The 2018 Pegasus World Cup takes place this Saturday, Jan. 27. After the post-position draw this past Wednesday, Gun Runner was installed as the 4/5 favorite. Based on how Gun Runner won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic, it sure appears as if 4/5 are fair odds.
But, this is the richest horse race in the world. Does Gun Runner have yet another brilliant run in him? I’m not sure he does. That’s why I’m looking elsewhere.
1. Sharp Azteca 6/1
6/1 on the morning line Sharp Azteca appears well-suited to run his best in the Pegasus World Cup. The key thing about Sharp Azteca is that he became a push button horse when blowing away the field in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.
If the Pegasus World Cup was at 1 1/4 miles, I’d have reservations. He runs awfully close the ground. Usually, I’ve seen that’s a sign that a horse might have trouble getting the classic distance. But, the Pegasus is run at 1 1/8 miles. The Jorge Navarro trainee should have no trouble carrying his speed if he ends up on the lead.
More likely, jockey Irad Ortiz will allow Gun Runner, Collected, and, maybe, even Toast of New York, to get in front of him. Then, Irad will nurse him closer and closer before unleashing the devastating stretch kick he showed in the Cigar Mile.
2. West Coast 8/1
Finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in your first race against older is impressive. That’s what West Coast did when he couldn’t catch either Gun Runner, or Collected in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has the natural speed to stay closer. I’m not sure he’ll need to in a 1 1/8 mile race.
What jockey Javier Castellano is going to want to do is show his burst of speed earlier in the race, maybe, even before the turn, so that he starts motoring before the top of the stretch. That’s the best way to get by Gun Runner and Sharp Azteca.
3. Toast of New York
Sure, he’s only run once since the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The good news is that it was at 1 1/4 miles over the artificial surface at Lingfield in Great Britain. Also, a bit of good news about the race is that he led after 3 furlongs, took back, and then ran by the leader again. That might have been the perfect prep for Toast of New York to show his best on Jan. 27.
If he’s got his running shoes on, it’s harder to find a better longshot in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup than this classy 7-year-old. Toast of New York lost the 2017 Breeders Cup Classic by a long nose to Bayern. He held off California Chrome while running close to a 1:10.1 3/4 mile pace. If not for Bayern changing leads at the perfect moment in the stretch, he’d have won the BC Classic.
That makes him ultra-classy. I love the way he relaxes. He’s also a smart horse. Jockey LanFranco Dettori should have no trouble putting him in whatever position he chooses. Hopefully, if it comes to it, Frankie won’t pull a Swain again.
4. Collected 8/1
The San Antonio Stakes was just a prep for the Pegasus World Cup. Giant Expectations ran the first quarter mile in 24.3. Collected was behind 2.5 lengths at the first call in that race. That tells you all you must know about how slow he went. I believe running so slow for the first 3/4 of a mile in the San Antonio was by design.
I think trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith wanted to use the San Antonio as a teaching moment. They need Collected to run faster when Smith asks him to run faster. If the teaching moment works, he could surprise at decent odds. I expect a race more similar to the Precisionist last June than what we all saw in the San Antonio.
What about Gun Runner? No doubt, the best horse in the world could bury this field. He’s good enough to do it. But, there are horses going off at cray overlay odds in the Pegasus. I’m looking for the big score, which is why I’m leaving the chalk out of my Top 4 all together. The Pegasus World Cup comes around once a year. Why not take a huge shot?