We’re just over a week away from the second annual Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 27, the race that will be the feature event on a big card at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The made-for-TV event was the brainchild of Frank Stronach, who raised the purse $4 million in 2018 to $16 million. It is currently thoroughbred horse racing’s biggest purse.
The race has yet to sell out its 12 slots, each costing $1 million, with one remaining open gate and 11 contenders set to run the 1 1/8-mile trek. The race will be televised live by NBC, with programming starting at 4:30 p.m. ET. The Pegasus is scheduled to start at 5:40 p.m.
The likely race favorite, Gun Runner, is also the horse that should come away with the 2017 Horse of the Year honors on Thursday night at the annual Eclipse Awards. He shipped into Gulfstream last evening from the Fair Grounds after his flight was delayed due to icy conditions in New Orleans.
Gun Runner’s main challenges will come from the two horses that finished behind him at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Collected and West Coast, will likely be the next two horses on the tote board next Saturday when they head to the gate. Both horses, trained by Bob Baffert will look to give the son of Candy Ride a run for his money in the 9-furlong contest. Baffert trained last year’s inaugural winner, Arrogate, who blew away his 11 rivals by over six lengths.
The race is Gun Runner’s to lose, but with maturing 4-year-olds like West Coast and Gunnevera, who will have home court advantage, the race could be more contentious than the 2017 edition. Sharp Azteca will stretch out after winning the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November, and the first female to run in the race, Stellar Wind, will try the boys for the first time.
Euro shipper Toast of New York, who finished second in the controversial 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic, returns off a long layoff, adding additional intrigue to the race.
The draw will be interesting as posts 9-12 can cause some consternation to the connections due to the short run to the first turn. One of the complaints of the race last year was the distance and the potential outside draw that could doom a horse’s chances before he even hits the track. The decision not to extend to the classic mile-and-a-quarter distance could be the race’s fatal flaw in my estimation.
The News will be onsite at Gulfstream next Saturday, follow along on Twitter (@EquiSpace) and look for print advance in next Saturday’s paper and a recap on Sunday.
Here is a look at the current probables for the Jan. 27 Pegasus:
|Collected||Speedway Stable LLC||Bob Baffert|
|Fear the Cowboy||Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti||Efren Loza, Jr.|
|Giant Expectations||Exline-Border Racing LLC, Gatto Racing LLC and Garrett Zubok||Peter Eurton|
|Gunnevera||Margoth||Antonio Sano, Jr.|
|Gun Runner||Winchell Thoroughbreds & Three Chimneys Farm||Steve Asmussen|
|Seeking the Soul||Charles Fipke, Jr.||Dallas Stewart|
|Sharp Azteca||Ivan Rodriguez and Martin Scharf||Jorge Navarro|
|Stellar Wind||Magnier, Tabor and Smith||Chad Brown|
|Toast of New York||Al Shaqab Racing||James Osborne|
|War Story||Loooch Racing and partners||Jorge Navarro|
|West Coast||Gary and Mary West||Bob Baffert|
The Derby trail takes a break until Feb. 3, when three races will decide 17 points each towards the Kentucky Derby. The Robert B. Lewis (Santa Anita), the Withers (Aqueduct) and the Holy Bull (Gulfstream) will be the next up on the trail.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.