The Pegasus World Cup Invitational (gr. I) will be held for the third time on January 26th, and while two previous renewals isn’t much of a sample size for identifying race trends, already we’re seeing that it takes a special kind of horse to win North America’s richest horse race.
One trend is already obvious. The first two winners of the Pegasus World Cup were Arrogate and Gun Runner, who entered off victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) 2 ½ months prior. The fact that both completed the Classic/Pegasus double reiterates a fact that we’ve already learned from watching horses like Cigar, Pleasantly Perfect, Invasor, and Curlin complete the similar Classic/Dubai World Cup double—that is, a talented horse in top form for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is often able to maintain that form over the winter.
But the similarities between Arrogate and Gun Runner extend beyond their victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Both had scored multiple Grade 1 wins prior to the Pegasus World Cup and were shoo-ins to earn championship honors at the Eclipse Awards a few hours after the Pegasus. Both were versatile in terms of running style, but generally were at their best tracking the early pace before pouncing to the lead around the far turn or in the homestretch.
Also noteworthy is that neither had any experience running at Gulfstream Park, the home of the Pegasus, but were nevertheless able to translate their Breeders’ Cup form to an unfamiliar track that can be tricky for some horses to handle.
Remarkably, the expected 2019 Pegasus World Cup favorite Accelerate fits these trends like a glove. A multiple Grade 1 winner whose 2018 campaign culminated with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Accelerate figures to be a unanimous or near-unanimous choice for champion older male at the Eclipse Awards. Like Arrogate and Gun Runner, Accelerate is versatile but usually takes up a pace-tracking position well-suited to the frequently speed-friendly track at Gulfstream Park, though he’s been based in California for most of his career and has never previously run at Gulfstream.
In other words, if you like to use history and trends in your handicapping, there’s no need to look beyond Accelerate in the Pegasus World Cup. He’s a perfect fit for the race and should be difficult to defeat.
Of course, if you’re going to play the trifecta or superfecta, I would also encourage you to seek out horses with strong form at Gulfstream to play for third or fourth place. In 2017, the 23-1 shot Neolithic—with a perfect 2-for-2 record at Gulfstream—managed to secure third place in the Pegasus, while in 2018 Gunnevera (13-1) and Fear the Cowboy (74-1)—both graded stakes winners at Gulfstream—rallied to finish third and fourth in the Pegasus, triggering a superfecta payoff of $1,142.70 for $1.