HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Pegasus World Cup looms as a showdown between two of the most impressive winners from last November’s Breeders’ Cup.
The third annual edition of the $9 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park, pits Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate against the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, City of Light.
The two West Coast foes, along with 10 other challengers, will vie for the $4 million first-prize purse in a race with a $500,000 entry fee.
The total purse has been restructured from the inaugural $12 million in 2017 and $16 million in 2018 to the $9 million amount for this year. The second-place finisher will collect $1.4 million; third will win $900,000, the horse completing the superfecta will collect $700,000 and fifth place garners $550,000. The sixth- through ninth-place finishers collect $250,000 and the 10th- through 12th-place finishers will net earnings of $200,000.
Based on the purse structure and having to pay trainers and jockeys a percentage of the winnings, owners are risking at least $300,000 in entering their horses.
No 3-year-old has run in the Pegasus to take advantage of the 16-pound weight break from the 124 pounds that are carried by 4-year-olds and older. In addition, none of the 10 entries will run without Lasix, which would provide an additional seven-pound weight break.
The race and the inaugural $7 million Pegasus world Cup Turf will be part of a live 90-minute broadcast on NBC Sports (Ch. 2) starting at 4:30 p.m. The Turf will go off at approximately 4:57 p.m. and the main event is scheduled to go to post at 5:36 p.m.
The Pegasus has grown in its infancy and talk of moving back one weekend next year to precede the Super Bowl in Miami is in the works. In addition, Stronach Group Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo has hinted at adding a third Pegasus race for fillies.
Accelerate (9-5), the defending Classic champion, will look to retire on top with a victory. He finished second at Thursday night’s Eclipse Awards in the 2018 Horse of the Year category to Triple Crown winner Justify. Surprisingly, he picked up 54 of the 249 first-place votes after winning six of his seven races, including the three major California races along with the $6 million Classic.
He has been training exceptionally well for John Sadler, who said all systems are go for the 1 1/8-mile race around the Gulfstream Park strip. With rain in the forecast, he has a wet track win on his resume and Sadler doesn’t seem deterred by the impending weather. Joel Rosario will ride the son of Lookin at Lucky.
Accelerate arrived Tuesday evening and took to the track right away with exercise rider Javier Meza aboard, according to Sadler. "(Meza) said he was looking around a bit. That would be expected the first day,” Sadler said. “He said he handled the track well, so he’s pretty happy.”
The beauty of the Pegasus is that it is run at 9 furlongs (1 1/8-miles), as opposed to the classic mile-and-a-quarter, thus it has attracted not only the top routing horses in North America, but some of the better milers.
The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Cigar Mile winners are formidable challengers to the favorite.
City of Light (5-2) was the only horse to defeat Accelerate during 2018 taking him down in the Oaklawn Handicap by a neck last April in a 9-furlong contest. He was impressive at Churchill Downs in the Dirt Mile, handling a field that contained several Pegasus entrants by 2 3/4 lengths.
Trainer Mike McCarthy, who comes from the Todd Pletcher racing tree, decided to ship the son of Quality Road earlier, arriving on Jan. 16 to get accustomed to the fast Gulfstream track. “He’s settled in nicely. We’re sticking to the same type of routine we’d have in California,” McCarthy said. “The horse seems to be enjoying himself.”
He was super impressive in his lone local work for the Pegasus going a half-mile in 47.26 seconds, best of 103 horses at the distance last Saturday. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano breezed him and will ride him in the Pegasus.
McCarthy proclaimed him ready to roll after his final breeze for the richest race in North America.
“I thought it was a very good workout,” McCarthy said. “It looked like the horse got over the race track nicely. Javier was very pleased. He cooled out well and looks good.”
Cigar Mile winner Patternrecognition (10-1) drewing the outside post No. 12. Jockey Jose Ortiz will have to gun it early as the field will get to the clubhouse turn in a hurry. He’ll need to break well to position himself, so he’s not caught four or five wide. It could compromise the speedy son of Adios Charlie early, so best to use him underneath in the exotics.
Never count out hometown hero Gunnevera (8-1), who always shows up for the big race. With the amount of speed in the race, he has a big chance to finish late against the front-runners. He finished second behind Accelerate in the Classic and was closing fast as they approached the wire.
Trainer Antonio Sano, who recently became a U.S. citizen, isn’t concerned with the outside post (No. 8) due to his horse’s running style.
“I like the post,” Sano said. “He’s not outside or inside. He’s close to the middle, so it’s good. The horse comes from the back, so we hope to have a good pace.”
Bravazo (12-1) competed in every race he ran as a 3-year-old. I look for him to break out as an older horse for the venerable D. Wayne Lukas. He’s run well on off tracks, evidenced by his near-miss against Justify in last year’s Preakness. Luis Saez has the mount aboard the son of Awesome Again. Look for him to round out the superfecta.
The Pegasus World Cup looks to be an epic kickstart to the 2019 season with plenty of reason for optimism for an intriguing year of racing.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – City of Light, 2- Accelerate, 3 - Gunnevera, 4 - Bravazo
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.
SEE POST POSITION CHART BELOW
$9 Million Pegasus World Cup Invitational – Race 12: Gulfstream Park 5:36 p.m. ET
|3||City of Light||McCarthy||Castellano||5-2|
|4||Seeking the Soul||Stewart||Velazquez||12-1|
|6||Tom's d'Etat||Stall, Jr.||Bridgmohan||20-1|