Pegasus World Cup highlights weekend action

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

January 26th, 2019

During the weekend between the National Football League Conference Championship games and the upcoming Super Bowl in Atlanta, thoroughbred racing fans will have plenty to digest this Saturday afternoon as Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida, hosts the third edition of the Grade I, $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the main track and the inaugural running of the Grade I, $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf.

Saturday's final race at Gulfstream Park is the third running of the Grade I, $9 million Pegasus World Cup and the race certainly merits its Grade I designation. The same, however, can not be said of the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf which came up light on Grade I winners and gives every indication it should have been listed as a Grade II event for the first edition tomorrow.

The Pegasus World Cup features a pair of Breeders Cup winners, Classic hero Accelerate, the Eclipse Award winner for champion older male for 2018, and City of Light, the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile winner who handed Accelerate his only defeat last season in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap.

A six-year-old Lookin At Lucky stallion trained by John Sadler, Accelerate ended his previous campaign with a determined length victory over Gunnevera in the Breeders Cup Classic and looms the solid choice here in this one-mile and one-eighth event in his scheduled career finale. Accelerate won five Grade I events last season, including the Santa Anita Handicap and the Pacific Classic and will probably drift several ticks lower than his 9-5 morning line price before post time.

Several spots to his inside is City of Light, primarily a one-turn specialist last season for trainer Michael McCarthy who did topple Accelerate in the Oaklawn Handicap at this distance last April. In their rematch in the Gild Cup at 10 furlongs, however, City of Light proved no match for Accelerate and he shifted back to one-turn stakes for the remainder of the season and won the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile after finishing a solid second in the Forego at Saratoga.

Certainly the main threat to the top pair in here is Gunnevera, runner-up in the Breeders Cup Classic for trainer Antonio Sano who has always displayed a fondness for the Gulfstream strip. Gunnevera sports a 4-2-2 slate and $1.8 million bankroll from nine starts at GP - he has won just twice from 10 starts elsewhere - and won the Fountain of Youth over the track and was third behind Gun Runner in last year's Pegasus.

Those who followed Justify during his successful run to the Triple Crown last spring will recall Bravazo and Audible. Bravazo finished sixth in the Derby, second in the Preakness then sixth in the Belmont Stakes for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who ended his sophomore season with a sharp second in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Audible finished third in the Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher but was idle until winning the Cherokee Run Stakes on the Breeders Cup undercard before running second recently in the Harlan's Holiday over this strip.

Patternrecognition and True Timber finished one-two in the Grade I Cigar Mile last out, while Something Awesome opened his previous campaign with victories in the Grade III General George, the $100,000 Harrison Johnson then the Grade II, $1.2 million Charles Town Classic for trainer Jose Corrales. Imperative has won the Charles Town Classic twice for two different trainers, accounting for over one-half of his career earnings over $3 million.

Perhaps the genuine mystery horse in the Pegasus is Mexican star Kukulkan, who has won all 14 of his career starts including a victory in the $300,000 Caribbean Classic at Gulfstream in December. Kukulkan won that event by 10 lengths in the slow final time of 1:54.4, loses jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. to Gunnevera but picks up the services of European star Frankie Dettori. Seeking The Soul was the beaten favorite in the Clark, while Tom's d'Etat picks a unique time to tackle Graded stakes foes for the first time.

One race earlier in the Grade I, $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, the inaugural edition of this grass event came up particularly light. The 10 starters boast a combined total of only five Grade I wins and Yoshida collected one of them on the dirt.

Nevertheless, Yoshida looms the lukewarm favorite in this one-mile and three-sixteenths event over the Gulfstream lawn, although Magic Wand and Aerolithe, two of three distaffers in the group, will certainly pose serious threats to the choice. Magic Wand was second in a pair of Group I events at Longchamps last fall and Aerolithe won one Grade I last year in Japan and was second in another. Stateside runner Catapult won a pair of Grade II events last summer at Del Mar and may be good enough to upend these for Sadler.