On Saturday afternoon all eyes in the thoroughbred racing world will focus their attention on Gulfstream Park in sunny, southern Florida when the Hallandale oval hosts the inaugural edition of the Grade I, $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational for older male runners at one-mile and one-eighth over the main dirt track.
Saturday’s premiere edition of the Pegasus World Cup will immediately vault the race into the richest in the sport’s history, just edging out the $10 million pot of the Dubai World Cup at Meydan. Fittingly enough, the Pegasus features last year’s Dubai World Cup winner, California Chrome, recently crowned thoroughbred racing’s horse of the year for a second time in the last three years, and Arrogate, the Breeders Cup Classic hero who garnered champion three-year-old male honors but yielded the horse of the year title to California Chrome less than three months after defeating that rival in the Classic.
As luck would have it, Arrogate and California Chrome drew on opposite ends of the starting gate for the Pegasus World Cup, slated for once around the nine-furlong main track at Gulfstream. California Chrome, who will be making the final start of his career for trainer Art Sherman, drew post 12 on the far outside but was tabbed as the 6-5 favorite despite the outer slot thanks largely to the more favorable distance and the fact that he has raced since the Breeders Cup Classic, trouncing an overmatched field in the $100,000 Winter Classic at Los Alamitos.
Arrogate, who emerged on the scene last summer in emphatic style by winning the Grade I, $1 million Travers Stakes in track record fashion and then overhauled California Chrome to capture the Breeders Cup Classic, has been installed as the 7-5 second choice from the rail. Arrogate has been idle since winning the Classic, but the Bob Baffert will arrive off a series of six very good workouts – four of them designated as bullets – and likely will be poised for another stellar performance.
California Chrome, who has won 16 of 26 starts and banked a record $14.5 million in his career heading into Saturday, looms as the likely favorite for the inaugural Pegasus World Cup despite his outside draw, while Arrogate, who won five of six starts and earned just over $4 million in a rapid rise to stardom, should be the solid second choice. There is a good chance that all 10 of their rivals will go postward at double-digit odds and several of them could reach triple digits.
Those looking for a potential spoiler or perhaps a longshot to split the top two in the exacta will have several very good options. Noble Bird, who was hampered at the start of the Grade I Clark at Churchill Downs last out, could quickly return to form for trainer Mark Casse. He won the Grade II Fayette at Keeneland by six lengths one race earlier and back in May he won the Grade III Pimlico Special by 11 lengths and one year earlier he won the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill. Among the outsiders he is the most logical to split the two favorites.
The Pegasus World Cup undercard also has several value plays in the numerous stakes that precede the main event. One race earlier in the Grade III, $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap on the turf, give Sadler’s Joy a chance. Granted, this is the first stakes outing for the four-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, but he has won his last three starts for trainer Thomas Albertrani and is peaking at the right time and merits backing at 7-1 or higher despite drawing post 11.
Then just past the midway point of the card, again look to the outside slot in the $125,000 Ladys Turf Sprint Stakes at five furlongs on the grass. Everything Lovely was the beaten favorite in a minor sprint stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last out, but prior to that the Maryland-bred daughter of Pollard’s Vision trained by Kathleen DeMasi won an allowance dash easily at Tampa and she was earlier second to Lady Shipman in the $200,000 Turf Amazon at Parx.