Innovation still king as stars gather for fourth edition of the Pegasus

Likely Pegasus World Cup Dirt favorite Higher Power (ridden by Flavien Prat, who will be aboard again at Gulfstream) winning the G1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August. Benoit photo

Among the advertised jazz brunches, luxury suits and post-race race concert with Grammy Award-winners, it can be easy to forget that there are two stellar G1s taking place at Gulfstream Park on Saturday: the $3 million Pegasus World Cup and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf. 

The meeting, run under its current guise, began with a bang in 2017, announcing itself on the global stage under the moniker of ‘The world’s richest race’, which was made possible due to its unique entrance structure, which topped of at $16 million in 2018.

The prize pots may have reduced, but innovation still remains king for The Stronach Group (TSG) for its January showpiece. Uniquely for racing Stateside, it will go entirely medication-free, while TSG plans to donate two percent of the purses to Thoroughbred aftercare, which will contribute to rehabilitating and rehoming former racehorses.  

The main event – won brilliantly by Arrogate, Gun Runner and City Of Light in 2017, 2018 and 2019 – has again attracted many stars of the dirt, such as the Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Gusto and the John Sadler-trained Higher Power.

The aforementioned pair are vying for favouritism after the race’s markets took on a drastic change following the scratchings of ante post favourite Omaha Beach and, the horse who would probably have posed the biggest danger, Spun To Run, who defeated Omaha Beach in their only meeting.

Trainer Richard Mandella confirmed that Omaha Beach had a “light swelling in his right hind fetlock” and the Pegasus becomes the second big race that the classy colt has had to miss when a warm fav (the son of War Front was forced to sit out the 2019 Kentucky Derby due to the discovery of an entrapped epiglottis, which affected his ability to breathe).   

“While we’re disappointed to have to miss the Pegasus World Cup, Omaha Beach’s safety and well-being comes first, and we wanted to do what was best for him. He’s been a great pleasure to have around the barn and we're grateful for the opportunity to train such a magnificent horse,” said Mandella.

Spun To Run was taken out of the race due to a skin rash caused by a reaction to wood shavings, news that owner Robert P. Donaldson said felt like a “punch in the gut”.

The fourth Pegasus World Cup is nonetheless set to be a wide-open contest with many looking to cap their careers before new lives in the breeding sheds beckon. Aside from the top two in the market, most of the field will start the race with odds in double-figures.

European feel

The other showpiece race of the day is the Pegasus World Cup Turf, which returns to the card after a successful first running last year. And, this year it has a somewhat European feel to the fancied runners, Without Parole and Magic Wand.  

World #1 jockey Frankie Dettori is reunited with favourite Without Parole in the $1 million contest. The former John Gosden-trained 5-year is having his second American outing since joining Chad Brown, for whom he finished a closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita last November.

Dettori, of course, partnered the son of Frankel to when the pair landed the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2018.

Among the opposition is Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting mare Magic Wand, who finished second to newly crowned U.S. Horse of the Year Bricks And Mortar in the inaugural running a year ago and is set to be ridden by world #2 Ryan Moore.

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