Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf illustrates the power of pace

March 5th, 2024

Sometimes a race will unfold in a manner that places certain runners at a distinct disadvantage. Betting these horses when they encounter more favorable circumstances in the future can be a sound strategy.

The 2024 Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G2) at Gulfstream Park provides a recent example. The 1 1/16-mile grass contest unfolded with a steadily accelerating pace: the first quarter-mile went in :24.88, the second in :23.74, the third in :23.39, the fourth in :23.13, and the final sixteenth in :05.76 (which is on track for a :23.04 quarter).

This slow early/fast late race shape gave an advantage to the victorious favorite Didia, who was never more than half a length off the lead while vying for command throughout. In contrast, horses trying to close from off the pace were disadvantaged, since it’s difficult to close ground into a pace that is speeding up instead of slowing down.

Certainly Chili Flag was compromised while trying to rally from as far back as 10th place. Despite the unfavorable setup, she passed several rivals in the homestretch to finish fifth, beaten only 2 1/2 lengths. Her next start came in the one-mile Honey Fox (G3) at Gulfstream, where she encountered far quicker pace fractions of :22.31, :45.53, and 1:09.65 before rallying from ninth place to win as the 2-1 favorite.

Ruby Nell didn’t get the best setup either, racing in fourth position for much of the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf before edging up to third place at the wire, beaten 1 3/4 lengths. Five weeks later, she started as the 4-5 favorite in the one-mile Buena Vista (G2) at Santa Anita and led all the way to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Cairo Consort showed little in the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf, trailing the field for much of the journey before passing a single rival to finish 10th. But she was only beaten 3 3/4 lengths and did gain ground into the accelerating pace, so it wasn’t surprising to see her improve significantly next time out in the 1 3/8-mile The Very One (G3) at Gulfstream, finishing third at odds of 4-1.

Many of the pace-compromised runners from the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf have yet to run back, including runner-up Surprisingly, who rallied from seventh place to miss victory by a neck. Fluffy Socks, fourth by 1 3/4 lengths despite racing in 10th place early on, is another who ran well under the challenging circumstances. Keep an eye out for these two and other Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf also-rans, because if they encounter better pace setups next time, they’re eligible to bounce back in the same manner as Chili Flag, Ruby Nell, and Cairo Consort.