Horse Racing Stories

The Pegasus World Cup Field Disappoints

Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

By: Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

The Breeders’ Cup Classic offers a purse of $6 million dollars, making it the biggest purse in American, North American, or for that matter, Western Hemisphere racing. The second biggest purse in the Western Hemisphere is the Breeders’ Cup Turf with its $4 million dollar purse. The third biggest purse is the Pegasus Invitational with a $3 million dollar purse.

In the grand scheme of things, there are bigger purse races in the Eastern Hemisphere;

  1. The $20 million Saudi Cup;
  2. The Everest (a race in Australia, is billed as the “richest race on the turf,” with a purse of about) The purse is 2 million Australian Dollars which is about $13,160,000 United States Dollars.
  3. the $13 million Dubai World Cup (1 mile 2 furlongs on the dirt);
  4.  the $6 million Dubai Turf on Dubai World Cup night (about 1 mile 1 furlong on the turf);
  5.  the $ 6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (1 ½ miles on Dubai World Cup Night);
  6. The Japan Cup has a purse of about $8.3 million.
  7. The Golden Eagle raced in Australia, about $6,574,500 United States Dollar, $10 million Australian Dollars;
  8. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has a purse of about $5,428,125.00 United States Dollars;
  9. The Melbourne Cup, 2 miles on the turf, has a purse of $5,528,313 United States dollars; or $8,410,000 Australian.

The Everest, which still has the richest purse on the turf, actually started by selling slots, much like the Pegasus did when it was a $16 million or $19 million race. Perhaps this can be a subject for a different date.

So there are 9 horse races in the world with a pot significantly richer than the Pegasus—that’s not a lot. There are horse races with purses around the $3 million mark.

There is a spring Tenno Sho and an autumn Tenno Sho in Japan, both with a purse of ¥ 475,200,000 which is about $3,213,000 United States Dollars.

Along with the Hong Kong Vase, the spring Tenno Sho, and the Autumn Tenno Sho, the Pegasus is more or less in a three way tie for third place in the “world’s richest race” department.

I make a very simple point—the very best of Western hemisphere racing should be in the Pegasus, plus a couple of the magnificent horses from around the world. It is literally the third richest race in North and South America.

But it is not meant to be. The 2024 Pegasus has a class of horses that would be considered a good Grade 3 race or average Grade 2 race. This would be a disappointing turnout if the purse were just $700K. But it is a $3 million race.

The 2024 Pegasus is abundantly lacking in class.

Consider this:

1. No horse that ran in the Breeders’ Cup Classic except the horse that came in 7th of 11, Senor Buscador, is in the Pegasus.

2. While the horse that gave Cody’s Wish a good run for his money in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile National Treasure is in the race (the horse won the Preakness), there will be no Cody’s Wish. Of particular note, National Treasure had the lead the whole way, until Cody’s Wish caught him in the stretch—I don’t know if the additional 1/8 of a mile will prove too much, but hey, National Treasure did win the Preakness.

3. Not a single horse save for National Treasure entered in the Preakness has won a Grade 1 or Group 1 race. National Treasure only did it once. Call it chauvinism, I will ignore Grade 1 races of Chile with purses of $107,700, but I suppose if you want to call that something like a “Grade 1 win,” well, whatever floats your boat. Hoist the Gold did win the Cigar with an impressive 109 Beyer speed figure, but that race is now a Grade 2. National Treasure, while admittedly in the money in some big Grade 1 races (second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah at 2 to Cave Rock, 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Forte and Cave Rock, tight second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, has not won any stakes race, graded or ungraded, other than the Preakness.

4. Some of the horses entered in the Pegasus have not even won a Grade 2 race.

  • Nimitz Class (has won 7 stakes races, none Graded)
  • O’Connor (ignoring his races in Chile with their small purses.)
  • First Mission (only stakes win in the G3 Lexington Stakes. He lost by just a nose to Trademark in the Grade 2 Clark, earned a 102 Beyer and may not be a bad long shot bet)
  • Grand Aspen (not only not a Grade 2 winner, not even a stakes winner. He did run fairly well in the Harlan’s Holiday, the local prep, at 1 1/16th and the same track, earning a 100 Beyer speed figure, so he may not be a bad “across the board” (win, place, and show) bet.)
  • Il Miracolo (Won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones for three year olds and no other stakes races, graded or ungraded).
  • Crupi (Won the ungraded Queens County Stakes and Discovery Stakes at Aqueduct. Has not placed in the money in a graded stakes race.)

5. Of the remaining horses that won Grade 2 races (again ignoring the small purse races in Chile), all only did it once with the exception of Hoist the Gold that only did it twice (G2 Cigar Mile and G2 Phoenix).

  • Dynamic One (won the G2 Suburban and no other graded stakes)
  • Trademark (won the G2 Clark and no other graded stakes)
  • Senor Buscador (won the G2 San Diego Handicap, the Grade 3 Ack Ack and no other graded stakes race)
  • Only Hoist the Gold is in the Pegasus from the Breeders’ Cup Sprint—finished 6th of 8. Wins the Cigar.

7. Dymanic One was 5th of 7 entrants in an optional claimer last out with a purse of $70,000. He had a slow start, but it wasn’t as if he was roughed up. I understand the jockey might not have been trying and it might have been a throw away “prep race,” but it looks kind of bad to have a horse that performed that badly in a $3 million race.

How cool would have it been to see a White Abarrio (who was 8th of 12 in the race last year) face off against Cody’s Wish? But horses run so infrequently, two horse races, just one month apart, appears to be a “no go.” The Saudi Cup is February 24, 2024. The Pegasus is January 27th. Despite being days shy of a month apart, White Abarrio will take shot at the Saudi Cup and not the Pegasus. Saudi Cup remarkably ran in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes run on January 20th as a prep for the Saudi Cup and is skipping the Pegasus.

Even the gelding Defunded who was second in last year’s race and last out was second in the Grade 1 Awesome again is not in the race. Unfortunately, last year’s winner, Art Collector, died this summer of laminitis at Saratoga.

The predecessor race to the Pegasus, the Donn Handicap, ran from 1959 until 2016. Many horses used the Donn as prep race for the Dubai World Cup. Consider some past races:

The 2003 Donn Handicap winner was second to Singspeil’s son Moon Ballad in the 2003 Dubai World Cup. Cigar, a two time winner of the Donn Handicap in 1995 and 1995. In 1996, Cigar’s Donn was being used as a prep race for the Dubai World Cup. The horse that came in 3rd, the filly Heavenly Prize, went to be inaugurated into the Hall of Fame. Invasor used the 2007 Donn Handicap (which he won) as a prep for the 2007 Dubai World Cup (which he also won). Captain Steve won the 2001 Donn Handicap and the 2001 Dubai World Cup, In the 2001 Donn, Captain Steve defeated Albert the Great who had won the prior year’s Jockey Gold Cup. In 2018 West Coast was second in the Donn and then second in the Dubai World Cup. In 2004 Medaglio D’Oro won the Donn and was second in the 2004 Dubai World Cup won by Pleasantly Perfect, one of the last great St. Simon sire line horses. In 2005, Roses of May was second to Saint Liam in the Donn, and then won the Dubai World Cup. In 2014, Lea won the Donn Handicap; in 2015 Lea was second in the Donn Handicap and third in the Dubai World Cup.

Even prior to 1996, the first year of the Dubai World Cup, there were great Donn Handicaps. Sadly, in 1995, Cigar beat Holy Bull, but Holy Bull broke down and was retired to stud.

One other odd thing about the Donn Handicap. Many stakes races that were dirt races went to turf. Two of the bigger races I can think of is the Diana at Saratoga inaugurated in 1939 but went to turf in 1972, or the Manhattan inaugurated in 1867 at Jerome Park on dirt, then in 1890 went to Morris Park on dirt, than in 1905 when Roseben won it, was raced at Belmont Park. In 1970 the then 103 year old stakes race was put on the turf. By contrast, the Donn Handicap first started as a turf race, 1959-1964, and then went to dirt in 1965. Generally speaking, while there were isolated exceptions such as the Turf Handicap at Sheepshead Bay from 1887-1908, turf racing began to take off in America in the 1950’s. According to Wikipedia, “On June 10, 1886 the Coney Island Jockey Club opened the first turf racecourse in the United States. The Club replaced the Sheepshead Bay steeplechase course with a one-mile turf course, built inside the existing main dirt track.” It was a tad bit odd though as turf facing started to take off in America, the Donn handicap went from the turf to the dirt.

The Saudi Cup—the world’s richest horse race—started in 2020 and that was probably the end of the using the Donn or the Pegasus as a prep for the Dubai World Cup.

It is true that the Pegasus—once the world’s richest horse race for a year or so—has had dramatic decreases in purse money. According to Wikipedia, “With a purse of $12 million for its inaugural running, the Pegasus World Cup surpassed the Dubai World Cup as the richest horse race in the world for the year 2017 & 2018. The purse of the event rose to $16 million in 2018, but dropped to $9 million in 2019. The fourth running of the Pegasus World Cup in 2020 carried a $3 million purse.”

I get it–$3 million dollars is not $16 million dollars—but it is still an incredibly rich horse race. In 2019, with a $9 million dollar purse, Breeders Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light (Quality Road) beat Seeking the Soul (2nd in the Breeder’s Cup Dirt mile), and Accelerate, the horse that won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was third. Then you had Knicks Go. At 4 in 2020, Knicks Go won the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a great performance given his last Grade 1 win was in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland at 2. In 2021, at age 5, Knicks Go won the Pegasus World Cup, now with its $3 million purse. In an exciting race, the 2022 Pegasus, the horse that had just won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (they weren’t sure if he could go the distance), tried a repeat win in the Pegasus after winning that race in 2021. Life is Good won convincingly, but it was an exciting racing prospect.

Horses are deemed less durable and are running less frequently. Once great races are becoming shells of their former selves because the very best horses are resting. The Preakness is becoming a shell of its former self.

I remember as a child going to Saratoga to see Affirmed battle it out with Aldyar in the Travers. Racing, great racing, are horse races involving the best horses facing each other over and over again. Slowly, we are losing this. I remember when Quality Road won the Woodward on 9/4/2010 and there was a big debate whether it was “rust or rest” by not racing again to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After a two-month rest, Quality Road was a complete bust in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Unfortunately, these long layoffs are becoming standard practice for elite horses. For fans like me, it makes for much less interesting horse racing.

In 1997, Skip Away kept racing against Formal Gold, facing each other 6 times. It was a rivalry for the ages, and it all started in the 1997 Donn Handicap. Formal Gold used the Donn Handicap as one his preps for Dubai, even running in the Santa Anita Derby where he finished a disappointing 6th. The two horses that came in second and third to Singspiel in the Dubai World Cup, Siphon and Sandpit, were the one two horses in the 1 million dollar Santa Anita Handicap. The $1 million Santa Anita Purse would be worth about $1.91 million today.

One other odd thing about the Donn Handicap. Many stakes races that were dirt races went to turf. Two of the bigger races I can think of is the Diana at Saratoga inaugurated in 1939 but went to turf in 1972, or the Manhattan inaugurated in 1867 at Jerome Park on dirt, then in 1890 went to Morris Park on dirt, than in 1905 when Roseben won it, was raced at Belmont Park. In 1970 the then 103 year old stakes race was put on the turf. By contrast, the Donn Handicap first started as a turf race, 1959-1964, and then went to dirt in 1965. Generally speaking, while there were isolated exceptions such as the Turf Handicap at Sheepshead Bay from 1887-1908, turf racing began to take off in America in the 1950’s. According to Wikipedia, “On June 10, 1886 the Coney Island Jockey Club opened the first turf racecourse in the United States. The Club replaced the Sheepshead Bay steeplechase course with a one-mile turf course, built inside the existing main dirt track.” It was a tad bit odd though as turf facing started to take off in America, the Donn handicap went from the turf to the dirt.

If you look at Formal Gold’s racing record at Equibase, he literally ran every consecutive month save for twice in August. He ended his career with a win in the 1997 Woodward Stakes.

https://www.equibase.com/profiles/Results.cfm?type=Horse&refno=1425295&registry=T

Sure, I will watch the Pegasus World Cup. But I am not excited about it. It could easily have seen a Breeders’ Cup Mile winner v. Breeders’ Cup Classic winner rematch. That will not happen. The two great Japanese horses that ran in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Ushba Tesoro and Derma Sotogake) will not stay in America.

Horse racing is literally entertainment. Entertainment, by its inherent nature, must be interesting to win our attention and custom. The horse racing industry forgets this at its peril. I, as a fan, want to see the best horses race in the big races. Ever increasingly, that is not happening.

You May Also Like

Horse Racing Stories

By: Rinaldo Del Gallo, III On Pegasus World Cup Day, Saturday, January 27th, BELLAMORE (USA) dkb/br. M, 2018 {26}(Empire Maker) did something she has...

International Horse Racing Picks

Kempton Park Horse Racing Picks It’s a new year, so why not a new track? Tom and Rich make their picks for a handful...

Horse Racing Stories

By: Rinaldo Del Gallo, III The Jerome Stakes and Ladies Handicap will be run January 6, 2024. 1. The Jerome Stakes appears to be...

Horse Racing Stories

By: Aubrie Green Journeyman jockey Tyler Conner, who has had a successful career riding mostly in the northeast has moved his tack to Kentucky....

Copyright © 2021 Horse Racing Today - ZoxPress Theme. Theme by MVP Themes, powered by WordPress.

Exit mobile version