Today is Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream. The card features four Graded stakes races, including the $7,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and the $9,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
The Pegasus World Cup was inaugurated in 2017 with the winner being 2016 Horse-of-the-Year Arrogate at a short price. Last year’s winner was 2017 Horse-of-the Year Gun Runner, also at a short price.
We will Handicap Races 9-12 for the guaranteed late Pick-4. The pick-4 features the Grade III Fred W. Hooper, the Grade III W.L. McKnight and the two World Cup Invitational races.
Race 9 – Grade III Fred W. Hooper (Purse $150,000, 6FOne-Mile on dirt)
The likely favorite with be #1 Coal Town. In 2017, this 5-year-old ridgling was on his way to becoming one of the top sprinters in the nation. A serious injury sent him to the sidelines, only to see him return 13 months later in October of 2018. That turned out to be a disappointing effort. The Pletcher trainee did return to win the Grade III Mr. Prospector at 7F last December right here at Gulfstream Park. This will be his first attempt at a distance beyond 7F. Breaking from the rail, jockey JR Velasquez will likely have to send to the lead. Pletcher will also send out #8 Copper Town under jockey Javier Castellano. Like his stable mate, Copper Town looked like he could be any kind before a serious injury sent him to the sidelines in late 2018. He returned 12 months later for an easy victory in a NWx2 event at Keenland. In the next race, he turned in a real dud in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last December. He was bumped hard out of the gate so perhaps we should draw a line through that race. The only other consideration might be #6 Aztec Sense, a Jorge Navarro trainee that has rattled off eight straight victories against lesser company.
Race 10 – Grade III W.L. McKnight (Purse $200,000, 1 1/2 on turf)
The profile for the turf course at Gulfstream has favored horses that are forwardly placed. With that said, there’s a remarkable lack of speed in this race. #2 Soglio will be ridden by Jose Ortiz. The 5-year-old has a record of 4-2-1-1 here at Gulfstream and might have enough speed to grab the lead from the inside. He’s a bit cheap but a hard trier that is actually cutting back from a head defeat at two miles in the $100K H. Allen Jerkins here at GP. His main pace adversary might well be #4 Zula Alpha, a pace-pressing winner of the Grade III Sycamore at Keenland last fall. Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the ride on a horse that has good Beyer numbers of late. European trainer Aidan O’Brien brings #8 Hunting Horn back to the US. This horse spent all of 2018 running against some of the best distance horses in the world. This is a significant class drop for a horse that finished a desperate 2nd by a nose in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Niel at this distance before finishing up the track in the Prix De l’Arc De Triomphe and Grade I BC Turf. #7 Canessar attracts Castellano from the red-hot barn of Arnaud Delacour. He has the numbers to compete.
Race 11 – Pegasus World Cup Turf (Purse $7,000,000, 1 3/16 on Turf)
#1 Magic Wand comes from the connections of Michael B Tabor/O’Brien. This is a classy filly that spent most of 2018 running competitively against Group 1 competition. The highlight of the 2018 season was a strong run in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera behind the exceptional Wild Illusion, followed up by a good 4th place finish behind Sistercharlie in the Grade I BC Fillies and Mare Turf last November. This one has enough sneaky speed to secure a good position on the rail. #2 Yoshida is a Grade I winner on both dirt and turf, though against suspect competition. #5 Next Shares has certainly gotten good of late. After winning the Grade I Shadwell Mile at Keenland last October, he returned to win the Grade 2 San Gabriel at Santa Anita in preparation for this race. Top turf rider Tyler Gaffalione regains the mount. #9 Catapult (Joel Rosario) is coming off an excellent 2nd in the Grade I Breeders Cup Mile behind the highly touted Euro-invader Expert Eye. This one has and explosive kick and might like the added distance.
Race 12 – Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational (purse $9,000,000, 1 1/8 on dirt)
While this year’s Pegasus World Cup might have more depth than the first two years, the race comes down to one of two horses. #5 Accelerate is the best 1 ¼ mile horse in the world on dirt. #3 City of Lights is the best dirt miler in the world. These champions will meet in the middle at 1 1/8. After winning the BC Classic for his 5th Grade I win in 2018, Accelerate is in the running for Horse-of-the-Years honors along with Triple Crown winner Justify. His lone loss of the season came in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap to City of Lights. There isn’t an over-abundance of speed in this race. Look for City of Lights to take the lead into the first turn and try to control the pace with Accelerate sitting back a couple of lengths to the outside. On the far turn, these two should separate from the rest of the field, turning it into a match race to the wire. Use both horses but look for City of Lights to have just enough to get to the wire first.
$1 Pick-4 Bet: #1, #6, #8 / #2, #4, #7, #8 / #1, #5, #9 / #3, #5, = $72