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.