The Pegasus World Cup (Grade I)

Pegasus World Cup Preview

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

Gulfstream Park—Race 12 Purse: $16,300,000

Analysis by Michael Patricks

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In what will be the last race of his brilliant career, Gun Runner drew post position 10 in a field of 12 for the $16,000,000 Pegasus World Cup on Saturday. Though his spot in line is less than ideal, Gun Runner was installed as the 4/5 odds-on favorite in the world’s richest horse race.  Post Time for the Pegasus World Cup will be 2:40 p.m. on the west coast and is the twelfth and final race on Gulfstream Park’s banner program.

Speaking of West Coast, he and Collected are both entered for Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and sit at 8/1 in the official program as co-third choices.  Second elect on the line is Sharp Azteca at 6/1, who returns to Florida in outstanding form off his better-than-five-length score in the Grade I Cigar Mile from Aqueduct.

In this week’s complimentary preview, I’ll examine each of the twelve runners and their relative chance of success as they head into the starting gate on Saturday.

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The inside stall belongs to # 1 Singing Bullet at a tasty 30/1.  He’s off a horrendous trip in a five-horse allowance race, stumbling at the start before eventually giving up the ghost.  This son of Hard Spun has started to find his stride in late 2017 but since he’s failed to pass 95 on the Beyer scale, I can’t take the requisite leap of faith required to include him in my party, especially since he’s running with the biggest dogs in racing with 16 Million on the line.

The 2-ball is West Coast at 8/1.  He was a late-blooming three-year-old for Bob Baffert and has back-to-back Grade I scores to brag about.  He’s hit the board in all nine lifetime starts and his compete level rates up there with the best in this race.  Obviously, his four-year-old debut is no “gimme”, but you know there is a license to improve with him and obviously his trainer has shown he can get the job done in racing’s biggest moments; Castellano sticks here over Sharp Azteca so that would appear to be a buying sign as well; strong contender.

Stellar Wind is the flow of particles from the atmosphere of stars—she’s also the # 3 horse on Saturday.  An Eclipse Award-winner, Stellar Wind was sold back in November for $6,000,000 as a breeding prospect.  Her new connections will roll her out on Saturday in a very difficult assignment.  She comes off her worst race of her career in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and now tackles boys off the 60-day respite.  Her fan club will be happy to get anything in the neighborhood of her 30/1 morning line, but in all honesty, her enlisted price looks quite reflective of her chances; siding against.

Sharp Azteca draws stall number four.  He’s absolutely tenacious and has shown repeatedly that he “wants to beat ya” in the stretch.  Eight consecutive races of triple-digit Beyer figures solidly entrench his resume with this cast and solidifies his place as the 6/1 second choice.  He’s going to have to deal with Collected and Gun Runner out where he likes to be and he really has the look of a classic “miler” on paper.  Have to think the final furlong on Saturday could prove to be a grueling situation for him given his pace partners and so I’ll try to work around him in order to cash my tickets, and thus create a bit of value in the process.

# 5 Collected is next in line at 8/1 and is co-third choice with West Coast.  The chestnut really leapt forward as a four-year-old off a decent sophomore campaign.  Collected tried rating in his five-year-old comeback race and that went over quite dismally.  He should get involved from the sound of the bell as his signature efforts have all been on the early gallop.  Smith sticks with him and the nine panels should not be an issue.  Expect to see his face in the picture for a good while; not without a shot, but like others a bit more.

Gunnevera es numero seis.  Like his father Dialed In, he has a long and extended stride and does his best running in the lane.  Fortunately for him, this race is being offered right in his backyard and there is an obvious affinity for this surface demonstrable on paper.  His second-place finish in the rodeo-like Travers was a good race, but many of his nemesis that day had traffic troubles on a speed favoring surface.  His Breeders’ Cup Classic was decent, but he still has work to do here to catch up to Gun Runner and company, even if the switch back to Gulfstream is a bit of a neutralizer in his benefit.  He’s 15/1 on the morning line, but he should be considered in the back end of your vertical sequences.  After all, it’s $1,000,000 to run fourth in this race, so rest assured jockey Luis Saez will be riding the hair off this guy for any and all placings through the lane.

Fear the Cowboy is # 7 and will step into the gate at “name your price to 1”.  He’s enlisted nominally at 30/1 in the program and shows up off a good score over the local strip in a Grade III, but his rider defects from atop his back for quite obvious reasons, and he’s had his troubles competing against characters who would be nothing more than morning workout partners for the top flight in this group; he’s a cut below and pardon the pun, but no one fears this cowboy on Saturday.

The gladiatorial War Story gets spot number eight and is 25/1 on the line.  You can’t say that the connections have coddled this guy–he’s been tossed into the deep end of the pool more times than one can count and he’s had to adjust to his surroundings at racing’s highest level.  War Story finished fifth in this race last year and was only four lengths off Gun Runner in the B.C. Classic last November.  His two Gulfstream efforts overall have been fairly underwhelming, but he can run with these when he’s in the mood.  He’s a total flier, but he could hit the ticket at a number so I wouldn’t talk you off the ledge if you give him some love in your verticals.

The X-factor, stranger danger, and wild card horse is undoubtedly # 9 Toast of New York at 20/1.  He returned from a three year layoff to take a conditioned stakes at Lingfield, and when last seen in American he was second beaten a nose to Bayern in the controversial 2014 installment of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  It’s clear he once had tremendous talent and ability, so the logical question is whether he can ship halfway across the globe in his second start off a three-year layoff, and not bounce like a rubber ball to the moon and back as the senior citizen of this race at the tender age of seven.  Tricky read, so tab tote for more clues.

As stated in the prologue, # 10 Gun Runner is the odds-on, 4/5 morning line favorite.  So, here’s the deal:  if he repeats his Breeders’ Cup Classic, he wins.  If he has trouble leaving the gate in tandem with his post imposition, or doesn’t bring his best race on a new surface, then the race opens right up.  He should be sitting next to Sharp Azteca and Collected up the backside, and have them in his sights every step of the way.  He’s so versatile and push button, it’s very difficult to see him coming apart at the seams when all is said and done.  He’s the class of the race and appears a likely winner on paper, but he will absolutely have to earn it in his sendoff to retirement; one tough hombre.

Seeking the Soul is # 11 at 25/1.  He’s a slow mover from the gate and is likely going to be hung out on a limb into the first turn.  He had his “one shining moment” when he took down the Grade I Clark at Churchill, his last start of 2017.  There are strong connections backing his Floridian arrival but he’s never run at Gulfstream before and he’s also had his struggles in races off the shelf.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see this morning line double given the unenviable gravity of his situation; Pass-adena.

Breaking from the grandstand right next to the popcorn vendor is # 12 Giant Expectations at 30/1.  This is an onerous burden to carry for a talented and improving horse and he was actually a potential race spoiler in my mind before the post-position draw.  It seems like he’s just getting good now and starting to get this game down mentally, so it would be nice to see what he could do with a realistic draw.  However, given that Gary Stevens will have to put the boots and spurs into him early to avoid losing too much ground, I’m a lot more downcast about his prospects heading into a never-before-tried ninth and final furlong.  Look for better days ahead.

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I’ve been hesitant to give West Coast his credit throughout 2017, and feel that now is the time for this improving colt to stamp himself as the older horse to beat in 2018.  Since I’m allergic to betting the chalk, I’ll tab West Coast to grind down Gun Runner in the late stages with War Story and Gunnevera doing their best work late.

2-10-8-6 in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup.

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