Horses of interest on Pegasus World Cup card

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

January 28th, 2017

Gulfstream Park will stage 11 races in the build-up to the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) on Saturday. There’s no shortage of intrigue on the undercard, for which is offering a $12K Prize Pool promotion (see details).

Here are the horses I’m interested in watching:

Race 1: Louies Baby Boy (8-1) is stepping up into an entry-level optional claimer straight off his maiden score over this track and trip, but trainer Lisa Lewis boasts a 28% strike rate in this category. Nicely bred gelding is by Malibu Moon and out of Grade 3-placed stakes winner Pious Ashley (by Include), yet for some reason spent a lot of time trying to break his maiden on turf. Could he be ready to make up for lost time since reverting to dirt?

Race 2: Dancing Waves (5-1) adds Lasix in her second stateside venture for Chad Brown. Irish import was well regarded by original trainer Ger Lyons and reportedly had some fancy entries. So she’s likely better than your average Down Royal maiden winner. Scratched from a Curragh race with an injury last summer, the Zoffany filly can be forgiven for her no-show in the October 2 Miss Grillo (G3).

Race 3, the Hurricane Bertie (G3): Genre (7-2) tired to third off a break in the one-mile Rampart (G3), but could rebound in this seven-furlong test. She doesn’t have to meet Rampart winner Eskenformoney here, and she renews rivalry with Rampart runner-up Curlin’s Approval on much fairer weight terms. Todd Pletcher also wins 25% with runners in the second start of the form cycle.

Race 4: Star Maven (6-1) is one of several well-bred fillies in this fascinating maiden, but she may have the most scope for improvement in this second try. A $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling by Teofilo and out of a Woodman mare, Star Maven was a fast-finishing fifth after early trouble here on debut. Her pedigree suggests the added distance will help, and trainer Leah Gyarmati scores 25% of the time in the “second grass race” metric.

Race 5, the Poseidon: On paper, even-money favorite Stanford has a considerable edge, but I’m looking forward to Cherry Wine (12-1) getting his four-year-old campaign started. The Dale Romans charge crushed an entry-level allowance here last winter before placing in the Blue Grass (G1) and Preakness (G1), and he’s reportedly been training well over this track. At the very least he’s eligible to liven up the exotics, and if Stanford somehow regresses, Cherry Wine is the likeliest beneficiary.

Race 6: Another three-year-old turf maiden with several sensible candidates. Slaimy (5-1) attracted my attention as a $585,000 full brother to multiple Grade 1 heroine Gabby’s Golden Gal (and a half-brother to Always a Princess). Trained by Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing, Slaimy was slow to go early but closed with a rush in his 7 1/2-furlong debut on this course. Now he picks up Javier Castellano and stands to benefit from extra ground as well as his experience.

Race 7, Ladies’ Turf Sprint: Can Ruby Notion really go off anywhere near 15-1? Granted, she’s got something to prove after racing just once (and losing at Suffolk) in mid-2016, and the jury’s out on whether her old juvenile form is even attainable at this point. But it may be worth a flyer to find out. Unbeaten in three stateside sprints for Wesley Ward in 2015, Ruby Notion tried the boys at Royal Ascot and finished a commendable fifth in the Windsor Castle. If she’s still got that kind of engine…

Race 8: Pletcher’s better priced option in this race, Commandeering (5-1), is intriguing because of his nifty company lines. The $340,000 Bodemeister colt has been in contention in midstretch in his past two routes, only to fade to second – behind eventual Lecomte (G3) winner Guest Suite and then to subsequent Pulpit winner Tapwrit. Although it can be dicey to read too much into maiden form, Commandeering is entitled to do a lot better on the cutback in trip to seven furlongs. Pletcher’s apparent first string is Blind Ambition, a $400,000 son of Tapit and Starfish Bay, who debuts in this spot. Finally, as a fan of smashing maiden winner Battalion Runner, I’m naturally hopeful that the runner-up to him, Lookin for Eight, will uphold the form, but he might just bump into another Pletcher buzzsaw.

Race 9, Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint: While this has a pretty formful look to it, with such big names as Power Alert and Mongolian Saturday, and a proper up-and-comer in Manhattan Dan, I think Incensed (15-1) has potential as a value play to add to the wagering mix. Never out of the top two in five-furlong turf sprints, he had trouble on the turn en route to his second to Power Alert last time. Incensed remains in good form, having just fired a bullet half-mile at Tampa for Dale Bennett. The half-brother to smart turf juvenile Conquest Farenheit has only turned four, and we could be hearing more from him in this division.

Race 10, the Le Prevoyante (G3): I agree with my colleagues Vance Hanson and James Scully that Arles (7-2) has a lot of appeal in this spot, through her admirable runner-up efforts in the Red Carpet (G3) (to the high-class Japanese shipper Nuovo Record) and to Suffused in the Glens Falls (G3). Unlike their level-weight clash at Saratoga, Arles now gets six pounds from Suffused in their rematch. But note also that Desiree Clary (9-2), who’s been knocking on the door of late, gets a rider switch to Castellano. That might lift the fourth-place finisher in the 2015 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) to a U.S. stakes breakthrough. 

Race 11, the W.L. McKnight (G3): Danish Dynaformer (5-1) brings top formlines, having been beaten only a couple of lengths in the Canadian International (G1), and finished even closer in the Arlington Million (G1). Now he faces a less daunting field at his optimal trip, and this shapes as a very good spot to pick up his first U.S. stakes. The royally bred son of Dynaformer has also been training sharply for Hall of Famer Roger Attfield. At a much bigger price, Montclair (10-1) is going to summon his back class in one of these, sooner or later. He hinted as much in his first try for Armando de la Cerda, who’s compiled a 20% strike rate this meet. Amid all the grizzled veterans like Twilight Eclipse and Charming Kitten, there are a couple of fresh faces. The 8-1 Sadler’s Joy (by Kitten’s Joy), in particular, sports a three-race winning streak and a very interesting inbreeding pattern. Scully’s bolder than I am and puts Sadler’s Joy on top.

Race 12 is the Pegasus, where I’m remaining loyal to Arrogate over California Chrome. For a third option, how about Shaman Ghost. After all, how can you leave out a Jerkens on an occasion like this?

Good luck, and enjoy the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Day!