Pegasus World Cup goes entirely medication-free as purses drop

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The fourth annual Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park will go entirely medication-free as the purse falls from $9 million to $3 million. The G1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational will also be run entirely drug-free and its purse will decrease from $7 million to $1 million.  Also new in 2020, neither race will have an entry fee.

The Stronach Group will donate 2 percent of the purses to Thoroughbred aftercare, which will contribute to rehabilitating and rehoming former racehorses.

Both races will run on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida on NBC Sports from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

The Stronach Group, which heads the Pegasus World Cup and owns Gulfstream Park, announced the changes on Sunday. This comes a month and a half after the group, which also owns Santa Anita, saw Mongolian Groom break down during the Breeders’ Cup Classic at the historic track in Arcadia, California. The decision to make both races medication-free comes in the wake of public backlash over drug use in the sport, particularly the anti-bleeding medication Lasix, and attempts at reform across the country.

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“The Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series has always been about innovation,” Stronach Group President Belinda Stronach said in a press release. “The new and exciting medication-free format, along with giving back to horse care, showcases the leadership our industry is taking together to evolve beyond past achievements to create a more modern, sustainable and safer sport.”

Despite aggressive reforms at Santa Anita earlier this year, 37 horses died in less than 12 months at the track. In November, industry leaders, including Stronach, launched the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. One of the coalition’s main pillars of reform was medication, testing and the horses’ overall wellbeing. The six founding members emphasized their hope that the industry will follow suit.

“Running the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational medication-free is a stepping stone to what will be the eventual phase out of the use of race day medications for all graded stakes races by 2021 and puts this event squarely in line with the changing culture of our sport,” Stronach’s chief vet Dr. Dionne Benson said in a press release. “The health and safety of our athletes, equine and human, are our top priority.”

Horses 4 years and older are eligible to compete in the Pegasus World Cup, but the event will remain invitation-only. Though this year’s entry fee has been waived, it has fluctuated over the years, peaking as high as $1 million in the past. The series was launched in 2017, initially only offering the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on dirt.

In 2019, the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and Turf Invitational were the two richest races in North America. Due to the purse decrease, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic regains the top spot.

Watch the Pegasus World Cup on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Saturday, January 25 from 4:30 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET.

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.