Horses to watch in Pegasus World Cup and World Cup Turf

January 24th, 2024

On the surface, both the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday appear to be good betting races. Especially if you're inclined to stand against the favorites.

Outside of a pretty good effort against Cody's Wish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) last time, there is little in his record to suggest National Treasure is worthy of his expected short price in the World Cup. A far less exposed four-year-old I find more palatable is second choice #8 First Mission (7-2).

First or second in all five starts, the Brad Cox trainee looked like a viable contender for last spring's Preakness (G1), won by National Treasure, before an injury knocked him out days beforehand. He was battle tested twice upon his return to action in the fall, most recently losing a photo to returning rival Trademark in the Clark (G2).

The World Cup Turf favorite is the multiple Group 1-winning filly Warm Heart, who fell a neck short of Breeders' Cup glory in the Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita in November.

A couple things concern me about Warm Heart. Her one attempt against males thus far, a third in the Hong Kong Vase (G1) at Sha Tin, was an effort that was commendable but only okay in the grand scheme of things. More concerning is that Saturday's nine-furlong distance might prove to be on the short side for this 1 1/2-mile specialist.

Integration is the logical alternative but at better prices I'd keep my eye on two other domestic hopefuls for the exotics or better. #6 Kingmax (12-1) was certainly in need of a start when returning from a five-month spell in the Dec. 30 Ft. Lauderdale (G2), a race he lost by only a neck after bidding somewhat belatedly.

Another to consider is #12 Catnip (15-1), the mount of Frankie Dettori who was showing solid form last spring and summer until throwing a season-ending dud in the Arlington Million (G1). He hasn't faced or beaten a field of this quality yet, but has run extremely well fresh in the past.