfection. Wayne Lordan gave Irish shipper MAGIC WAND a smart ride down on the inside to get up for second at 94/10. The winner was the second choice at 2.8/1 but the exacta came back a generous $60.40 – second choice over seventh choice.

In the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Jose Ortiz gunned PATTERNRECOGNITION to the front from post 12. I thought he had him keyed up too much as the second he made it over to the rail, Javier Castellano tipped out from the inside aboard CITY OF LIGHT and wound up pressing him while clear to his outside. It was a mirror image to Johnny Velazquez’s ride aboard ALWAYS DREAMING in the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

Instead, City of Light was in a winning position every step of the way and dominated the race when he took over on the turn. Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner ACCELERATE was in between horses throughout and ran very well to be third.

Flying up the inside to break up the chalk exacta was SEEKING THE SOUL. To say that Dallas Stewart has a propensity to get a major piece of the purse in the most lucrative races is like saying that Trump likes Twitter. He has done it so many times that the public is on to him.

Seeking the Soul was dismissed at 34/1 odds. So the bettors were saying they can’t see him winning. But, with the second choice on top, the exacta only came back $82.20. To me, this shows that many used Seeking the Soul in the exotics while leaving him off the top of their tickets. They figured he could be in the money but not win the race so his win odds were way overlaid. I thought the Turf exacta was generous but the World Cup not.

There were a lot of photographic images of the scenes from the weekend at Gulfstream but none more powerful than the one, credit to Zoe Metz, that appeared on the cover of Monday’s Thoroughbred Daily News. It showed City of Light aboard a horse van, about to be sent to Kentucky for his next career. He has his head down, inches away from trainer Mike McCarthy’s daughter Stella, crying her eyes out with her hands clasped beneath her chin, looking at her best friend. McCarthy has his head down and his right arm around his Stella with two grooms from Sallee horse vans looking on. I don’t know about you but my hay fever is acting up. And it is the middle of winter.

City of Light photo by Zoe Metz/Coglianese Photography

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