Yoshida, already a rare Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt, returns to the grass in search of his biggest payday yet in the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
The debut of the 9½-furlong Pegasus Turf and the third running of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup – the richest races on either surface in North America – comprise the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series, headlining a 12-race program featuring nine stakes, six Graded, worth $17.125 million in purses.
First race post time is 11:30 a.m. EST. Post time for the Pegasus Turf is 4:50 p.m.
Yoshida, owned by ‘Team Justify’ (WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners), was assigned Post 2 and installed as the 5/2 program favorite among en older horses entered during Tuesday morning’s post-position draw in Frankey’s Sports Bar at Gulfstream. The field features nine Group or Graded winners, including Yoshida’s Bill Mott-trained stablemate Channel Maker.
A 5-year-old Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry, Yoshida made the first ten starts of his career on the turf, including a trip to Royal Ascot last June, when he finished a close-up fifth in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes. He ran first or second in seven of those grass races, four of them wins, topped by the G1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard in his 2018 debut.
Yoshida, who trains regularly over the dirt, was given his first shot on the main track in the G1 Woodward at Saratoga in September, and he responded with an impressive come-from-behind two-length triumph over Gunnevera. In his last start, he again came from well back to be fourth, beaten less than two lengths, in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic behind likely Pegasus World Cup Dirt favorite and 2018 Horse of the Year finalist Accelerate.
Since the same connections also own 2018 Florida Derby winner and Pegasus World Cup Dirt contender Audible, they decided to put Yoshida – out of the Canadian Frontier mare Hilda’s Passion – back on grass for the Pegasus Turf.
“He’s got a pedigree that would probably lend itself to turf or dirt. On the top side, maybe a little turf and dirt. The bottom side, his mother was a Grade 1 winner at the sprint distances … so he’s got a pedigree for both and he’s one of the odd horses that has transitioned from one to the other,” Mott said.
“It’s probably debatable whether his dirt races are better than his turf races, and they may well be, but he’s a horse that won very nicely for us in the spring last year on the turf. He’s run with good company, and we weighed our options here and thought that maybe the turf was the spot to go this time.”
Following the Breeders’ Cup, Yoshida joined Mott’s winter string at Payson Park in Florida, where he shows six works over its main track since mid-December. Jose Ortiz, up in the Joe Hirsch and Breeders’ Cup, is named to ride back in the Pegasus Turf.
“We gave him a little bit of a break … when he came out of the Breeders’ Cup, but we kept him … jogging and training easily,” Mott said. “We made the decision to run in the Pegasus, so we started cranking him up and he’s done very well since then. He seems like since every work he’s picked up in condition and seems to be feeling very good with himself.”
The other contenders
CHANNEL MAKER, owned by Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, exits an off-the-board finish over a soft course in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 3. The 5-year-old son of grass champion English Channel won two of eight starts last year, dead-heating with Eclipse Award male turf finalist Glorious Empire in the G2 Bowling Green and romping by 4½ lengths in the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in September.
“He’s very good. He had been in really great form during Saratoga and Belmont. He won a ‘Win and You’re In’ when he won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and we ran in the Breeders’ Cup Turf going a mile and a half. Very soggy turf that day, a lot more pace than maybe he had had when he won the Joe Hirsch,” Mott said. “We made the decision collectively to have him in the race that day and I think by doing that we kind of forced his hand a little too much and the turf was very soft and it just worked against him.
“He’s not a horse that has to be in front or up on the pace, it just happened that he won the Joe Hirsch so that was freshly in our mind when he went into the Breeders’ Cup. It wasn’t the day to have him up on the pace,” he added.
“He’s a horse that’s not really one-dimensional by any means. It looks like the Pegasus is going to have some pace in it, so in that particular instance I don’t think we have to push him up toward the lead early in the race.”
Javier Castellano will ride Channel Maker (12/1) from Post 3.
Before he attempts to win the Pegasus World Cup with Accelerate, trainer John Sadler will send out Woodford Racing’s CATAPULT in the Pegasus Turf, second choice on the morning line at 7/2. The 6-year-old son of turf champion and prolific sire Kitten’s Joy won the nine-furlong G2 Eddie Read and G2 Del Mar Mile prior to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he was second by a half-length to Eclipse Award finalist Expert Eye.
“I think he’s better than he was last year. He had a little foot issue after the Del Mar Mile and we trained him right into the Breeders’ Cup, but he’s been perfect out of the Breeders’ Cup. I think he’s in tip-top shape,” Sadler said.
“His record is so good. He won both those stakes at Del Mar, [and was] almost kind of an unlucky loser … in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, so his record is very, very good. They might look at the distance, but he won the Eddie Read at a mile and an eighth and he’s a big, strong horse. He won’t have any problem with the distance.”
Catapult will break from Post 9 with Joel Rosario aboard.
BRICKS AND MORTAR, a 5-year-old son of late six-time G1 winner Giant’s Causeway, will be making just his eighth career start in the Pegasus Turf. He is undefeated in two tries over Gulfstream’s turf, breaking his maiden at first asking in February 2017 and returning from a 14½-month break between races to capture a one-mile optional claiming allowance Dec. 22.
Bricks And Mortar, owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, won each of his first four career starts, including the G2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes in 2017, beating Yoshida by three-quarters of a length. Bricks And Mortar was third in his final two starts at three, a half-length behind runner-up Yoshida in the G3 Saranac and by a total of three-quarters of a length in the G3 Hill Prince, also won by Yoshida.
“He’s a horse that always showed a lot of promise as a 3-year-old and unfortunately had some injuries and needed a long time away from racing,” trainer Chad Brown said.
“We were able to get him back in time to have a real productive allowance race, and he seems ready to move forward. It’s a big jump to go right into a Grade 1 like this, but he’s a horse that’s doing well and he’s got that race under his belt. He’s fit and we’re happy to have a horse to participate.”
Irad Ortiz Jr, favored to earn his first Eclipse Award as champion jockey tomorrow, will ride Bricks And Mortar (5/1) from Post 7.
AEROLITHE, a G1 winner from Japan owned by Sunday Racing, and the Coolmore Partners’ MAGIC WAND, winner of the mile-and-a-half G2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last June, lend international intrigue to the Pegasus Turf. Both are females facing males, with Magic Wand, a daughter of Galileo, having one previous North American start - when fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last November. Jockey Wayne Lordan has the call from Post 1.
Aerolithe will be racing for the first time outside her native country. She has been first or second in nine of 13 lifetime starts, four of them wins, including victories over males in the 2017 G1 NHK Mile Cup and the nine-furlong G2 Mainichi Okan last October. Florent Geroux, winner of the 2018 Pegasus with Horse of the Year Gun Runner, will be aboard from Post 4.
“She’s never shied away from the boys, and she always runs really well,” trainer Takanori Kikuzawa said through interpreter Kate Hunter, Pegasus World Cup field representative for the Japan Racing Association. “She’s got a very strong personality and likes the competition, so she’s in a good spot mentally, as well. This filly has got a lot of speed and, if you look at some of her previous races, she can really go to the front. If we get a good start we plan on going forward and hopefully staying there.”
Stronach Stables’ homebred DELTA PRINCE will be making his 6-year-old debut in the Pegasus Turf under Frankie Dettori. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Street Cry has been worse than third just once in 11 lifetime starts, when fourth in the G1 Woodbine Mile Sept. 15.
Winner of the King Edward (G2) over Woodbine’s turf last summer and second by a neck in the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga, both at one mile, Delta Prince returns to the grass after finishing third in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler (G3) over Aqueduct’s main track Nov. 2.
“We’re taking a little bit of a shot. He’s running further than he ever has in his life but he’s bred to go the route. The furthest I ever had him in was in a race going a mile and an eighth, the Knickerbocker, and we ended up having to scratch. I think as long as he rates kindly enough and gets a decent enough trip, he’ll get the distance,” Jerkens said.
“The other day I gave him nice, easy mile around two turns just to see and make sure he didn’t turn the other way and get a little bit on the rank side because of it, and he didn’t. He rated like a baby and he finished up nice so I was really happy with it.” Delta Prince (15/1) will break from Post 8.
NEXT SHARES, owned by Mike and Jules Iavarone, Jerry McClanahan, Christopher Dunn, William Marasa, Ritchie Robershaw and Mark Taylor, enters the Pegasus Turf having won three of his last four starts, the most recent a gutsy nose triumph in the nine-furlong G2 San Gabriel Jan. 5 at Santa Anita. An impressive 3¼-length winner of the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October at Keeneland, he was in contention before fading to 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
“There was so much rain that day, and he drew inside, and it was really bad. The inside part of the turf was really boggy, and he got covered up and just spun his wheels. Those are the best horses in the world, obviously, and they ran a mile in 1:38 so that tells you how soft the turf was,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “That being said, he was doing great going into that race.
“He’s just getting good. He’s a gelding, so I think he’s probably just coming into his own. He seems like a very happy horse,” he added. “He’s just been in good form. He ran a big race again, and he came back really good. I walked him from the track [the other] morning and he was coming out of his skin. He’s happy.”
Next Shares (15/1) will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from Post 5.
FAHAN MURA, owned by Bran Jam Stable and David W. Clark, punched his ticket to the Pegasus Turf with a front-running three-quarter-length victory in the nine-furlong G3 Robert J. Frankel Dec. 29 at Santa Anita. Also by English Channel, the 5-year-old former claimer is the most experienced runner in the field with 23 starts, nine of them wins. Regular rider Edwin Maldonado returns in the irons from Post 6.
“I think when Edwin Maldonado started riding her, he just let her loose on the front end and she maintained her speed and just got more and more confident and was just able to beat better and better horses,” trainer Vladimir Cerin said. “She only went over a mile and an eighth once, and I think the longer the distances are the more relaxed the pace is and she may be able to maintain a greater advantage for a little longer. I think she has a pretty good chance.”
Rounding out the field is Ron Paolucci Racing’s Dubby Dubbie. The gelded 4-year-old son of 2010 Florida Derby winner Ice Box most recently won a second-level optional claiming allowance going nine furlongs over a yielding Churchill Downs course Nov. 23, and ran third in the G3 American Derby last summer. Luca Panici has the mount from outside Post 10.