Colonel Liam Defends Title in Pegasus Turf

January 29, 2022

Ends 239-Day Layoff to Become First Repeat Pegasus Winner

 – For the second straight year, Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam came into the Gulfstream Park stretch with only one horse – his stablemate – to beat in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat.

And, for the second straight year, that’s exactly what he did.

Colonel Liam, racing for the first time since last summer, was given clear run throughout by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and came with a steady run through the lane to reel in pacesetter Never Surprised and edge clear to a one-length triumph. 

The fourth running of the Pegasus Turf and the sixth renewal of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by 1/ST BET on dirt, both at 1 1/8 miles, and the inaugural $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) presented by PEPSI headlined a blockbuster Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series program featuring seven graded-stakes worth $5.2 million in purses.

His victory in 1:47.48 over a firm course made Colonel Liam ($5.20) the first repeat winner of the Pegasus Turf, having rallied to edge Largent by a neck in 2021. All three horses are trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.

“I was actually pleased with how well he was traveling early on. You could see he got in a good position and had a lot of horse,” Pletcher said of Colonel Liam. “He moved to Never Surprised early and kept finding more, and Never Surprised dug in. It was great race for both horses.”

A 5-year-old son of Liam’s Map, who was a multiple Grade 1 winner on dirt for Pletcher, Colonel Liam hadn’t started in 239 days since an eighth-place finish in the June 5 Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park. He had eight works since arriving in South Florida for his return.

“You just hope you’ve done enough with him. He has talent,” Pletcher said. “We need everything to go exactly as planned. We didn’t have time for a prep race. We put all of our chips in this race. I’m glad it worked out.”

Never Surprised had won two straight races including Gulfstream’s Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby, the race Colonel Liam used as a springboard to last year’s Pegasus Turf, and was hustled to the front by jockey Luis Saez after drawing the far outside in a field of 12. Pressed by Fort Lauderdale (G2) winner Doswell through six furlongs, Never Surprised remained on the lead approaching the stretch when Ortiz set Colonel Liam down for a drive to the wire.

Never Surprised stayed up for second, a half-length ahead of Space Traveller, who made a dramatic rally up the rail to edge Atone by a neck for third. Cross Border, third in the 2021 Pegasus Turf, finished fifth. Sacred Life, Doswell, Hit the Road, Channel Cat, Field Pass, March to the Arch and Flavius completed the order of finish.

“It unfolded the way we expected it to. It looked like the fractions were reasonable,” Pletcher said. “Colonel Liam was traveling really well in behind. You could see he was going well. Irad kind of went after Never Surprised in the middle of the turn and both horses fought on gamely. I’m proud of Never Surprised. He fought back.”

The win was the seventh from 10 career starts for Colonel Liam, who went on from last year’s Pegasus Turf to win the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) and Turf Classic (G1) prior to his run in the Manhattan. He improved to 3-0 on the Gulfstream turf.

“Nice horse, coming off a layoff and he was great,” Ortiz said. “He didn’t miss a step. He came back in the right shape and the trainer did a great job, honestly.”

Repole Stable’s Never Surprised finished second for the fourth time in a graded-stakes, following the Kitten’s Joy (G3), Saranac (G3) and Hill Prince (G2). He also owns stakes wins  in the Central Park and Gio Ponti.

“They’re both very, very talented horses,” Pletcher said. “There are a lot of great opportunities for both of them.”

Gulfstream Park Press Release

Photo: Colonel Liam (Coglianese Photography)

@jonathanstettin is there a any better at writing thoroghbred articles that are ” relevant” to the horseplayer and fan alike ? I think not.

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