Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup returns on Saturday, Jan. 25, for its fourth running — but with a few tweaks. Purse money has dipped from $9 million last year to $3 million, and horses will be required to compete without any race day medication.
In turn, the entry structure has changed to that of a more traditional stakes. Owners no longer need to purchase a spot in the starting gate, with invitations out to 17 horses, 12 of which were listed as “invitees” and five as “reserve invitees.”
Combining information from Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker, interviews and other published reports, we’ve assembled a projected field here. Please note that the early projected odds do not balance, as we’re still three weeks out and the contenders list remains tentative.
Bravazo [ML 30-1 – Awesome Again – D. W. Lukas/L. Saez – 18: 3-4-3 – $2,009,528] Bravazo collected most of his $2 million in earnings by hitting the board in 2018 Grade 1 races like the Preakness, Haskell, Travers, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and the Clark. He ran a disappointing ninth in his 2019 debut in the Clark, but trainer D. Wayne Lukas rarely has his horses ready to run after long layoffs. Connections maintain high ambitions despite surgery knocking Bravazo out for most of 2019. He was fourth in last year’s Pegasus.
Diamond Oops [ML 30-1 – Lookin At Lucky – P. Biancone/J. Leparoux – 12: 5-2-1 – $646,490] After his victory in the recent seven-furlong Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, trainer Patrick Biancone said he would love to get invited to the Pegasus. Most of Diamond Oops’ success has come sprinting, but he was second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) on the lawn last October at Keeneland, showing distance may not be an issue. All five of his victories have come at his home track, Gulfstream.
Higher Power [ML 5-1 – Medaglia d’ Oro – J. Sadler/F. Prat – 15: 5-1-6 – $1,376,648] The 5-year-old will head to Florida following a pair of Santa Anita Grade 1 show finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Awesome Again. The defeats stemmed, at least partially, from poor breaks from the gate. Before that, the John Sadler runner registered his signature victory in the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar.
Mr Freeze [ML 30-1 – To Honor and Serve – D. Romans/R. Albarado – 10: 4-3-1 – $639,110] Mr Freeze shows the lowest earnings in the field but still has banked more than $600,000. He grabbed big checks with wins in the West Virginia Derby (G3) and then the Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs. In November, he was third in the Clark when he briefly held the lead in the stretch. There could be some upside left in this newly turned 5-year-old.
Omaha Beach [ML 7-5 – War Front – R. Mandella/M. Smith – 10: 5-4-1 – $1,651,800] Omaha Beach became the Kentucky Derby based on his wins in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). His chances on the first Saturday in May were halted by throat surgery, but he came back with versatile wins against older horses while sprinting. In the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he got too far behind early and was second to Spun to Run. Regardless of how the Pegasus field develops, Omaha Beach will be the favorite off the back of an easy victory in the Malibu (G1). The Pegasus will stretch him back out to the Arkansas Derby distance.
Roadster [ML 12-1 – Quality Road – B. Baffert/J. Rosario – 9: 3-3-1 – $812,200] This Bob Baffert runner is winless since the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in April. He was 15th in the Kentucky Derby after wiped out leaving the gate, and since then he has posted three second-place finishes. Most recently, the son of Quality Road was the runner-up behind Omaha Beach in the Malibu. The Derby remains his only start outside of California.
Seeking the Soul [ML 20-1 – Perfect Soul (IRE) – D. Stewart/B. Hernandez Jr. – 31: 7-8-7 – $3,420,153] With a second last year and a fifth in 2018, Seeking the Soul is the Pegasus World Cup veteran. But since his most-recent victory in last June’s Stephen Foster (G2), his form has been lackluster. He was last seen running sixth in the Clark, and it’s possible that the 7-year-old has lost a step, although, Dallas Stewart has a history of getting horses ready to run at long odds in big races.
Spun to Run [ML 7-2 – Hard Spun – J. C. Guerrero/I. Ortiz Jr. – 12: 5-2-3 – $1,160,520] His victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile makes him the only horse in the field with a win in the Breeders’ Cup. Notably, previous Pegasus heroes Arrogate, Gun Runner and City of Light exited Breeders’ Cup wins, too. Spun to Run is a bit different in one regard. Since the championships, he has raced again, chasing Maximum Security throughout when second in the Cigar Mile (G1). It was another strong performance nonetheless for this later developing horse.
Tax [ML 15-1 – Arch – D. Gargan/I. Ortiz Jr. – 10: 3-3-1 – $828,300] Tax had a nice year in 2019 racing against fellow 3-year-olds with noteworthy wins in the Withers (G3) on the Derby trail and then at Saratoga in the Jim Dandy (G2). He returned from a three-month layoff after running seventh in the Travers to finish second in the Discovery (G3) behind an up-and-coming Phipps Stable colt named Performer. The Pegasus looks like a tough spot to face older horses for the first time.
True Timber [ML 20-1 – Mineshaft – K. McLaughlin/J. Bravo – 22: 4-4-7 – $950,550] Since running seventh in last year’s Pegasus and then ninth in the Dubai World Cup, True Timber received a six-month freshening. He returned to run third in three graded stakes in New York: the Kelso (G2), Bold Ruler (G3) and the Cigar Mile.
War Story [ML 20-1 – Northern Afleet – E. Dobles/L. Saez – 38: 8-7-5 – $2,984,996] You have to shake your head in admiration at the 8-year-old. Just when you think his time competing in graded stakes is nearing an end, he comes up big again. The old gelding followed a second in the Greenwood (G3) at Parx with a 12-1 upset in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3), which serves as Gulfstream’s local prep race for the Pegasus.
Others Invited (and their more likely next race): Gift Box (Saudi Cup), Magic Wand (Pegasus Turf), Math Wizard (Saudi Cup), Maximum Security (Saudi Cup), McKinzie (Saudi Cup) and Mucho Gusto (Saudi Cup).