by Brian Nadeau
December 6, 2017
The 2nd running of the $16 million Pegasus World Cup is still over seven weeks away, and in the world of the increasingly fragile Thoroughbred race horse, that might as well be seven years away. But right now, the potential field is making this year’s renewal a can’t-miss event. And while it won’t have the Arrogate vs. California Chrome appeal that the inaugural running had, it’s far from Gun Runner and everyone else either and offers a lot more alternatives that last year’s two heavy favorites.
The aforementioned GUN RUNNER, who will be the reigning Horse of the Year when the Pegasus is run, is obviously the event’s main calling card, and will no doubt be an odds-on proposition, especially since the race will take place over a more comfortable 1 1/8 miles. And while he did win the Breeders’ Cup Classic over 1 ¼ miles, the cutback makes him that much more imposing. But if his connections were looking for a soft spot for his swan sing, the Pegasus doesn’t fit the bill.
Bob Baffert will bring in both COLLECTED and WEST COAST, who ran 2-3 in the Classic, and both have their merits. The former ran huge while suffering his only defeat of the year and looked like a winner when he got abreast of Gun Runner turning for home, while the latter still has a ton of upside as a soon-to-be 4-year-old and acquitted himself nicely while testing older horses for the first time.
The most intriguing member of the potential Pegasus lineup has to be SHARP AZTECA, who just blitzed the field in the one-turn Cigar Mile (GI) but has won going two turns in the past and has the speed to not only make the front, but the stamina to really string Gun Runner along and put him in a tough spot. Sure, Sharp Azteca may come back and not be a true 1 1/8-mile horse, but over a Gulfstream main track that often plays to speed, does Gun Runner’s jockey Florent Geroux let Sharp Azteca clear and get loose and run the risk of never seeing him again, or does he press the issue and potentially leave his mount a little soft in the stretch? It’s a good discussion and a tricky scenario.
Dallas Stewart, the white-hot Dallas Stewart, that is, has never shied from a big dance and is bringing both FOREVER UNBRIDLED, who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and will be champion older filly, and SEEKING THE SOUL, who has never been better and just won the Clark (GI) at Churchill Downs. Both are a bit outgunned on paper, but are proven at the GI level and have never been better.
STELLAR WIND, who was second-choice in the Distaff but was last-of-8 then subsequently sold to Coolmore at the Keeneland sale days later, is now back in training with Chad Brown and pointing to the race. Sure, she always blinks on the biggest of days, but she has some very fast races in her and we all know how potent Brown can be in general, let alone at Gulfstream. Toss in MIND YOUR BISCUITS, a crack sprinter who was just 2nd in the Cigar Mile, NEOLITHIC, third to Arrogate in last year’s Pegasus, and GUNNEVERA, who loves the local strip, and you have all the makings of a tremendous race.
For better or worse, the Pegasus took a lot of heat last year, both leading up to the race and after it as well, but Arrogate delivered in spades and, a year later, we’re looking at a field that from top to bottom, is eons better than the one last year. That’s makes January 27 in South Florida—once again—a can’t-miss proposition.