HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – As sunset was quickly approaching at Gulfstream Park, City of Light shined through, splashing home to win the third annual Pegasus World Cup.
Overcoming the rain that encapsulated the southern Florida track most of the day, City of Light defeated his 11 rivals and took down the $4 million first place prize money in a commanding 5-length win on the sloppy Gulfstream track.
The second choice on the morning line used his patented speed to get outside of Patternrecognition, who committed early from the No. 12 post to the lead. That move by Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano all but put the race away.
He had one more challenge to survive.
After taking over the lead going into the far turn, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate loomed large on his flank as they turned for home at the top of the stretch.
The duel between the two Breeders’ Cup winners that everyone had been hoping for materialized and as the Classic winner approached, the son of Quality Road repelled him and opened up down the stretch to preserve the win.
Accelerate jockey Joel Rosario was urging the son of Lookin at Lucky to take on the winner as they reached the top of the stretch. “When the winner took off, I just couldn’t catch him,” said Rosario. “He ran a big race.”
The mammoth winner’s share brought City of Light’s career earnings to $5,662,600. City of Light will head off to his next career in the breeding shed, standing at Lane’s End Farm for the 2019 season.
City of Light returned $5.80 to his backers for the win, $4.20 to place and $3 to show. Late closing Seeking the Soul overcame Accelerate in deep stretch for second and paid $19.20 for place and $8.20 to show, collecting $1.25 million.
Accelerate paid $2.80 to show and completed a $2 trifecta that paid $210.40 and received $900,000 for his third-place effort. Bravazo completed the superfecta and earned $700,000 on the day.
City of Light completed the nine furlong trek in 1:47.71, finishing ahead of Seeking the Soul by five lengths.
It was a watershed win for trainer Michael McCarthy, a former assistant to Todd Pletcher, winning the richest race in North America following a big win in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with City of Light.
“I was quietly confident all week,” said McCarthy. “He was in the perfect position, I can’t thank Javier enough for taking off Audible to ride this horse. It meant a lot to me personally and for my family.”
Castellano returned the praise saying McCarthy had City of Light is perfect condition for the $9 million race.
“I give all the credit to Michael McCarthy putting it together for this race,” said Castellano. “I think he’s an amazing horse. The way he broke well and got into position in the first turn, I thank God for the opportunity to ride this horse.”
City of Light is owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren, Jr. who were gracious in victory. “It was just so thrilling to watch Javier run a masterful race. He executed the game plan beautifully,” said Warren, Jr. “The first person to shake my hand after the race was [Accelerate trainer] John Sadler, what a true gentleman he is,” he said.
Seeking the Soul, who ran second in the Dirt Mile to City of Light, has now finished in the top four for two consecutive years for trainer Dallas Stewart. The son of Perfect Soul was ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
The 6-year-old veteran had no chance to reach the winner, but was able to nail Accelerate at the wire for second place and a big check for his connections. “The winner was just so impressive,” said Velazquez in the walkway back to the jockey room. “My horse finished well and we’ll take second place.”
The ever present Bravazo finished fourth and was in the mix early along the rail in his 4-year-old debut. Jockey Luis Saez seemed to enjoy himself during the race as he walked the path away from the track with a smile as big as Texas.
“It was good, it was fun,” said Saez. “I gave him perfect position and he was traveling good, but the winner was pretty tough.”
Post Time selection Bricks and Mortar ($7.60) won the inaugural $7 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf race. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was up on the son of Giant’s Causeway, trained by Eclipse winning trainer Chad Brown.
Bricks and Mortar finished the 1 3/16-miles in 1:54.59 and was 2 ½-lengths ahead of second-place finisher Magic Wand, who was a neck in front of Delta Prince.
Ortiz, Jr. commended the inaugural winner of the Turf. “I got a perfect trip. My horse put me in a good position and just held it together, saving ground. When I got kicked him out, he exploded.”
Racing now turns toward the Derby trail leading up to the First Saturday in May and the road to the Triple Crown.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.