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Pegasus World Cup 2018 runner-by-runner guide: Go West in the hope Gun Runner is too wide

By Rachel Candelora
Fri 26 Jan 2018

US form expert Rachel Candelora has taken a close look at the 12 runners for the second Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday night and believes that hot favourite Gun Runner should be opposed. Read her thoughts on the big race and watch Nick Luck's exclusive interview with Toast Of New York trainer Jamie Osborne.

By Rachel Candelora

Before we try to find the winner, what is the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday?

Try high-stakes poker meets high-stakes horse racing.

The brainchild of the Austrian-born, American racing entrepreneur Frank Stronach, the owner of Gulfstream Park racecourse, the $US16million (£11.2m) Pegasus World Cup is the world’s most valuable horse race where stakeholders have to put up $1million to buy their place in the race. Stakeholders can then race, lease, share, or sell their slot in the gate. The winner earns $7million and everyone gets at least $650,000 just for running.

The inaugural running saw Arrogate demolish the field and this year we see a rematch of the top five finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Gun Runner, Collected, West Coast, War Story, and Gunnevera renewing rivalry. Champion race mare Stellar Wind, top miler Sharp Azteca, and the international man of mystery that is Toast Of New York add spice.

Gun Runner wins - Del Mar - Eclipse Gun Runner was named the Horse Of The Year in America this week after his Breeders' Cup win (EclipseSportswire)

Overall 12 horses go to post with over $24million earned in prize money and 16 Grade One victories between them.

The mile and one furlong distance of the Pegasus, with only a half-furlong run to the turn from the starting gate, makes post positions very important in what is expected to be a tricky and tactical race that will be run at an eye-popping pace.

The field for the 2018 Pegasus World Cup:

Singing Bullet:

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Robby Albarado

Running Style: Press the pace/stalk

Draw: 1

Odds: 150-1

The last horse to be invited into the Pegasus field, this son of dual Grade One winner Life At Ten, has a mountain to climb in terms of form and class. While Singing Bullet is a three-times winner in his career the only black type he owns was when nine lengths third in the six-and-a-half-furlong Amsterdam at Saratoga last summer. He is simply in this race because they wanted 12 runners and he is conveniently owned by Frank Stronach, the man behind the Pegasus.

West Coast:

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Running Style: Lead/press the pace/stalker

Draw: 2

Odds: 7-1

Bob Baffert - Del Mar - EclipseSportswire Bob Baffert was in London this week for the Longines Awards (Eclipse Sportswire)

Given that his dam, Caressing, was the 2000 champion two-year-old filly West Coast had a belated start to his career. He first appeared in February of his three-year-old season with an uninspiring runner-up effort. He then went on to reel off six wins from eight more starts, ending the year with wins in the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby before running a game third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That campaign was enough to earn him champion three-year-old honours at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night, and this race can kick off what Bob Baffert feels will be a “huge” year for West Coast.

Baffert has been training West Coast up to this event instead of giving him a prep run, which given all of the racing he did in a short time at three should do him some good. Stall two is a good one for West Coast, as most races at the distance at Gulfstream are won from stalls one to four, and Javier Castellano knows he has to send him from that gate or else he might find himself stuck behind Sharp Azteca and stablemate Collected. Of all the horses in the race, connections must have been extremely happy when they got this post position for West Coast, as it should totally should suit his running style. Don’t forget a much bigger horse in Arrogate won this from stall one 12 months ago.

Stellar Wind:

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Running Style: Press the pace/stalker

Draw: 3

Odds: 28-1

Stellar Wind is set to become the first mare to run in the Pegasus after her new owners opted to run her one more time before retiring her to the paddocks and a date with American Pharoah. The Coolmore team bought Stellar Wind as a broodmare prospect for $US6million in November after a disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff followed three straight Grade One successes.

Keep in mind that she is a six-times Grade One winner and since moving to Florida with new trainer Chad Brown she has been training really well. The warning with Stellar Wind is that she does not get nine furlongs in a horse box!

Sharp Azteca:

Trainer: Jorge Navarro

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr

Running Style: Leads

Draw: 4

Odds: 9-1

Sharp Azteca is coming off a career-best performance with his win in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct but still fits the bill as one of the horses who has home advantage at Gulfstream Park with three wins from five starts over the Miami track. This son of Freud has only finished outside the top three in two of his 16 starts and wears his heart on his sleeve, as he loves to blaze along on the front end.

The main question with him is whether he can see out a distance he has never tried before. Twice in his career he has run over a mile and 81/2 furlongs and his seven-length romp in the Monmouth Cup last July suggests that he might just be able to carry his speed over the nine furlongs. He gets a stamina influence from his sire, who is the full brother of Giant’s Causeway. His draw of four is perfect, with all but one speed horse (West Coast) to his outside. Sharp Azteca should have a clear line to the rail and the lead, and if his stamina holds out, he should be in the top four or five.

Collected:

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Mike Smith

Running Style: Lead/press the pace

Draw: 5

Odds: 8-1

Bob Baffert Longines Awards - Arrogate team - Longines Bob Baffert (second from left) said in London on Tuesday that Collected was the faster of his two runners (Longines)

Bob Baffert had a plan last autumn when it came to Collected and that involved bringing him back from getting incredibly jarred up in the 2016 Preakness Stakes and plotting a course to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Everything went to plan with Collected winning four straight including beating Arrogate in the Pacific Classic before finding only Gun Runner too good in the Classic itself. Baffert opted to give Collected a confidence-boosting run in the San Antonio at Santa Anita, instead of training him straight to the Pegasus and unfortunately that plan backfired as Collected did not break as alertly as normal and sulked his way to be third behind Giant Expectations. He needs to bounce back from that poor effort but he has been working extremely well since and does represent the winning trainer/jockey combination who won this last year.

Drawn in stall five will be to his advantage, as long as he breaks better than he did last time, as he will be able to track Sharp Azteca directly to his inside. The potential downside of this draw is if West Coast, Stellar Wind, and Sharp Azteca all break alertly, Collected could potentially go into the first turn four wide.

Gunnevera:

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Jockey: Luis Saez

Running Style: Deep, deep closer

Draw: 6

Odds: 20-1

A small horse who cost only $16,000 as a yearling and has earned over $1.6million so far in his career, he is a brave horse who likes to trail behind the ambulance before mounting one big sweeping run which leaves him vulnerable to traffic troubles and pace horses who do not stop. Gunnevera, however, is another runner with home advantage having won three races around the Gulfstream oval including the Fountain Of Youth last year.

He is coming out of a dead-heat for fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on a track that did not favour closers during that particular race and has been kept fresh for this assignment. He is getting a new jockey in Luis Saez, who is the reigning champion jockey of Gulfstream Park, and a jockey who scored a record-equalling seven wins on last Wednesday’s card. He will be staying on past rivals but given the usual speed bias at Gulfstream (the track will be prepared for speed and fast times on such a big day) the race is likely to have already developed by the time he gets involved.

Fear The Cowboy:

Trainer: Efren Loza Jr

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Running Style: Closer

Draw: 7

Odds: 80-1

One of the late additions to the Pegasus field, this son of Cowboy Cal absolutely loves it at Gulfstream Park, with four wins here from six starts, including in the Harlan’s Holiday (run over 1m 1/2 f) last time out. Fear the Cowboy has won five Graded and Listed races including three at this track, however he has yet to try Grade Two competition let alone the top-level company that he will be facing on Saturday.

Regardless of the jump in class, he should sit a perfect stalking trip (he won the Harlan’s Holiday from post seven), his trainer Efren Loza Jr says he is training the best he ever has, and last year the one horse with home advantage, Neolithic, finished third in the Pegasus. He is a ridiculously big price and is an obvious each-way or place play.

War Story:

Trainer: Jorge Navarro

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Running Style: Stalker/closer

Draw: 8

Odds: 66-1

This hard-knocking gelding is making his tenth start in Grade One company and has yet to hit the board, but while he is the first horse most people put a line through he was fifth in the inaugural running and he is coming here off a fourth place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic having accumulated more than $1.5million in prize money during his career.

He finally earned an elusive graded win in the Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont Park in June before finishing fourth to Gun Runner in three successive Grade Ones. Do not be surprised to see this unconsidered horse beat more than he is beaten by, but I would be surprised to see him in the top three.

Toast Of New York:

Trainer: Jamie Osborne

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Running Style: Stalker

Draw: 9

Odds: 16-1

Toast Of New York - California Chrome - Bayern - Breeders' Cup Classic - Eclipse Sporstwire Toast Of New York splits Bayern and California Chrome in the 2014 Classic (Eclipse Sportswire)

Regardless of his placing, the fact that Toast Of New York is even in the line-up is a massive victory for all involved, including the brilliance of work rider Jimmy McCarthy and the entire Osborne team.

His comeback run at Lingfield looks even better now, as runner-up Petite Jack has gone on to win the Quebec Stakes next time out. His strength appears to be his stamina but here he is dropping back down to nine furlongs for the first time in four starts and the pace horses are going to be going much quicker than he is used to, so Frankie Dettori is going to have to get him rolling from the gate.

Luckily Frankie is set to have three sighter rides on Friday ahead of the big race on Saturday, as it has been 19 years since his Breeders’ Cup Turf success aboard Daylami here at the Florida track.

Gun Runner:

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Running Style: Lead/press the pace

Draw: 10

Odds: 10-11

Gun Runner - Del Mar - Eclipse Sportswire Gun Runner became Steve Asmussen's fourth Horse Of The Year after Rachel Alexandra and Curlin (twice) (Eclipse Sportswire)

On form Gun Runner is without question the classiest horse in this field, coming here off four straight Grade One successes including a gutsy win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. He was crowned as Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday. This has been the plan for Gun Runner since this time last year when, due to travel issues, he was unable to contest the inaugural Pegasus.

The return to nine furlongs suits him as in 2017 he won Grade Ones races at the distance by a combined 23 lengths. He is a brave, bonnie horse who always runs his race and if another horse wants to go faster than him, he is content to sit off the pace until it is time to go and win the race.

Gun Runner - Del Mar - Eclipse Sportswire Gun Runner missed last year's Pegasus due to an outbreak of equine herpes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

This is his final career start before being retiring to stud so everything that Gun Runner has will be left on the track. That said, stall 10 is a stumbling block – the stats for outside gates around two-turns since they reconfigured the track in 2005 are terrible. Up until last Sunday the current meeting at Gulfstream Park showed that in route dirt races posts 10-14 provided one winner from 34 starters.

Gun Runner is going to have to use a lot of early energy getting a position and most likely is going to be floated quite wide into the first turn. While he is the best horse on paper, if he starts giving up lengths going into the first turn then the Classic result could be turned around.

Seeking The Soul:

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Johnny Velazquez

Running Style: Stalker

Draw: 11

Odds: 40-1

Seeking the Soul is coming here in the best form of his life, having collected his first ever graded success in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs (not the strongest Grade One being just three weeks after the Classic and he was getting weight from rivals), while prior to that he broke the track record at Keeneland.

He hails from the brilliant family of Personal Ensign but this will be his first attempt against top level Grade One horses at level weights but ever-popular jockey ‘Johnny V’ is one of the best around Gulfstream Park.

Giant Expectations:

Trainer: Peter Eurton

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Running Style: Press the pace/stalk

Draw: 12

Odds: 40-1

Last year was the campaign when Giant Expectations began to live up to his name with a win in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien Stakes and then a verdict over Collected in the San Antonio Stakes last time.

This win was his first over further than a mile but he set pedestrian fractions on the front end and the genius that is Gary Stevens rode his rivals to sleep. That scenario will not happen in the Pegasus, there are questions as to whether Giant Expectations will handle the trip, and the twice that he has run in Grade One company he has been well and truly stuffed. More important than that he drew the dreaded stall 12 – he should just get back on the plane to California.

Racinguk.com Pegasus World Cup Verdict:

On form, Gun Runner is the best and should win, but given his draw and his silly odds-on price, he provides absolutely no value. The only thing I will say is that in the American pools, which most UK bookmakers allow you to bet into, Gun Runner may drift up above even-money – still no value to me given his draw but for some that is worth looking into.

So the value and the pick in the Pegasus goes to Bob Baffert’s WEST COAST.

A good break will see him get a nice trip throughout this race, while his stablemate Collected has claims but might be forced very wide into the first turn. Sharp Azteca has got a great draw for his run style but with pace horses on either wing his stamina will be tested to the upmost. Of the horses with home advantage, Fear the Cowboy could be a big price for minor honours.

If I were playing more exotically in exactas and trifectas I would be using West Coast and Gun Runner towards the top of the ticket and using Collected, Sharp Azteca, and Fear the Cowboy on the bottom on the ticket.

*The rules for the Pegasus World Cup allow for two reserves to be carded and they can be introduced into the field up until Saturday morning Florida time. Should one be introduced, it will take the outside post position and all other horses will move in one gate. The two reserves will be numbered 13 and 14 and, although the post positions will move in one, the race card and betting numbers will not be affected.

Reserve #1 – Guiseppe the Great:

Trainer: Nick Zito

Jockey: Nik Juarez

Running Style: Stalker

Draw: 13

Has only won twice in his career in a maiden and a first level allowance race, however, he did finish third in the Grade One Pennsylvania Derby behind West Coast, albeit over eight lengths back. He is coming here off a victory at Gulfstream Park but if he draws into the race he faces a serious upgrade in class and more important he will inherit stall 12!

Reserve #2 - Game Over:

Trainer: Jorge Navarro

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Running Style: Push the pace/stalker

Draw: 14

Has won twice in five career starts, over six and seven furlongs during the spring of his three-year-old season. Has been off since running fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby in September but he has been working well in the interim. Of the two reserves he is the more interesting runner, however it is extremely unlikely that he’ll get a run and even if he does he gets the dreaded stall 12 - enough said.

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