On Saturday January 26th, Gulfstream Park will present the 3rd running of the Pegasus World Cup. The top older horses in the country, as well as Kukulkan, the undefeated Mexican champion, will compete over 2 turns at a distance of 1-1/8 miles. With a $9 million purse, it is still the richest race in North America, but this year’s prize is a mere fraction of 2018’s $16 million pool.
The field will be highlighted by Accelerate, the reigning Breeder’s Cup Classic champion and possible Horse of the Year. Accelerate will have history on his side as the first 2 runnings of the Pegasus were won by Arrogate and Gun Runner, also BC Classic champions.
With 12 world class runners going to the gate, I was surprised to see only one horse looked like he has to be on the engine. Chad Brown’s Patternrecognition has had the lead at the first call in his last 4 races, with the most recent 2 being graded stake victories. His early speed figure in the G1 Cigar Mile was a marked step forward and if he can replicate that effort he will certainly be in contention for the front end. Patternrecognition will need all the early speed he can muster as he has drawn the outside 12 post.
If no one else goes, City of Light has the ability to take over the early pace. Coming off of a wire to wire score with impressive early speed figures in the BC Mile, City of Light has won from the front and from mid pack. Much of the rest of the field, including the morning line favorite Accelerate, will be battling for position on the first turn and looking to sit in a classic stalking spot.
That will leave one-run closers Audible, Gunnevera and Seeking the Soul hoping for a speed duel to develop so they can pick up the pieces late.
With only a couple of horses leaving early, I expect a reasonable, but not aggressive, pace scenario to develop with Patternrecognition and City of Light sitting 1-2 entering the backstretch. As the rest of the field battles for early position it will be an advantage if they can save ground on Gulfstream’s first turn. While closers can surely win around 2 turns at Gulfstream, the recent win percentage of inside posts shows that saving ground early gives them their best shot.
The horse I landed on is City of Light. While Accelerate will be the favorite, City of Light has beaten Accelerate head to head at 1-1/8 miles, and then lost to Accelerate next out at 1-1/4 miles. At the Pegasus’ 1-1/8 mile distance I believe City of Light will get the jump on Accelerate and be able to hold on for the win. Let’s hope for 5-2 or better on the Trevor McCarthy trainee City of Light.