Accelerate or City of Light—who’ve you got?
It seems that the majority of handicappers will be picking one of those two runners to win the $9 million Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park, and it’s easy to understand why. They both won Breeders’ Cup races in November and will be tough to beat if they run to form at Gulfstream.
Still, there are ten other runners in the field for this 1 1/8-mile event, so let’s take a horse-by-horse look at the race….
#1 Bravazo: He rarely reaches the winner’s circle, but Bravazo has earned more than $1.3 million by consistently cracking the trifecta in high-class races like the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), Haskell Invitational (gr. I), Travers Stakes (gr. I), and Clark Handicap (gr. I). He’s been training up a storm in preparation for the Pegasus World Cup and could be a legitimate threat to hit the board once again.
#2 Something Awesome: He can win at the graded stakes level on his best day—just look at his gutsy victory in the 2018 Charles Town Classic (gr. II)—but this is by far the toughest field he’s ever faced, and as an eight-year-old making his second start off an injury-induced layoff, I’m not certain he’ll bring his A-game on Saturday.
#3 City of Light: This speedy five-year-old was the only horse to defeat Accelerate in 2018, edging that rival fairly and squarely in the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II). Furthermore, City of Light demonstrated that he’s no one-hit wonder by cruising to a 2 ¾-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) three months ago, earning an eye-catching 111 BRIS speed figure. As one of just two front-runners in the Pegasus World Cup field, City of Light should have no trouble securing the lead (and the rail), and if he runs like he did in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile it’s going to take a big effort to run him down.
#4 Seeking the Soul: Fifth behind Gun Runner in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup, Seeking the Soul did win the 2017 Clark Handicap (gr. I) going 1 1/8 miles, but as of late he’s seemed significantly more effective racing around one turn, as was the case when he finished a clear second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I). A weakening third in the 2018 Clark suggests that he needs a perfect setup (perhaps against easier competition) to truly excel at this distance.
#5 Accelerate: What can you say? Accelerate won five Grade 1 races in 2018, and historically speaking he’s a perfect fit for this race. He did regress a bit on the speed figure scales toward the end of 2018, but even with regression he was good enough to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), and from all appearances he’s trained like a monster since then and is ready to roll in the Pegasus World Cup. Some have suggested that he could be vulnerable while cutting back to 1 1/8 miles, but take note, he’s 3-for-4 at this distance with his lone defeat coming by a neck against City of Light in the above-mentioned Oaklawn Handicap. If Accelerate loses on Saturday, I don’t think it will be the distance that beats him.
#6 Tom’s d’Etat: He’s completely unproven at the graded stakes level, but Tom’s d’Etat has won his last four starts by a combined 22 lengths while earning sharp speed figures. A versatile runner with tactical speed plus the ability to rate off the lead, Tom’s d’Etat fits well enough on paper but could find the task of pressing City of Light and Accelerate to be wildly tougher than he’s accustomed to.
#7 True Timber: Runner-up in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) last time out, True Timber is in career-best form but seems to have found his niche as a sprinter/miler. The step up in class and distance for the Pegasus World Cup is an ambitious task.
#8 Gunnevera: Like Bravazo, Gunnevera has been a “pick up the pieces” type as of late, but those pieces have been pretty big—he was third in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup and most recently second behind Accelerate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Even better, Gunnevera loves Gulfstream Park and has cracked the trifecta in eight of his nine starts here. A victory would be a surprise, but Gunnevera can certainly round out the trifecta or superfecta.
#9 Kukulkan: The undefeated Mexican Triple Crown winner boasts a 14-for-14 record and was an effortless 10 ¼-length winner of the Caribbean Classic Stakes at Gulfstream last month, but his final time of 1:54.80 for 1 1/8 miles translated to a meager 70 Beyer. The race came back considerably faster on the BRIS scale (101), a rather stunning discrepancy, but in any case I think it’s clear that Kukulkan is taking a big step up in class and will find the waters much deeper this time.
#10 Audible: Winner of the 2018 Florida Derby (gr. I) over this track and distance, Audible endured a wide trip in a strangely-run renewal of the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes (gr. III) here last month, ultimately flattening out to finish second behind the ground-saving longshot winner Sir Anthony. That struck me as a regression off Audible’s fine win in the seven-furlong Cherokee Run Stakes two starts back, and I have mixed feelings about what to expect from him on Saturday. A faster pace than he encountered in the Harlan’s Holiday would certainly help his chances, as might a dry track.
#11 Imperative: The 2017 Charles Town Classic (gr. II) winner has not looked the same since returning from an injury-induced layoff last year. Now nine years old, he would need to turn back the clock to be competitive here.
#12 Patternrecognition: A talented miler with back-to-back wins in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II) and Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) under his belt, Patternrecognition will be tackling two turns for the first time and will have to gun from the gate to avoid getting hung wide on the first turn. That’s a challenging combination that could be tough to overcome.
In conclusion, City of Light and Accelerate figure to dominate the wagering, but I’m not inclined to play both on top. Noting that City of Light was in career-best form for the Breeders’ Cup while Accelerate was possibly starting to regress, I’ll take a shot at keying City of Light on top of a trifecta in the Pegasus while using Accelerate, Bravazo, Gunnevera, and Audible underneath:
$4.50 trifecta: 3 with 5 with 1,8,10 ($13.50)
$2.50 trifecta: 3 with 1,8,10 with 5 ($7.50)
$1.50 trifecta: 3 with 1,8,10 with 1,8,10 ($9)