Gulftstream Park hosts pair of Pegasus Invitationals

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Ted Black

January 26th, 2019

A modest series of storms may have left the Gulfstream Park surface sloppy on Saturday afternoon, but they could hardly dampen the enthusiasm surrounding the third edition of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the main track or the inaugural edition of the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf contested on the lawn 30 minutes earlier.

Saturday's feature race was clearly the third edition of the Grade I, $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, a nine-furlong race on the main track that has quickly taken hold as one of the premiere events on the racing calendar, joining the Dubai World Cup and the Breeders Cup Classic.

Soon after the gate opened in the Pegasus World Cup, City of Light broke well to sit just off the leader down the backside, surged to command on the far turn with Accelerate looming just behind him, shifted gears on the far turn to extend his lead and then romped home eight lengths clear while stopping the timer in 1:47.45 for the nine furlongs. Longshot Seeking The Soul rallied inside to gain the place spot while Accelerate faded to third in his career finale, two days after being named champion older dirt male for 2018.

A five-year-old Quality Road stallion trained by Michael McCarthy for Mr. & Mrs. William Warren, City of Light notched his sixth win from 11 career starts and pushed his lifetime earnings past $5.6 million. The Pegasus marked the second straight race in which City of Light and Seeking The Soul have finished one-two in a graded stakes and it also marked his second win over Accelerate in a nine-furlong event on the main track. This time, however, in stark contrast to their battle at Oaklawn Park, there was little drama in the final furlong.

One race earlier in the Grade I, $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, a race that appeared more suited for a Grade II designation for its inaugural running considering the dearth of Grade I winners in the field, Bricks and Mortar rallied from well off the pace with a three-wide bid on the far turn and edged clear in the lane to a two-length score as the 5-2 second choice while getting the one-mile and three-sixteenths in 1:54.59 over the yielding course.

A five-year-old Giant's Causeway stallion trained by Chad Brown, Bricks and Mortar continued his fondness for the local surface by notching his third win in as many starts over the track and his sixth win in eight starts overall, pushing his career earnings past $3 million. Magic Wand saved ground down the backside and was in traffic briefly on the far turn then rallied between horses in the lane to gain the place spot as an overlooked 9-1 shot for trainer Aidan O'Brien.

Then one race earlier in the Grade II, $200,000 W.L. McKnight Stakes at 12 furlongs on the lawn, Zulu Alpha benefited from a ground saving trip down the backside and through the far turn, surged to command at the head of the lane then just outlasted the late surge of stablemate Soglio to score by a neck as the 2-1 favorite. A six-year-old Street Cry gelding trained by Michael Maker, Zulu Alpha notched his seventh win from 22 starts and pushed his career earnings toward $360,000.

One race earlier in the Grade III, $150,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes for older runners at one mile on the main track, Aztec Sense continued his torrid winning ways when he gained command soon after the break and then held safe the late bids of Breaking Lucky to score by a length. A six-year-old Street Sense gelding trained by Jorge Navarro, Aztec Sense has now won nine straight races and 11 of 12 since Navarro claimed him for $12,500 18 months ago and he now boasts 13 wins and nearly $640,000 banked from 37 career outings.