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Post Time: Friday racing notebook

Pegasus World Cup 

We’re just over a week away from the third annual $9 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 26, the race that will be the feature event on a big card at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The race has yet to sell out its 12 slots, each costing $500,000, with one remaining open gate and 11 contenders set to run the 1 1/8-mile trek. A decision on McKinzie by trainer Bob Baffert could decide who will be in the final gate. The race will be televised live by NBC, with programming starting at 4:30 p.m. ET for the live 90-minute program which will televise both big races.

The inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational will be run for $7 million in the race preceding the Pegasus to be run at 1 3/16-miles. Top horses include foreign invaders Magic Wand and Aerolithe and US entries Yoshida and Channel Maker.

The likely dirt race favorite, Accelerate, is looking to become the third straight Breeders’ Cup Classic winner to follow up with a win in the Pegasus. Arrogate (2017) and Gun Runner (2018) captured the first two after winning the Classic in the previous November.

Accelerate's main challenges will come from Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light, last year’s Florida Derby winner Audible and hometown hero Gunnevera.

The race should be Accelerate’s to lose, but with maturing 4-year-olds like McKinzie and Bravazo, the race could be more contentious than the 2018 edition. Patternrecognition will stretch out after winning the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November.

Other entrants in the race include: undefeated Mexican Triple Crown winner Kuklulkan, Seeking the Soul, True Timber, Something Awesome and Tom’s D’Etat. International jockey Frankie Dettori will ship in to ride Kuklulkan.

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 major complaints of the race is 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 is still 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.

Derby Trail

The Derby trail jumps back in the spotlight this week from the Fair Grounds. The Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes will be run at 1 mile, 70 yards as the local prep for the Risen Star on Feb. 16. The Lecomte drew a full field of 14, with one also eligible that could draw in with a defection.

The Lecomte will go off as Race 12 at 6:49 ET for a purse of $200,000.

The favorite Plus Que Parfait (9-2) drew post No. 12 for trainer Brendan Walsh. Julien Leparoux will ride the second place finisher in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Mr. Money (5-1), a son of Goldencents, looks live for trainer Bret Calhoun sporting a few terrific works at the Louisiana track. War of Will (6-1) transitioned from turf to dirt for trainer Mark Casse breaking his maiden on the Kentucky Jockey Club S. undercard winning by five lengths. He was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf by only 3 ½-lengths, so he has some class.

A longshot to consider is Chase the Ghost (12-1) for trainer Dallas Stewart who broke his maiden on the local track in stretching out for the first time coming from behind to beat Brilliant Stables’ front running Eskenforit. Corey Lanerie will ride the son of Ghostzapper out of a Holy Bull mare.

Buffalo Raceway

The local harness track’s opening day is slated for Wednesday Jan. 30 in Hamburg at the Erie County Fair Grounds. The 66-day meet will have racing on Wednesday and Saturday evenings through March. Friday night racing will begin in April.

Opening night will feature free 2019 magnetic schedules. The driver colony will show the return of 2018 champion Drew Monti along with Billy Davis Jr., Ray Fisher Jr., and Shawn McDonough. Monti finished third recently in the 2019 North American Driving Challenge at Miami Valley in Ohio.

James Clouser Jr. is back to defend his training crown with JD Perrin and Maria Rice expected to battle for the title. Returning this season will be conditioners Mike and Brittney Ohol and Joe Skowyra who had raced here a couple years back. Monticello trainer George Anthrop is returning to Buffalo and brings in a stable of eight as well.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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