Geo Sette provides his detailed and thorough analysis of this year’s Pegasus World Cup. Geo has a pretty strong record so hopefully you will enjoy his insight and thought process.
Gulfstream Park Race # 12 Saturday January 25th, 2020 The Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup with a $3,000,000.00 Purse. One Mile & 1/8th (9 Furlongs) for Four-year-olds and upward. Est. Post: 5:34 EST.
What a beautiful thing to have this race each year in late January. It gives the thoroughbred racing industry fabulous intrigue before the drama of all the prep races and various state derbies in the Spring, culminating in the greatly anticipated first Saturday in May, the inimitable Run for The Roses.
Inaugurated back in 2017, we have reached the 4th installment. Who can forget the smashing victories of 3 fabulous colts, Arrogate in 2017, Gun Runner in 2018 and of course, City Of Light last year.
Most racing fans and our sports prognosticators were looking forward to what was to be a thrilling match-up of two of the best horses in training – Omaha Beach and Spun To Run. They were likely to be this 4th running’s co-favorites but unfortunately, they have both been scratched.
Do not despair, we’ll see those two hard-hitting thoroughbreds again. For now we have a solid field of 10 older horses, many who have earned their mettle in different capacities and are worthy of this opportunity.
I have once again dug deep into my handicapping through past performances, pedigree and film study. I have provided my very best order of finish, to help you make an informed window decision and perhaps have a more joyous late Saturday in January.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
# 2 Tax
I took a significant amount of time in my film study for this gelding, watching all of his 10 lifetime starts. I believe that with the absence of Omaha Beach and Spun To Run, the race completely changes its dynamic. This is fortuitous for Tax and his running style. I think he has the best chance to emerge victorious at this 9-furlong distance (which in my opinion is his very best). He’s 5 for 5 lifetime at the distance in the money, winning twice and providing exacta monies 4 of the 5 times. His last at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Discovery, he was incredible in defeat, finishing a strong 2nd while earning his career best Beyer rating of 101. I have great respect for trainer Danny Gargan. His barn is always competitive and he’s having a great meet at Gulfstream Park. He loses the services of Irad Ortiz , but picks up Jose Ortiz who also possesses superb riding skills. This energetic gelding has been working steadily and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll have a tactical presence. I expect him to possibly be sitting 3rd or 4th behind the speedballs to his outside and then make a strong move with a smart ride down the lane to menace and be a major threat to take all. He’s my top choice and should be used in all gimmicks, especially considering his affinity to the distance of the race.
# 10 Mucho Gusto
This colt also makes his first start as a four-year-old and of course is trained by Bob Baffert who won the inaugural running of this race with the great Arrogate. Timing could be perfect for him to be a major contender. He shows wonderful gate speed to insure solid positioning early, even at the expense of speed to his inside ( Mr. Freeze) and speed to his outside (Bodexpress). Mucho Gusto comes into this race after working brilliantly on the West Coast for his first start over this Gulfstream soil. He’s consistent and reliable, finishing in the money in 9 of his 10 career starts. Baffert switches to the riding skills of Irad Ortiz Jr. replacing the solid Joe Talamo who had mounted him for every start. There are many horse racing folks who will question this colt’s ability to make the distance, and to some degree I don’t blame them, but they need to look deeper into things and realize that he’s bred to go longer. 9 furlongs should be attainable. Mucho Gusto has finished in the money in 2 of his 3 starts at 9 panels, but he has yet to win. His has been working well and I feel he has the raw ability to fire a big performance in his first start of 2020. Watch the board, he may get some smart money just before post time. He’s worthy of being a contender in this spot, don’t ignore completely in your exotics, perhaps filling an “All-Ortiz” exacta. This guy was purchased for $625,000.00 so perhaps he offers a nice return on that investment today.
# 8 Mr. Freeze
This chestnut five-year old is in superb form. He has been consistent and reliable, performing at a high level in various graded stakes races. He is trained by Dale Romans who has a penchant for starting horses that run big in major spots to collect a share of a major purse. There’s also a rider switch to Luis Saez who could be the perfect pilot for his running style. I am confident you’ll see this guy up on the lead, or at the very worst 2nd through the first 5/8ths and then it will be up to him to hold off some major chargers including my top two choices. He’s a bigger threat if others like #12 Bodexpress allow him to get to an easy lead. I do feel he’ll get pressed some, but I’m thinking he’ll have enough left to hit the board. I’m choosing him for 3rd slightly over my 4th choice as he’s likely to provide greater betting value and he’s ridden by a jockey who really knows how to handle a horse on or near the lead.
# 6 Higher Power
A West Coast invader and Grade 1 winner. He is coming into this race closing 2019 with 3 consecutive quality Grade 1 finishes, including his 3rd to the great Vino Rosso and Mckinzie in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He really wasn’t a threat to win that day, but he showed solid energy and willingness to run after a poor start and racing wide during the race. His works show that he’s fresh and fit . He should be in position to mount a powerful close especially if the fractions ahead of him are swift, he definitely would not be a surprise to take more of a share, but for now I’m placing him 4th. I feel it would be a good idea to watch him during the post parade and see how good he looks on the track. A Contender late in the race for sure.
# 3 Diamond Oops
This five-year-old gelding has raced well on a variety of surfaces and is definitely a “Horse for the Course” winning 5 of his 6 races on this Gulfstream soil. Of course many were cheaper company, but his success over the strip should never be completely dismissed. He’s actually training very well for a consistent barn and he gets the services of his regular rider in Julian Leparoux. He is working well and he’s versatile in his approach. He could be tactical early on or sit back on purpose and mount a powerful close down the lane. I believe he’s facing classier opponents, but make no mistake, this guy can rumble on his best day, that is why I’m giving him respect as my 5th choice.
# 4 Seeking The Soul
This 7-year-old veteran is wonderfully proven at the distance, hitting the board in 8 of his 12 starts. His last win was a mad crazy rally last June to win the Grade 2 S Foster. Since that major effort he’s failed to punch his best starting in 4 consecutive Grade One events. He did own a solid race in a Grade One over the track last January in the slop where he had a horrible trip, yet still finished 2nd at the robust price of 34-1. The great Johnny Velazquez is up for Dallas Stewart so the connections have been there before, and you cannot argue with this guy’s career earnings at nearly 3.5 million. Considering his lack of early foot, I feel he may perhaps have too much ground to make up to hit the board. On his very best day, he is capable of filling your Superfecta and deeper gimmick tickets, but for now I will list him as my 6th choice.
# 7 War Story
This eight-year-old gelding is a true veteran of the Sport, earning almost $3,000,000.00 in purses. Additionally, he has won over this track and at the same distance (twice). His last race just before Christmas was awesome. After starting tardy, he closed like a train to a driving finish. I was absolutely impressed by that effort. Now a rider switch to Joel Rosario, who is one of the game’s best riders, especially when asked to mount a major charge late in a race. I tip my hat to War Story’s 2019 campaign. It shows you that an older horse can continue success when he’s got a great heart. Although I like this guy and his story, we may be asking too much of him this time around. You have a punchers chance to have him fill your bottom gimmicks. So if you’re feeling for him, why not include him in a few.
# 11 Tenfold
Trainer Steve Asmussen has won over 1000 stakes races and should always be respected. Asmussen won this race in 2018 with Gun Runner, but Tenfold has been defeated soundly by various horses in this race and he was only 1 for 8 during his 2019 campaign. His works for this race are below average, an indication that perhaps his best days are behind him. His Dad is Curlin, so he’s sired by a horse that solves for the distance and he’s won at the distance before ( The Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga) but the summer of 2018 at least for him seems like a very long time ago. I simply need to see more of this guy, I will have to pass on his chances.
# 12 Bodexpress
This guy has raced five times over this surface and has finished 2nd on three occasions; however, except for his 71-1 surprise 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby to Maximum Security, all the other efforts came vs cheaper. He has raw natural speed and I feel the connections’ best chance to shock the world would be on the front end. Look for him to fire out of the gate and try to make the lead, he needs many others in this field to falter and have a bad day to last here. His backers will have fun in seeing him early on as a contender, but he’s likely to tire and finish out of the money.
# 1 True Timber
This guy is a six-year-old with a race over the track where he gave way in the slop. His 0 for 5 in 2019 is far from appealing. Even though I have great respect for the Kieran McLaughlin barn, this guy is 0-3 at the distance and simply seems to be completely outclassed in this spot. Save your money, my choice to run last. He would be a shocker if he won this race. Strictly for Joe Bravo fans or those that always wager on the # 1
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my column, and I want to thank you in advance for your comments and thoughts .