For the second straight year, the Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park marked the last hurrah for a brilliant five-year-old at the peak of his powers.
The manner in which City of Light won the Pegasus on January 26—defeating a stacked field of graded stakes winners with complete authority—leaves fans simultaneously marveling at the brilliance of his performance and wondering what his future might have held if retirement weren’t impending.
Beforehand, the third running of North America’s richest horse race was billed as a showdown between two high-class Breeders’ Cup winners. Accelerate was bet down to narrow favoritism off a stellar 2018 campaign that culminated with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), while City of Light was the second choice on the basis of a clear-cut triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).
But in the end, City of Light radiated dominance from an early point in the 1 1/8-mile race, which was contested over a sloppy, sealed track that saw considerable rainfall throughout the day and during the race itself. With Javier Castellano in the saddle, City of Light—making his first start since a terrific win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I)—pressed steady fractions of :23.23 and :46.84 while just cruising along and biding his time, waiting to make a move.
Meanwhile, Accelerate was rating just behind the leaders in fifth place, barely more than a length off the lead as part of a compact group of pace pressers. As the field moved around the far turn, City of Light moved to the front and Accelerate shifted out to make his bid, and it briefly seemed as though the much-anticipated match race to the wire was about to begin.
But the two favorites were exhibiting very different body language. While City of Light was taking command without urging, Accelerate was under pressure to match strides, and when jockey Javier Castellano finally asked City of Light to run, the son of Quality Road put the race to bed with a burst of speed that carried him to an overwhelming lead past the furlong marker. From there, he came home under an easy ride to win by 5 ¾ lengths in a quick 1:47.71 seconds.
“When Javier started moving at the half-mile pole, it didn’t appear that anybody was really pressuring him,” winning trainer Michael McCarthy told Gulfstream Park after the race. “He was able to go ahead and hold off his run for a little bit. One he switched leads coming into the lane, you saw what happened. It was over. I’m very happy for the horse. He’s an amazing animal, an amazing athlete.”
Accelerate tried his best, but was passed in the lane by longshot Seeking the Soul and had to settle for third place. The ever-consistent Bravazo rounded out the superfecta.
Both City of Light and Accelerate will now head to Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky, where City of Light will stand for a fee of $35,000 and Accelerate for $20,000. Their careers are complete, and their retirements will leave two massive holes in the older horse division that could take a long time to fill.