by Jeremy Plonk
January 7, 2019
Opinions may vary on the Pegasus World Cup, but one fact cannot be disputed. January’s big-money race has kept the Breeders’ Cup Classic champ in the game for an encore. Accelerate drilled this past weekend at Santa Anita toward the $9 million feature on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream. He remains on course to become the third reigning Classic winner in the World Cup’s three-year history to appear.
The 2017 inaugural saw Breeders’ Cup Classic 1-2 finishers Arrogate and California Chrome in a memorable rematch that no other race in America could have produced. The days of two horses of that ilk meeting in the Santa Anita Handicap are long gone with big money and easy travel prevalent elsewhere. For California Chrome, it was a true career swansong, and for racing fans it provided one last chance to see one of the greats. Arrogate won the battle, of course, but racing fans were the biggest winners.
Last year’s Pegasus World Cup saw Classic winner Gun Runner return to action in successful fashion. And, like California Chrome, it was a one-and-done chance post-Breeders’ Cup to offer an encore. In fact, the 2018 Pegasus featured the 1-2-3-4 finishers from the fall’s Classic, one-upping the inaugural PWC which boasted the Classic’s 1-2-3 alumni. Just as Arrogate did the previous year, Gun Runner made it 2-for-2 in the Pegasus for fellow Classic winners.
Had the Pegasus World Cup existed a year earlier, it’s quite possible the 2016 version would have featured American Pharoah, who swept the ’15 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic before being retired to stud. That’s not far-fetched considering Ahmed Zayat’s desire to run his stable star throughout the summer and into the fall.
While the Dubai World Cup also offers astronomical money, it’s 2 months later in the season and a far greater stretch from the Breeders’ Cup in November to keep in serious training. It also gets closer and closer to the potential breeding season.
Accelerate comes into the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on a four-race winning streak, all at the Grade 1 level. His lone defeat in seven starts last year came at the heels of City of Light in the Oaklawn Handicap. Sure enough, the lure of the PWC is expected to bring about that rematch. City of Light would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by season’s end. So we’re looking at a pair of Breeders’ Cup champions expected in the starting gate Jan. 26, not to mention another Classic 1-2 rematch with Gunnevera among the probables.
Beyond Accelerate, Gunnevera and City of Light, the 2019 Pegasus World Cup also is expected to attract the likes of Bravazo, Audible, Seeking the Soul, Patternrecognition, Something Awesome, True Timber and the unbeaten Mexican Triple Crown and Caribbean Classic winner Kukulkan (to be ridden by the great Frankie Dettori). Tom’s d’Etat also was added to the mix this past weekend.
Meanwhile, Yoshida, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has been confirmed for the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf on the undercard, where Japanese Group 1 winner Aerolithe adds international intrigue.
Be sure to get up-to-date workout videos from Florida and California, as well as interviews, for the Pegasus World Cup preparations at https://www.xbtv.com/video-on-demand/pegasusworldcup2019/. Among the videos is “A Candid Conversation with Trainer John Sadler” of Accelerate fame.