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Big-money Pegasus World Cup adds turf race for 2019 return

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) The Pegasus World Cup is back, and now has a second race.

The Stronach Group announced Tuesday the 2019 Pegasus will be a two-race event, one a $9 million race on the dirt and now a $7 million turf race will be part of the Jan. 26 card at Gulfstream Park as well.

The first two Pegasus World Cups only offered one dirt race.

Those also required a $1 million entry fee. The 2019 event will carry a $500,000 entry fee, with the total purse for the two races matching the $16 million that the lone race had last year.

“The appetite for a turf race is strong and the decision to include a premier turf race is part of the ongoing evolution of the Pegasus World Cup,” said Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group. “We are excited to expand this event for both horse owners and fans, adding to what is already an incredible day of entertainment and world-class racing.”

If the same ownership group wins both races, The Stronach Group will pay a $1 million bonus. The winner of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which will be on dirt at 1 1/8 miles, gets $4 million. The winner of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, to be run at 1 3/16 miles, gets $3 million.

Adding a turf race was something The Stronach Group has considered for some time, and many of the sport’s top owners had lobbied for there to be a grass option – the belief there being the additional spectacle would only help racing grow.

“There is no better way to do that than to provide a new platform to showcase the world’s best thoroughbreds,” Coolmore Stud founder John Magnier said.

Arrogate won the inaugural Pegasus race in 2017, and Gun Runner prevailed this past January.

Their purses for those wins – $7 million apiece – are a big reason why they are the two top horses in terms of earnings in North American racing history. Arrogate sits atop that list at $17.4 million, Gun Runner is second at just under $16 million.

Ex-jockey Valenzuela pleads guilty to domestic violence

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VISTA, Calif. (AP) Famed former jockey Patrick Valenzuela has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence for slapping his girlfriend at a Southern California restaurant.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the seven-time Breeders Cup winner entered the plea earlier this week, was fined nearly $900 and ordered to take domestic violence recovery classes.

Prosecutors say Valenzuela slapped his girlfriend last month for hugging a bartender at a Carlsbad restaurant.

Valenzuela told the Union-Tribune by phone Friday that he is “very saddened” by the situation and added: “I will continue to strive to be the best person I can be.”

Valenzuela had more than 4,300 winning races, including the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He’s struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and lost his California racing license. He last raced in 2016.

Victor Espinoza plans comeback in late December

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza is planning a comeback in late December after fracturing a vertebra in his neck during a training accident at Del Mar.

That’s according to his agent Brian Beach, who says Friday that Espinoza saw his doctors this week and they are pleased with his progress. However, they’re not yet ready to release the 46-year-old Hall of Fame jockey to ride again.

Beach says on his Twitter account that Espinoza “wants to be 100 percent when he comes back.”

A late December return would allow Espinoza to ride at Santa Anita, which opens its winter-spring meet on Dec. 26.

Espinoza got hurt July 22 when he fell while exercising a horse.

He rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown sweep in 2015.