Gulfstream Park will host the fourth running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), and the $3 million race lost some luster when Omaha Beach and Spun to Run scratched Thursday. Ten horses will square off in the 1 1/8-mile event.
Bob Baffert can get horses ready for big racing days. Mucho Gusto earned a trip to Gulfstream Park by working brilliantly at Santa Anita, and he is poised to run his best race in my estimation.
A four-time Grade 3 winner, Mucho Gusto followed a good second to Maximum Security in the Haskell (G1) with a third in the Travers (G1). Not only did he outperform expectations at 1 1/4 miles, the chestnut colt raced on the front end over a Saratoga track that played favorably to stalkers/closers, with Code of Honor rallying powerfully from off the pace to win going away.
The Travers took a heavy toll arguably, with Mucho Gusto coming back a little flat with a close fourth as the favorite in the Oklahoma Derby (G3). Freshened four months, Mucho Gusto can rebound in this spot.
Mucho Gusto will offer no value for straight wagers as the probable favorite, but he is a single in my multi-race wagers.
Here are some plays on the undercard:
Pegasus World Cup Turf, Race 11
I will spread in multi-race wagers, and Sacred Life (11) is my top choice in the 12-horse field. The French Group 3 winner recorded five seconds in six starts, including the first two U.S. outings in Saratoga stakes, before posting a confidence-building win at Keeneland, crushing a nice field of allowance foes.
The 5-year-old was unlucky last time, winding up a rallying half-length second in the Nov. 30 Seabiscuit (G2) at Del Mar after a troubled trip, and Sacred Life still has plenty of upside for Chad Brown. He’s an attractive 12-1 on the morning line with Jose Ortiz.
La Prevoyante (G3), Race 8
Mean Mary (4) brings improving form into her first stakes appearance, recording a pair of wins and a second in her last two outings, including a front-running decision in a Dec. 22 entry-level allowance over the course, and she’s eligible to be controlling speed with Luis Saez. Out of a Grade 1-winning daughter of Dynaformer, the daughter of Scat Daddy should relish the added ground with her pedigree, and trainer Graham Motion’s barn has been hot, winning 5-of-17 starts (29%) this month.
This 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight has a vulnerable favorite in Candy Tycoon, who came up short as the 1-5 choice last time, but his rivals with experience are questionable I like Holy Emperor (8), who makes his career debut for Jimmy Jerkens.
By Street Sense (13% first out), Holy Emperor shows a steady stream of 5-furlong works in preparation, but Jerkens did cut him back to a half-mile and work him from the gate at Palm Meadows on Jan. 11. The dark bay colt posted the fastest of 82 moves at the distance. His dam won early in her racing career and counts Grade 2-winning sprinter Holy Boss, who won his racing debut by 10 1/4 lengths, as a half-brother. This race appears to set up nicely for Holy Emperor.