The Pegasus World Cup has a full and well matched field
Geo Sette once again attacks in what promises to be a most competitive running of The Pegasus World Cup.
By Geo Sette
The first Grade 1 race of the year is always a fabulous thing, now running for the 7th time since it inaugurated back in 2017. It gives the thoroughbred racing community, the Sport of Kings the opportunity to have a major stakes race which breaks up the darker days and cold nights of winter.
There’s no doubt that Gulfstream Park in sunny Florida is a great place to host this dynamic race for older horses, four-years-old and up.
It paves the way for the Springtime hype for all the three-year-olds making their debut, many after running big races as juveniles. This will lead us into many Grade 1 Stakes races that lead into the Triple Crown, starting with The Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
For now, we have this final Saturday in January and the very best, most seasoned older horses in training. It’s a field of 12 hard hitters who have been through their share of thrilling battles.
I have completed my full handicap, and will provide my precise order of finish, focusing on my top 6 contenders and I will offer a quick thought or bullet point for the rest of the field. The one thing I really enjoy about handicapping older horses is that I have already watched a significant amount of film on them, so lots of their specific and special abilities are engraved in mind but even still I watch and study their last few races too.
This is how I see the race shaking up, now let’s go and make some money!
# 1 Proxy
One of the things that was so pronounced in this race is that many in the field have quality and/or tactical speed, including this guy, my top choice. It’s not at all my thought that he’ll be on the lead but he’s consistently solid out of the gate, draws the rail and he has Joel Rosario up for the 3rd time. I trust Rosario to use his intelligence and instinctive riding ability to save ground, not allow the front runners to get too far away, and then make a dynamic big run as they turn for home in the short stretch of Gulfstream Park. This is one of the biggest races, if not his most important, for trainer Michael Stidham, who has had a successful barn for many years now. This five-year-old hard hitter comes off his impressive win while on a 4-month layoff in the Grade1 Clark, where he ran his 2nd consecutive Triple digit Beyer. He’s been working well and I’m feeling he’s primed for a bigger effort. He’s hit the board in 11 of his 13 career starts and all 6 at this 9 furlong distance. Sure he’s only won one of them but that one was his last start. He’ll need a trip, moderate to fast fractions upfront, but if he gets it, I trust his ability and Rosario to get him to the wire. Rosario won this race on Knicks Go in 2021 and he’s always had the flare for the dramatic on big racing days.
# 7 Skippy Long Stocking
This guy seems to be primed for a great race as well. I have gotten to know this son of Exaggerator very well as I personally backed him and made some very nice profits during the 2022 three-year-old campaign. Now he has a switch to Jose Ortiz (who’s up for Saffie Joseph) as he’s taking over for Irad his brother who was on him for his victory in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday over this same Gulfstream soil. I’m okay with it as Irad will be riding Defunded for Bob Baffert. This colt has proven to be exceptionally versatile in his approach, something that will prove to be important in this race. This is his 2nd race off his layoff, and he came back running to his career best 106 Beyer. He was a true work horse in 2022 with 9 starts, winning 3 and hitting the board 5 times, all against exceptionally tough company. I feel he’s also built for this 9-furlong distance, and very much like my top choice. He’s quick enough to stay close, better than mid-pack from the front runners, then mount a confident strong close as they run down the lane in the stretch. Watch the board, he may offer a very generous price considering he’s coming off his very best and I feel he can easily move forward from that. He’s a contender for sure if he runs his best race.
He’s now a four-year-old, and this is likely his very last race. This beautiful son of Gun Runner was a fabulous performer in many Grade 1 events last year, highlighted by his victory in the Haskell Stakes where he had a near perfect trip out beating Tabia to the wire. He now makes his first start since his thrilling game finish where he was 2nd to Cody’s Wish at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, just getting beaten by a head. Once again, his regular rider Florent Geroux is up for Brad Cox. He’s won over 2 million in purses, deservingly so as he’s been dead game in many of his races against strong fields. There’s very little doubt he’ll be favored at post time, an honor that should be bestowed on him. He’s never been off the board at the distance winning two of his three attempts. He’s an automatic contender to win because he’s got great heart and the willingness to battle when it comes down to getting dirty in deep stretch, but I’m placing him as my 3rd choice feeling that the #10 hole could be somewhat pressing. He’s likely to be in the thick of things around the 8th pole, it will be fun to watch for sure. This guy helped me win one of my biggest scores in my wagering career, so I will be watching him closely. He has my respect and he’s hard to totally dismiss from your wagering gimmicks.
#6 Art Collector
This guy now beginning his 6-year-old campaign has had an exceptional career, emerging victorious in winning 10 of his 20 career starts. He comes into this race off a 4-month layoff and as the highest earner in the race, surpassing 2.3 million. I always have a tremendous amount of respect for trainer Bill Mott who now switches to Junior Alvarado, a very capable rider in big spots, but somewhat of a drop off from Luis Saez who will be riding # 8 Get Her Number. Even still, it’s the horse that ultimately matters most and this guy could be the very best horse in training at today’s 9-furlong distance where he has won 7 of his 9 starts. He enjoyed a fabulous 2021 when he won 3 straight races, topped off with the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park with his career best Beyer at 107. There are some that believe that perhaps he has tailed off a bit but considering his raw speed and his proficiency at the distance, I felt he was worthy of being considered a contender, at what will be a very sweet price considering he’s the top money earner in the race. I do feel he’s likely to have early challenges and obstacles during the first quarter, but if others don’t get out, he could be a big threat on the front end. If he doesn’t get to the lead, he may be close enough to have something left and hit the board. The pace really is important in this race. If it’s a real dogfight through the first ½ mile, it could set up for the race to collapse on the front end. If so, it will be up to this guy to show his heart once they pass the 1/8th pole.
#4 White Abarrio
This beautiful gray colt has been somewhat up and down during his career but he’s been absolutely perfect over this Gulfstream strip in winning all 4 of his starts. Tyler Gaffalione is back to ride him again ( going back he rode him during 4 straight races) and is up for Saffie Joseph who has 3 starters in the race. He could very well be sitting on a top effort as I’m very impressed by his morning drills. His three workouts in January are all very fast, perhaps a solid indication that he’s fit and dangerous here with his best race effort. His numbers are consistent but there’s no doubt he’ll need to post a career best Beyer to win this race. If there’s a moderate to fast pace as I expect up front, with a perfectly timed trip, you may see this guy storming down the lane looking for a share of the purse.
#9 Last Samurai
Talk about intrigue, the great Frankie Dettori is up for 87-year-old Legendary trainer, “The Coach” D Wayne Lukas. This 5-year-old has recently surpassed a million in career earnings hitting the board in 12 of his 21 career starts. He comes into the race with a razor-sharp breeze at Oaklawn Park going 59 and 2/5’s in a breeze. He’ll have lots of work to do, but if the scenario of a pace meltdown exists, expect this seasoned veteran to be flying home in the stretch, so he could possibly hit the board at a very generous price.
Well, that’s it for my top contenders, I will now finish the rest with an additional precise order and offer a bullet point or two for you.
He’s a talented horse, switches to Castellano in the silks, but could be very compromised by drawing the #12 hole
Two-time Pegasus Race winner Irad Ortiz gets up for 2-time winning trainer Bob Baffert. No doubt they will draw attention and money at the window, so to me he’s likely to be an underlay. This gelding has a world of speed and I have very little doubt that Baffert will be gunning him from the start, which should contribute to a swift pace. Expecting this guy to tire if hooked up early.
#8 Get Her Number
This guy has actually been very sharp lately. He ran big in the Cigar mile in the slop at Aqueduct and Saez up for Peter Miller is interesting too.
# 2 Simplification
This guy comes off his best Beyer figure, surpassing triple digits for the first time, but he’s lost 7 straight races and although he loves Gulfstream Park ( 7 for 7 in the money), perhaps this is the first time he doesn’t hit the board.
# 11 Stilleto Boy
Mike Smith gets a mount in the race and this guy, the son of Shackleford, was once promising, and is himself a million-dollar purse earner, but in this race, he seems to be up against it.
# 3 Riding with Biden
He’s my choice to finish last, a nice gelding who’s won at the distance and has 7 career wins but has done most of his racing at Delaware Park, Laurel and at PARX in PA. He’s stepping way up in class here and really seems up against it too.
Well, there you have it, are you ready? Let’s Go!