The Pegasus World Cup Invitational

1/28/2017 Gulfstream Park-Race 12

The Pegasus World Cup Invitational-$12,000,000- Grade I

1 & 1/8 Miles on Dirt for 4 Year-Olds and Upward

Post Time: 2:40 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

The moment of truth has finally arrived and 12 horses are expected to tangle on Saturday in Hallandale, Florida for the world’s richest purse: The $12,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational. This will be the sovereign voyage for this race and it will be interesting to see what tweaks and modifications are made to the overall process going forward.  This edition of the race appears to be a match race on paper with Arrogate and California Chrome 7 to 5 and 6 to 5 respectively on the morning line.  Will a 1 and 12 exacta box return a decent yield?  Can another horse spice up the exotics?  Here is your Pegasus analysis:

1-Arrogate 7/5 ML- Hand is forced with the inside draw; immensely talented and his connections are supremely confident; expect Mike Smith to send him right out of the inside stall to avoid traffic trouble.  In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Arrogate had an ideal trip and was able to spy ‘Chrome before ultimately grinding him down in the tenth and final furlong.  Only 9 furlongs on the docket in this one and it appears Arrogate is destined for an inside trip, yet he rode the rail and the front end to a demolition of them in the Grade I Travers.  It’s more than likely ‘Chrome will have to run him down this time around and you can fully expect Mike Smith to say, “Come and catch me”; logical contender for all the marbles.

2-Prayer for Relief 50/1 ML– 0-for-7 in 2016; was crushed in five races in Dubai.  He returned to American soil to finish fifth in a Grade II and 9th beaten 33 lengths in the Grade I Clark.  In order to make this happen he is going to have not only turn the tables on three others who beat him in the Clark, but also then sleigh Arrogate and California Chrome in the process.  You’ll need to do much more than clutch your pearls and recite 10 Hail Mary’s if you’re headed to the window to bet on this guy; no thanks.

3-Neolithic 30/1 ML- Light bulb has certainly come on for this guy since blinkers went on November 12th at Aqueduct.  In that race, Neolithic put together a very competitive performance, earning some Grade III black type in the process. Last time out at Gulfstream Park, Neolithic put a thumping on 9 other first level allowance types and certainly should emerge from that affair feeling awfully confident.  On the downside, his best effort produced a 101 Beyer speed figure and to seriously threaten on Saturday that number will have to catapult forward.  He’s a young, fresh and emerging horse so continued improvement can be expected from him. The problem is that he’s taking on the titans of the industry at the same time–and in the same race–and that will most likely prove to be too much to bear; Castellano chooses Keen Ice over him; think he’ll get lost in the shuffle on the front end.

4-Noble Bird 25/1 ML- Compelling sort who’s rarely been greater than 10 to 1 odds in his career shows up in Hallandale after enduring a severe beat down in the Clark at odds of 5 to 2.  This one likes to be on the front end and there should be plenty of unfriendly faces up where he wants to be, thus minimizing a majority of his appeal.  In the Grade I Stephen Foster, Noble Bird did stalk and pounce on Lea in route to a game victory and earned a 108 Beyer speed figure in the process.  Similar tactics will likely need to be employed in this race if he’s going to make it happen, but that prospect seems unlikely.  This fella is in great hands so I wouldn’t completely toss him out, but everything has to break just right for him to sleigh these top two horses.  Also, with this many horses gunning into the first turn, someone is going to feel the pinch and squeeze back; just can’t see an outright victory given how little his margin is for error.

5-War Story 50/1 ML- Horse who has seemingly had more trainers in his lifetime than many of us have had first dates finds himself in yet another barn after a very strong effort on the inner dirt at Aqueduct.  In the Queens County, War Story finally found his winning stride, taking it to the field on the front end and earning a 108 Beyer speed figure in the process.  War Story likes to be forwardly placed as well and by virtue of the above analysis alone you already know that’s the pace figures quite lively.  Furthermore, he’s been blitzed by California Chrome by better than 20 lengths each time they’ve faced each other.  Even though he ships into a very prominent barn (once again), I just can’t embrace him; he’s been routinely handled at the Grade I level too many times for my taste.

6-War Envoy 50/1 ML- His best Beyer speed figure was a 90 and it came on turf back in 2015.  You heard it here first: he’ll be 99 to 1, not 50 to 1.  See me if you want to bet him at 50 to 1–I’ll take all the action you want.  And if he’s less than his morning line odds at post time, I’ll buy you a steak dinner by mentioning this article.  Enough said?

7-Shaman Ghost 20/1 ML- His magic moments came in a driving finish of the Grade I Woodward, prevailing by a head in a four-horse photo and also when he triumphed in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine as a three year-old.  In the process, Shaman Ghost received a 106 Beyer speed figure and since then has only been seen once since then, finishing third in the Clark behind Gun Runner and Breaking Lucky.  He’s been able to duck the A-listers until now and he appears up against it in terms of innate ability.  His style could suit this race well and he may have fond memories of the Gulfstream Park surface given that he broke his maiden here.  All in all this is a nice horse, but he’s going to have to hope both favorites have off days if he’s going to seriously threaten; rates underneath.

8-Semper Fortis 50/1 ML- Picks up a strong local rider but that’s about where the positives stop for this dude.  He was slated to run–and then rumored to be out of the race–before finally being dedicated to start.  His usual rider decided to stay close to home and ride the Cal Cup card at Santa Anita so no doubt this is a big ask.  Even if they go ballistic early, he appears devoid of class and quality to make any real headway on the outcome.  Expect that he could pass a couple of tired ones, but note the connections typically don’t try him much further than a mile on average; no thanks.

9-Keen Ice 12/1 ML- The Rafael Nadal of horse racing, Keen Ice has made a living by grinding his opponents down to the nub, amassing over 2.3 Million in earnings and yet has only two wins to show for it on his resume.  One of those wins came against a bedraggled American Pharoah in the Travers at 16/1, where the competition did the dirty work for him, providing body blows to the champ and allowing him to swoop in and deliver the knockout blow in the dying strides of the race.  Keen Ice runs the same race every time and it’s encouraging to see Castellano stick here over Neolithic.  Should the race turn into a kamikaze duel on the front end, you can expect this one’s chances to improve.  Yet, he had to hail an Arcadian cab to get himself into a photo for third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind these same two favorites.  Off that running line, it’s difficult to be too optimistic about him on Saturday, but he’s not impossible if the fractions are out of control; rounds out your Tri and Super tickets.

10-Breaking Lucky 25/1 ML- Ironically, the race of his life earned him a fourth place finish in the Woodward at odds of 48 to 1. ‘Lucky was subsequently favored in a small Stakes race at Churchill and lethargically galloped around the wet track to an eighth-place finish as the 2 to 1 favorite.  At a huge price, he was once again a better horse when finishing second in the Clark Handicap.  Good news-bad news.  The good news is he has talent and ability and seems to fire when he’s not thought that highly of (like today).  Bad news is he appears to be at least a couple seconds slower than Arrogate and California Chrome.  His draw is no bargain and he could be wide on both turns.  Needless to say, ‘Lucky can’t be giving the favorites any professional courtesy on Saturday; would be a surprise to hear his name late.

11-Eragon (Arg) 50/1 ML- He’s made a name for himself in South America by doing some damage at their highest level locally.  From past performances, it appears this horse likes to be taken back and for his rider to make one big run with him.  The question is whether he can handle the ship to Florida, transfer his running style to the local surface, and then run down the best two dirt horses in training in the world on his way to victory?  That obviously seems like a tall order.  Jockey Edgar Prado has pulled off some stunners before and he’ll have to reach deep into his back of tricks to do it again on Saturday; outsider looking in.

12-California Chrome 6/5 ML- Greatest California-bred of all time fittingly will be the last horse to load in the last race of his illustrious career on Saturday.  Much has been made of the outside draw being problematic with the quick run to the first turn at Gulfstream Park.  In his earlier years, ‘Chrome had problems at the gate, breaking a step slow quite often and thus compromising his chances.  He’s become a very good gate horse later in his career and I see him breaking on top in his last race.  Assuming he breaks well, he should have a clear run into the first turn to place himself into a prominent position.  True, ‘Chrome may be a bit wide into the first turn, but Arrogate and all the other speed to his outside will likely be playing pinball wizard with one another into the first turn.  Given that, I’d much rather have this classy fellow on the outside, in a smooth, relaxing stride while heading up the backstretch.  ‘Chrome owes Arrogate one on the way out the door, and he’s going to make due on that in the Pegasus; the pick.

Selections: 12-1-4-9