After invitations were extended, and updated, over the past couple of weeks, the prospective fields for the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup (G1) and its companion Turf (G1) are coming into focus.
Pegasus World Cup
Fox Hill Farms’ Omaha Beach is the presumptive favorite for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, his career finale before retiring to stud at Spendthrift Farm. The Richard Mandella trainee shipped to Gulfstream Park early to train over the track, and following a brief foot issue, posted five-furlong moves on Jan. 12 (1:00.42) and Jan. 19 (1:00.72).
“The boy (exercise rider Fernando De La Cruz) said he felt like a Cadillac. Actually, like a Porsche,” Mandella relayed to Gulfstream publicity after Sunday’s latest exercise.
Scratched as the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) with an entrapped epiglottis, Omaha Beach will be racing over 1 1/8 miles for the first time since his Arkansas Derby (G1) victory. He shortened up to 6 furlongs for his comeback score in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), finished a belated second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and rebounded back around one turn in the 7-furlong Malibu (G1) last out.
Spun to Run, who upset Omaha Beach in the Breeders’ Cup, will attempt to grab the spotlight again in their rematch. The Juan Carlos Guerrero pupil has raced once in the interim, chasing Maximum Security throughout his runner-up effort in the Dec. 7 Cigar Mile (G1).
Pacific Classic (G1) winner Higher Power was last seen in the Breeders’ Cup, finishing third to Vino Rosso and McKinzie in the 1 1/4-mile Classic (G1). The Hronis Racing runner has been training forwardly at Santa Anita for trainer John Sadler. The same connections had the option of sending Gift Box to the Pegasus too, so it could be significant that they rely solely on Higher Power.
The only other Grade 1 winner in the expected cast, Seeking the Soul, was second to City of Light in last year’s Pegasus World Cup. Unplaced in four straight since his Stephen Foster (G2) win in June, the Dallas Stewart veteran needs to recover his old spark to threaten.
Multiple Grade 3 scorer Mucho Gusto has placed in a trio of Grade 1s, most significantly when second to Maximum Security in the Haskell (G1) and third to Code of Honor in the Travers (G1). Not seen since his fourth in the Sept. 29 Oklahoma Derby (G3), he fired a series of bullets recently, and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert just confirmed his participation on Sunday.
Rounding out the projected dozen are Jim Dandy (G2) winner Tax, runner-up in the Discovery (G3) in his latest; Tenfold, hero of the 2018 Jim Dandy and last year’s Pimlico Special (G3); multiple Grade 3 victor Mr Freeze, most recently third in the Clark (G1); last-out Mr. Prospector (G3) winner Diamond Oops, second in last season’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1); True Timber, placed in the past two editions of the Cigar Mile; and Grade 2 veteran and $2.9 million-earner War Story, who beat Bodexpress in the Dec. 14 Harlan’s Holiday (G3). Realm, coming off a fifth in the Harlan’s Holiday, was just issued an invitation as an also-eligible.
Pegasus World Cup Turf
Last year’s inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf came down to Chad Brown and Aidan O’Brien, and so could this $1 million renewal.
Brown’s Bricks and Mortar launched his championship-worthy 2019 by defeating Ballydoyle shipper Magic Wand, who’s due to return to Gulfstream for another try. The high-class globetrotter has kept herself busy, not only making two more transatlantic trips to place in the Man o’War (G1) and Arlington Million (G1) but also venturing to Australia for a Group 1 tally and just missed in the Hong Kong Cup (G1).
Although she won’t have to face the now-retired Bricks and Mortar in the 1 3/16-mile Pegasus Turf, Magic Wand will be met by a three-strong Brown welcoming party – Without Parole, Sacred Life, and Instilled Regard. Without Parole, star of the 2018 St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, was an eye-catching third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in his debut for Brown. Sacred Life, a Group 3 scorer in his native France, exits an unlucky second to Next Shares in the Seabiscuit (G2), while Instilled Regard bested Admission Office and Channel Cat in the Dec. 14 Ft. Lauderdale (G2).
The Peter Miller-trained Mo Forza, who sports a four-race winning streak highlighted by the Hollywood Derby (G1), takes his first stakes test versus elders. Arklow and Sadler’s Joy, not separated by much when first and third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) two back, might prefer a bit more ground. The same comment applies to Zulu Alpha, a fast-finishing fourth to Bricks and Mortar in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), while his Mike Maker stablemate, Henley’s Joy, hasn’t cracked the trifecta since upsetting last summer’s Belmont Derby Invitational (G1).
Two recent Gulfstream stakes winners remain on the reserve list, Tropical Turf (G3) upsetter Tusk and American Tatoo, an Argentine Group 1 hero on dirt who landed the off-the-turf H. Allen Jerkens.
Note that horses competing in the Pegasus events are not allowed to use raceday medication.
Entries will be drawn on Wednesday. Stay tuned to the blog for more coverage and analysis!