Gulfstream’s Pegasus has fans seeing double
By Bob Ehalt
If you liked the first two runnings of the Pegasus World Cup, then Saturday’s huge day of racing at Gulfstream Park should double your pleasure.
That 12-race card will feature not one, but two Pegasus races.
After offering one $16 million dirt race last year, Gulfstream officials took all that cash and divided it into a $9 million dirt race and a $7 turf race.
With North America’s richest dirt and turf races on the same day, the new Pegasus format has brought more of the sport’s best horses to Florida for a late January showdown.
The Pegasus dirt once again attracted 12 starters and probably landed its deepest field.
Accelerate, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, also figures to be the choice in the betting when post time arrives at approximately (it’s always best to say approximately when discussing a Gulfstream Park starting time) 5:36 p.m.
In bidding to become the third Breeders’ Cup Classic winner to win the Pegasus in as many years, Accelerate comes into the final start of his career with a mark of six wins in seven 2018 starts. Five of those wins came in Grade 1 stakes as the 6-year-old was named the champion older male and finished second in Horse of the Year voting to Triple Crown champion Justify at Thursday’s Eclipse Awards presentations.
That lone loss, however, came at the hands of City of Light, who might emerge as Accelerate’s main rival in the Pegasus.
City of Light (5-2) beat Accelerate by a neck in the Oaklawn Handicap and comes into the Pegasus off a brilliant 2 ¾-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Gunnevera (8-1), who is based in Florida, was second in the BC Classic and will be hoping to use some familiar surroundings to turn the table on Accelerate.
In nine starts at Gulfstream Park, Gunnevera has registered four wins, two seconds and two thirds.
Patternrecognition (10-1) was a smart winner of the Cigar Mile last month at Aqueduct, but faces a tough assignment from post 12.
Audible was also priced at 10-1 in the morning line and will need a bounce-back effort to be a major factor. Third in the Kentucky Derby, Audible did not race again until Nov. 3 when he captured the Cherokee Run Stakes at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.
Shipped to Florida, Audible ran into a wet track in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park and finished a wide second in his final prep for the Pegasus. Audible does have an ace up his sleeve as he relishes the racing surface at Gulfstream as evidenced by wins in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Holy Bull last winter.
The rest of the field includes Bravazo (12-1), Something Awesome (20-1), Seeking the Soul (12-1), Tom’s d’Etat (20-1), True Timber (30-1), the undefeated Mexican star Kukulkan (30-1) and Imperative (30-1).
Though full fields and turf racing usually go hand-in-hand, the Pegasus Turf was unable to attract 12 entrants willing to put up the $500,000 starting fee.
Yet there will be a field of 10 with enough parity to make the National Football League blush.
Yoshida is a deserving 5-2 favorite off Grade 1 wins on turf and dirt last year, but will be severely pushed by a group of main rivals that includes Catapult (7-2), Bricks and Mortar (5-1), Magic Wand (9-2), a European filly who was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mate Turf, and the Japanese mare Aerolithe.
As female runners who will not be administered Lasix for the race, both Magic Wand and Aerolithe will get a 12-pound break in the weights over most of the top male starters, and that could prove to be a huge edge.
Channel Maker (12-1) will also race without Lasix and will get a 7-pound edge in the weights, which should be beneficial for a horse talented enough to win the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic last fall.
The rest of the field features Next Shares (15-1), Fahan Mura (30-1), Delta Prince (15-1) and Dubby Dubbie (30-1).