The inaugural running of North America’s richest turf race—the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (gr. I)—didn’t attract as deep a field as one might have hoped given the size of the purse, but you certainly can’t knock the race from a betting perspective.
Ten starters have turned out to contest the 1 3/16-mile race at Gulfstream Park, and a case can be made for just about all of them to win or hit the board. It’s in races like this one where taking a stand with a strong opinion can lead to a significant wagering score, and I’m prepared to do just that with a recent allowance winner stepping up in class.
Let’s take a horse-by-horse look at the field….
#1 Magic Wand: This capable four-year-old finished a respectable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I), but she’s shortening up in distance while facing males and will have to negotiate a good trip from a potentially tricky rail draw. It’s also worth noting that for all the success trainer Aidan O’Brien has enjoyed in North America, his runners went 1-for-29 here last year and just 2-for-25 in 2017.
#2 Yoshida: Following a couple of strong efforts on dirt, including a victory in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), Yoshida will return to turf in search of the form that secured him a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs last spring. He’ll attract wagering support based on his established class and reputation, but I find it a little concerning that Yoshida has flattened out in his two starts beyond 1 1/8 miles, and his old rival Bricks and Mortar (see below) might be just as talented while offering better odds.
#3 Channel Maker: Winner of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I), Channel Maker is a well-established Grade 1 competitor but has scored his biggest victories going 1 3/8 miles or farther. 1 3/16 miles isn’t exactly a short race, but could it be a hair sharper than Channel Maker prefers? At least he’ll race without Lasix and carry seven pounds less than Yoshida.
#4 Areolithe: A speedy mare with solid Group 1 form in Japan, Aerolithe clocked 1,800 meters (about nine furlongs) in a rapid 1:44.50 when beating the up-and-coming Stelvio in the Mainichi Okan (Jpn-II) two starts back. Aerolithe has plenty of early speed and will certainly be among the pace players on Saturday, but can she carry her speed 1 3/16 miles while making her first start outside of Japan? It’s hard to say, but she’ll be racing without Lasix and will carry just 112 pounds as a result, 12 less than the majority of her rivals.
#5 Next Shares: He never really fired in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but Next Shares can still boast three wins from his last four starts, and he produced a gallant finish to prevail by a nose in the San Gabriel Stakes (gr. II) going 1 1/8 miles just three weeks ago. With solid Grade 1 form under his belt, including a victory against classy opposition in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I), Next Shares rates among the longshots with a chance in the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
#6 Fahan Mura: A wickedly fast front-runner, this five-year-old former claimer has been known to stretch her speed as far as 1 1/8 miles, but she gives the impression of being a miler at heart and might find this distance and class level a bit too challenging.
#7 Bricks and Mortar: I’ve long held the opinion that Bricks and Mortar has the talent to be a very serious racehorse, and the turn-of-foot he displayed to win a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream last month (while returning from a 14 ½-month layoff) suggests that he could be sitting on a big season. As a three-year-old in 2017 he was every bit as good as Yoshida, and you can argue that only a couple of tough trips have prevented Bricks and Mortar from being undefeated in seven starts. Drawing post seven should afford Bricks and Mortar every opportunity to secure a clean, traffic-free trip, and if he can replicate the phenomenal acceleration he’s shown going shorter—like the ~27 4/5 final five-sixteenths that he unleashed to defeat Yoshida in the 2017 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II)—I think he’ll win the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
#8 Delta Prince: He’s never run a bad race at Gulfstream Park and has faced challenging circumstances in his last couple of starts, but Delta Prince has also had trouble finishing off his runs at times and is unproven going farther than a mile.
#9 Catapult: Like Delta Prince, Catapult has been campaigned primarily as a miler (with a runner-up finish in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Mile among his best efforts), but unlike Delta Prince, Catapult can boast a couple of wins going 1 1/8 miles, including a late-running score in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar. In that race, Catapult produced a final furlong in about :11 1/5 to win by a neck, and as a son of Kitten’s Joy he should be able to stretch out a little further in the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
#10 Dubby Dubbie: A three-time allowance winner, Dubby Dubbie has come up short when facing easier competition than this and is tough to endorse on Saturday.
$10 to win on #7 Bricks and Mortar
$2.00 trifecta: 7 with 2 with 3,4,5,9 ($8)
$1.50 trifecta: 7 with 3,4,5,9 with 2 ($6)
$0.50 trifecta: 7 with 3,4,5,9 with 3,4,5,9 ($6)