National Treasure Favored in G1 Pegasus World Cup

January 21, 2024

National Treasure works Jan. 20 at Santa Anita, covering 4F in 46.80 (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Bob Baffert will chase a third success in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where the Hall of Fame trainer will be represented by 2023 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner National Treasure in a field of 12 Thoroughbred stars.

National Treasure was installed as the 9-5 favorite on the morning line Sunday after drawing Post #7 for the 1 1/8-mile stakes that will be featured on a 13-race program, along with the $1 million 1/ST Bet Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) and $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G2), and four other graded stakes.

The eighth running of the Pegasus will be the showcased during Gulfstream Park’s annual celebration of Thoroughbred racing, World Class entertainment, fashion, and food.

Baffert has previously won the Pegasus World Cup with Arrogate (2017) and Mucho Gusto (2020).

“I’ve had success at Gulfstream, shipping in there,” Baffert said from Southern California. “Arrogate, he was something else. And then Much Gusto – he ran a great race and came back and led all the way in the Saudi Cup. He was a solid horse. But you have to have luck, you need a lot of luck. That first run to the turn, you’ve got to have a lot of luck going into that first turn.

National Treasure, who is owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC and Catherine Donovan, enters this year’s Pegasus off a second-place finish in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), in which he was nosed out by defending champion Cody’s Wish.

The 4-year-old son of Quality Road had been off-the-board in three starts between his front-running victory in the Preakness and his game second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The Kentucky-bred colt had a productive 2-year-old campaign, during which he won at first asking at Del Mar before finishing second in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland.

National Treasure is scheduled to make his seventh consecutive start in a Grade 1 race off a series of four straight ‘bullet’ workouts at Santa Anita.

“I think he’s maturing. He’s always been a little bit slow coming around, but he’s been working well. Looks great. He’s doing really well,” Baffert said. “I’m just coming into it in great shape, so I’m happy with the way I’ve been training.”

Flavien Prat, who rode the Baffert trainee for the first time in the Dirt Mile, has the return call.

First Mission captures the Lexington (G3) April 15, 2023, at Keeneland (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

Trainer Brad Cox is slated to saddle lightly raced First Mission for the Pegasus in his search of a second triumph in Gulfstream’s premier race for older horses. Cox saddled Knicks Go for a victory in 2021 before the 2021 Horse of the Year closed out his career with a runner-up finish behind Life Is Good the following year.

First Mission, who is rated second at 7-2 on the morning line after drawing Post #8 Sunday, is coming off a second-place finish behind Pegasus contender Trademark in the Nov. 24 Clark (G2) at Churchill Downs. Godolphin LLC’s homebred 4-year-old colt broke his maiden in his second career start at Fair Grounds before capturing the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland. He returned from a six-month layoff to win an optional claiming allowance at Keeneland prior to a game second-place finish in the Clark, in which he dueled for pacesetting honors while racing along the rail before losing by a nose.

“This is his third race off the layoff, so I think he’s primed for a big effort. He’s had plenty of time since his last one – that was a big race,” Cox said. “He’s always been a good racehorse. He’s got a nice record. He’s still a little light on seasoning, and we’re going to be facing horses that have run a lot more than him. But the talent’s there to compete at that level. Just hope he gets a good trip and likes Gulfstream and everything goes well.”

Luis Saez has the return mount aboard First Mission.

Todd Pletcher will be represented by three horses in his search for a second Pegasus success. The Hall of Fame trainer, who scored with Life Is Good in 2022, is slated to saddle PRO Thoroughbred Enterprises Grand Aspen, Repole Stable, Phipps Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Dynamic One, and Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Crupi.

Crupi takes the Queens County Dec. 31 at Aqueduct (Joe Labozzetta)

Grand Aspen, a 5-year-old son of Dialed In who lost a photo finish while finishing second in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) in his stakes debut after finishing in the money in his prior five starts, is rated at 8-1. Dynamic One is scheduled to make his second start off a layoff of more than a year. The 2022 Suburban (G2) winner was the beaten favorite in a recent Gulfstream optional claiming allowance. Crupi, a 4-year-old son of Curlin, is coming off back-to-back victories in the Queens County and Discovery at Aqueduct.

“The Pegasus has turned out to be a terrific day of racing at Gulfstream. It’s a stake-filled card with a lot of good races, great atmosphere. I think we’re kind of coming in with a different angle this year. We’re kind of under the radar a bit,” Pletcher said. “When we brought Life Is Good in, we thought we had a good chance, and he delivered a good performance. A little different this year, we’re hoping everybody makes a move forward.”

Jose Ortiz, who was aboard for the near-miss in the Harlan’s Holiday, returns aboard Grand Aspen. Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Life Is Good and Mucho Gusto to their Pegasus wins, has the call on Dynamic One, rated 15-1 on the morning line. International riding star Frankie Dettori is named to ride Crupi.

Saffie Joseph Jr. is scheduled to saddle two horses for the Pegasus – 2023 participants Skippylongstocking and O’Connor.

Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking, who is coming off a third-place finish in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, finished seventh following a wide trip last year, while Michael and Julia Iavarone’s O’Connor, who captured the Dec. 30 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream, was never a factor while finishing 11th in the seventh running of the Pegasus World Cup.

Skippylongstocking, who drew the far-outside post in the 12-horse field, and O’Connor were both priced 8-1 on the morning line Sunday.

Skippylongstocking, a 5-year-old son of Exaggerator, captured the $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) prior to his solid Breeders’ Cup effort.

“A mile and an eighth is probably one of his best distances. He’s coming off a freshening but that’s what we learned. He runs his best that way. Earlier in his career we were kind of inconsistent. One race good, one race bad, and since we started to space his races, he’s been very consistent.”

O’Connor, a 7-year-old Chilean-bred son of Boboman, captured the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland prior to winning Gulfstream’s Pegasus prep Dec. 30.

“Actually, this is going to work in his favor. He’s in good order. He’s coming off two wins and we’re very happy where we’re at with him,” Joseph said. “He kind of won those two races having to overcome some adversity, and he just seems to be doing as good as a horse can going into a race.”

Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard Skippylongstocking in the Charles Town Classic and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, has the return mount. Paco Lopez is slated to ride O’Connor for the first time in the Pegasus.

Trademark (outside) bests First Mission in the Clark (G2) Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

BBN Racing LLC’s Trademark enters the Pegasus World Cup off a career-best performance in the Nov. 24 Clark (G2), in which he closely monitored pacesetter/presser First Mission before launching a successful stretch drive. Fernando De La Cruz has the return mount on the Victoria Oliver-trained 5-year-old gelding.

Alexandres LLC’s Il Miracolo, who finished third behind Trademark and First Mission in the Clark and second behind O’Connor in the Fayette (G2), will seek to score his second graded-stakes victory. The Antonio Sano-trained 4-year-old son of 2018 Pegasus winner Gun Runner captured the Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx prior to a third-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has the call.

Dream Team One Racing Stable’s Hoist the Gold and Joe Peacock Jr.’s Senor Buscador, who finished 1-2 in the Dec. 2 Cigar Mile (G2) at Aqueduct, will clash again in the Pegasus. Dallas Stewart-trained Hoist the Gold, who won the six-furlong Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland last year, set the pace over a muddy track before drawing off to win by 4 ½-lengths under John Velazquez. The Hall of Fame jockey has the return mount.

Senor Buscador winning the San Diego. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Senor Buscador secures a victory in the San Diego Handicap (G2) July 29 at Del Mar (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Todd Fincher-trained Senor Buscador, who finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, closed from last in the 12-horse Cigar field to grab second. Junior Alvarado returns aboard the 6-year-old son of Mineshaft.

Black Type Thoroughbreds, Steve Adkisson and Swinbank Stables’ Nimitz Class, a recent acquisition who has won 11 of 21 career starts, is scheduled to make his first start for trainer George Weaver. The 5-year-old son of Munnings won five stakes while campaigning in the Mid-Atlantic last season. Edgard Zayas has the mount.

Sanford Goldfarb, Nice Guys Stables and Beast Mode Racing LLC’s Castle Chaos, who finished third in the Cigar Mile, is also eligible in the event of a scratch.

@jonathanstettin u should really do a 2 minute Past The Wire recorded segment for @Steve_Byk Monday Morning. Very grounded, excellent stuff

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