California Chrome gets first look at Gulfstream Park

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — California Chrome has gotten his first look at the site of his final race.

The leading money winner in North American racing history went for a jog at Gulfstream Park early Sunday, two days after arriving to prepare for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28.

California Chrome has never raced in Florida, and his brisk pre-dawn trek onto the Gulfstream dirt – on an unseasonably chilly morning, the 48-degree air feeling colder in the wind – was the first of many scheduled for the next few days. He’s set to have daily early morning gallops until Saturday, when the plan calls for him to breeze five furlongs.

The first trek around Gulfstream was a success, the energetic colt seeming even more revved up by the cool conditions.

“That cold wind hitting him in the butt probably set him off a little bit,” Alan Sherman, the son of trainer Art Sherman, said as he stood in darkness outside the barn that California Chrome is calling home for the next few weeks. “He looked great. He’s sound and everything. Looked good.”

Gulfstream is the 10th, and final, track where California Chrome will run. He’ll be retired to stud in Kentucky after the Pegasus, a race that could push his career earnings past $20 million.

Coming in with plenty of time to acclimate might be a help.

California Chrome has only four wins in nine debut outings at a track. He’s got 12 wins in 17 starts when he has at least one race over a given surface.

“I’ve got nothing to worry about,” Sherman said. “As long as Chrome’s happy, I’m happy.”

The Pegasus is widely expected to be a rematch of sorts between California Chrome and Arrogate, the front-runners for Horse of the Year honors to be announced at the Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream on Jan. 21. They waged a memorable duel in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Arrogate winning by a half-length to hand California Chrome his only loss in eight starts in 2016.

Arrogate was scheduled to work later Sunday at Santa Anita – where rainy weather has kept trainer Bob Baffert from what would have been his preferred schedule leading into this race. Arrogate has won his last five starts, including a record-setting time in winning the Travers at Saratoga in August.

“I want to run against Arrogate,” Sherman said. “I hope he comes.”

Meanwhile, the 12-horse field for the Pegasus – the richest race in the world, surpassing the $10 million Dubai World Cup – is taking shape, and many of the likely starters are already in South Florida.

Keen Ice and Neolithic, both trained by Todd Pletcher, worked Saturday at Palm Beach Downs. Shaman Ghost worked Friday at Palm Meadows, and Eragon cleared quarantine last week after arriving from Argentina.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.