Pegasus World Cup scouting report: Toast of New York

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

January 22nd, 2018

“He has the potential to be one of the highest-earning horses in the world.”

So declared trainer Jamie Osborne in the Racing Post – three years ago, on the heels of Toast of New York’s near-miss in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita.

Now that he had proven himself at the top level on dirt, the 2015 Dubai World Cup (G1) beckoned for a globetrotter who’d already won the UAE Derby (G2) on Meydan’s old synthetic surface. Then another Breeders’ Cup tilt down the line…so many rich prizes there for a horse of his profile.

Unfortunately, a tendon injury ended those hopes and eventually sent him off to stud. But maybe it was a dream deferred. As far-fetched as it once appeared, Toast of New York has now come back in a position to pad his bankroll in Saturday’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup (G1).  

Yet “Toast” has a history of springing surprises. For starters, he’s exceeded any reasonable expectations from his basic pedigree. Sire Thewayyouare is royally bred, as a Kingmambo half to Peeping Fawn from Rags to Riches’ family, but he hasn’t set the world alight at stud. It’s a similar story with Toast’s maternal line. He was produced by the unplaced Claire Soleil, a daughter of the obscure Syncline (himself a well-related son of Danzig) and multiple Grade 1 star Claire Marine, the only major performer under his first four dams.

The Kentucky-bred was purchased as a newly-turned (i.e., “short”) yearling at Keeneland January for $35,000 by Tim Hyde of Ireland’s Camas Park Stud, whose numerous success stories include sales grad Highland Reel and Nyquist. Offered that fall at Goffs Orby, Toast was led out unsold when bidding maxed out at €60,000.

That’s where Osborne, impressed with his walk, bought him privately. But in other respects, the yearling wasn’t exactly a head-turner.

“Here was this big, raw animal, bit of a plain head, four white legs, with a pedigree nobody could understand,” Osborne recently told Chris McGrath in a Thoroughbred Daily News feature.

Described as a “National Hunt” type, Osborne’s new recruit kept growing and took time to get into serious work. In fact, he couldn’t sell him to any of his clients, until Michael Buckley stepped up to the plate. Once Toast began to come around as a juvenile in 2013, he made his debut on the Leicester turf and wound up a non-threatening fifth.

Toast wheeled back on the Polytrack at Kempton, and the surface switch put him in a much better light. He arguably should have won that maiden, but hung left across track and got outfinished by Ryan Moore aboard the odds-on Top Tug (click link for replay). According to Racing Post, the bit came through Toast’s mouth, perhaps explaining jockey Jamie Spencer’s rather tender handling.

A more professional Toast popped up at Wolverhampton. Going straight to the front as the odds-on favorite, he left them for dead turning for home, ran up the score to 12 lengths, and never got out of second gear.

Osborne was already plotting the course to Dubai for his rapidly progressive colt. There was one wrinkle, however: his official rating wasn’t yet high enough to secure an invitation to the UAE Derby. Thus given the level of competition on the British all-weather, Toast had to win by a gaudy margin again in his follow-up to boost his mark. The usual practice is to be conservative and protect your rating with an eye toward getting favorable handicap weights. But Toast had far loftier ambitions than mere handicaps, and so he went out and trounced a Wolverhampton novice by 16 lengths. Mission accomplished.

Making his sophomore debut in the 2014 UAE Derby, Toast was overlooked at 11-1 in a field including Aidan O’Brien’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) runner-up Giovanni Boldini and Godolphin’s Caulfield Guineas (G1) and UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) hero Long John. He proved the market all wrong with an emphatic stalk-and-pounce victory.

Osborne decided that trying the Kentucky Derby (G1) was a bridge too far. He added Toast to the Derby (G1) at Epsom at a later entry stage, just in case, but didn’t exercise that option either.

Toast wasn’t seen again until the summer, when he shipped for the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). After launching a brief rally, he flattened out in sixth. That, and his debut, were the only times he’s been out of the top two in his limited career, and both came on turf. To be fair, Toast had an excuse, for he came out of the race with an illness. But I’d argue that his style is a more natural fit for the main track too.

A healthy Toast was off on his travels again to Del Mar, reverting to the synthetic for his biggest test in the Pacific Classic (G1). No match for Shared Belief’s devastating burst, he nonetheless kept on for an honorable second.

His Breeders’ Cup Classic was even better, demonstrating an ability to tussle with the highest class of opponents on dirt. Toast had the early speed to stalk Bayern, the stamina to carry it over a distance, and the heart for a three-way duel to the wire. Although he held off California Chrome, Toast couldn’t get past Bayern in an epic finish.

Qatar’s Al Shaqab swooped in to buy Toast as a hot prospect for the 2015 Dubai World Cup. But then came the tendon, forcing him to miss all of 2015. Osborne hoped to bring him back in 2016. Instead, he was retired to stud in Qatar. There went another year, and surely his racing career was over for good.

A combination of factors ultimately worked in Osborne’s favor. The dearth of interested mares in Qatar left Toast without much stud appeal (he sired about 10 foals), and more conclusively, his tendon had healed well. The Al Shaqab team thought it worthwhile to put him back in training and see how things developed.

After a transition period, Toast was ready to rejoin Osborne’s yard last March. Nine months of preparation built up to an improbable return in a December 6 Lingfield conditions race.

Tackling 1 1/4 miles under 130 pounds, off the 37-month layoff, Toast looked something like his old self. He went to the lead, then deferred to a rival, reasserted in the stretch, and kept finding to prevail by a length.

Obviously there were no jaw-dropping opponents in that short field of four, but at least useful enough types to make it a meaningful barometer for Toast. The runner-up, Petite Jack, came back to win the listed Quebec S. over the same course and distance December 23. Third-placer Intern had been competing in stakes since his debut score, finishing third to eventual dual classic winner Capri at Tipperary, a close second in the Sandown Classic Trial (G3), and 11th in the King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot.

Jockey Frankie Dettori, aboard Toast as Al Shaqab’s retained rider, told Racing Post that he was “only a 70 percent horse at the moment but still won.”

You’d expect him to come on quite a bit for the run, and Osborne has raved about his training up to the Pegasus. It’s not merely subjective eyeballing either, but objective facts of how he’s beating his company yardstick while packing weight. Osborne is also employing Equilume light therapy as part of his toolkit, so Toast is farther along physically than the typical horse just walking out of a British winter.

As a longtime Toast fan (I actually drafted him as the “Wolverhampton wonder” in the supplemental round of Brisnet’s in-house Triple Crown Fantasy contest), I find Osborne’s enthusiasm infectious – almost.

If you take for granted that he’s capable of firing at his 2014 level in his second start back, which is a substantial “if,” there remains the point about 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream. Toast strikes me as more of a relentless galloper, with a high cruising speed, who tries to wear you down and grind it out, rather than owning the kind of brilliance usually required around this circuit. And there’s no shortage of brilliance in this race, best personified by soon-to-be-crowned Horse of the Year Gun Runner.

That said, the superabundance of early speed among the principals – Gun Runner, Collected, West Coast, Sharp Azteca – may turn the Pegasus into a more thoroughgoing stamina test. While Toast is liable to get outfooted by sharper rival(s), he can box on doggedly for the duration, and I can see him involved in the minor rungs of the exotics.

I can also see the Pegasus serving as a springboard to the Dubai World Cup for Toast. After all, its predecessor the Donn was formerly a key American stepping stone, and Arrogate used the inaugural Pegasus en route to Meydan glory last year. Whatever Toast manages to accomplish at Gulfstream, the Dubai World Cup would mark his third start back, and possibly his strongest.

Toast is using the slot of original Pegasus stakeholder Reeves Thoroughbred Racing (of Mucho Macho Man fame), which teamed up with R.A. Hill Stable and Eric Young to strike the deal. Reports indicate he will still sport the Al Shaqab colors.

Photo courtesy Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photography