Matt’s Blog — Weekend Preview January 27 – 28

Posted January 25, 2017 | Racing News

The world’s richest race is upon us. $12 million. TWELVE MILLION. After much fanfare, and lots of ads featuring Conor McGregor, the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup is upon us. The heavy hitters will bookend the field, with CALIFORNIA CHROME getting the worst of it. Let’s have a look at the field and try to find the most likely winner of the $7 million winners share.

#1 ARROGATE drew the fence, and while that may not be ideal, he was able to escape it when he won the Travers against 12 others in track record time at Saratoga. What more can be said about the horse who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in just his sixth start. He has been extremely impressive in each of his trips to the track, and it doesn’t appear he has missed a beat in the mornings with his sharp works leading back to the beginning of December. Oh, and in that Breeders’ Cup Classic? He chased down CALIFORNIA CHROME who he meets again today. ARROGATE may be 7/5 on the morning line, but could be dropping from there.

#2 PRAYER FOR RELIEF may be doing just that after this one, as he will need a huge reversal of form. He hasn’t found himself in the winner’s circle since December 21st, 2013. He has a trio of 3rd’s from his last 10 trips to the post. Not likely he turns things around against this bunch.

#3 NEOLITHIC comes into the Pegasus off a romping score over the local track. That was just the second win of his career, but he looks like a quickly improving four year old. Is it enough to top the two big dogs in here? Probably not, but he may be worth a look if he is around the 30-1 morning line. It is horse racing after all – anything can happen.

#4 NOBLE BIRD has the best credentials in the field outside of the top pair having won a grade 3, 2 and 1. His grade 1 Stephen Foster win may be his best, defeating a salty field that included Lea and Hoppertunity. The other graded wins came over average competition. He was sent off as the 5/2 second choice in the Clark at Churchill in his last back in November and never ran more than a half mile finishing well back of Gun Runner, but still managed to top PRAYER FOR RELIEF who was 9th. On his very best day he has a punchers chance, but his front running style may not be conducive to success in this one.

#5 WAR STORY is back for another round with ARROGATE and CALIFORNIA CHROME after getting walloped by them in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sure he broke in the air at the start, but the outcome was more than likely the same. Lone positive here is he is unbeaten on a wet track, so backers better hope for some rain.

#6 WAR ENVOY hasn’t won since coming over from Europe in 2015. He has only raced twice on a dirt surface, beating a total of three horses. His last two races were turf sprints where he was more than 25-1 both times. Why is in he in here?

#7 SHAMAN GHOST could be a sneaky play as he has a flexible running style that will let his stalk the pace or run from well off it. The main players will want to be near the front, and that could leave him in a good spot. SHAMAN GHOST picked up a Grade 1 win in the Woodward at Saratoga, in what was his first start on Lasix. It was an oddly contested race as Frosted looked like he was going to win going away, but ended up lugging in, in the stretch and wound up 3rd, beat a neck. One of two Ontario breds in the field, and a home bred by Mr. Pegasus himself Frank Stronach. Could be a horse for the exotics.

#8 SEMPER FORTIS was unable to pick up a win in his three year old year, but has plenty of close calls. On three occasions he was topped by a half-length or less, for $100k or more. Tough year. Mario Gutierrez doesn’t make the trip east, but he picks up a solid local rider.

#9 KEEN ICE will always been known as the lone horse to beat American Pharoah after his Triple Crown run in 2015, running him down in the Travers. Times have been a little lean for the Todd Pletcher trainee with no other wins to his credit since then. He has been headed in the right direction of late, but was still more than 10 lengths behind ‘CHROME and ARROGATE when 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Small slice could be the ceiling again today, and think there could be more value elsewhere for a win wager on a longshot.

#10 BREAKING LUCKY is the other Ontario bred in the field, and has been taking a si
milar path to SHAMAN GHOST. He also just a neck back in that blanket finish in the Woodward, but he unfortunately had to settle for 4th. He has been most consistent over the synthetic surface at Woodbine, but did score on traditional dirt at Fort Erie in the $500k Prince of Wales. BREAKING LUCKY keeps his regular rider, but may need to have all of his luck on Saturday.

#11 ERAGON has never raced in North America, and has rarely raced on a dirt surface. Reports from clockers were than he tired badly at the end of his latest five furlong drill which can’t be looked upon as a good sign heading into the biggest race of his life. Pass.

#12 CALIFORNIA CHROME has had his owners make it clear that this will be his swan song in racing. Racings all-time leading money earner with more than $14 million in the bank, he looks to set the bar very high as a win here would push him well over the $20 million mark. Here’s the problem: it has been extremely difficult to win from the 12 hole at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/8th miles since they reconfigured the track in 2006. In fact, just one horse from the 18 who have tried has won and that was Big Brown in 2008 when he won the Florida Derby. The problem comes from the fact it is a very short run up to the first turn, so when all of the other horses are sending hard to get position to avoid ground loss, it is very likely to get hung out wide for a while. Big Brown was able to defeat that by exploding out of the gate, and getting the lead about half way through the turn. ‘CHROME may have gotten lucky in the fact that the horses to his immediate inside aren’t looking for the lead, so if he breaks sharp he has a chance to avoid massive amounts of ground loss. If he breaks flat footed, he is going to have a tough afternoon.


$2 Tri – 1 with 2 with 3 , 4 , 7 , 9 , 10 – Cost: $10 – $2 Tri – 1 with 3 , 4 , 7 , 9 , 10 with 2 – Cost: $10

So after looking through the field, it will be a rematch from the Breeders’ Cup Classic or an unlikely longshot winner. ARROGATE was extremely impressive as he got to ‘CHROME at the wire, and the posts may be the difference in here as they were just a half-length apart last time. Let’s give the nod to Baffert and ARROGATE. Post time for the Pegasus World Cup will be 3:40MST with simulcasting from Gulfstream Park starting at 9:30am. The Pegasus goes as the 12th and final race on their card.