Pegasus World Cup invitations announced


The Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series has announced the horses invited to run in the 2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1) and in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) on Saturday, January 25 at Gulfstream Park.

Maximum Security headlines the list of 12 horses (plus five reserves) invited to run in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, which runs 1 1/8 miles on the dirt at Gulfstream Park. However, the three-time G1 winner is expected to skip Pegasus in favor of the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup.

Trained by Jason Servis and owned by Gary and Mary West, Maximum Security crossed the wire first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was then disqualified on the track for impeding the forward motion of War of Will. The colt by New Year’s Day won the G1 Florida Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, claimed the G1 Haskell in July and finished out the year with a win in the G1 Cigar Mile Handicap.

Bob Baffert’s 5-year-old McKinzie also received an invitation to the Pegasus World Cup after finishing out 2019 with back-to-back second places in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) in September and in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in November. Other invitees include early 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach, who was scratched from the Derby with an entrapped epiglottis; 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run; and Aidan O’Brien’s Ireland-based Magic Wand, who was also invited to the Pegasus World Cup Turf.

Other Turf invitees include Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat, 2019 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) winner Helney’s Joy and three Chad Brown-trained horses (Instilled Regard, Without Parole and reserve horse Sacred Life). Brown trained last year’s Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar. City of Lights won the last year’s Pegasus World Cup.

Last month, the Stronach Group announced that the Pegasus World Cup will run entirely medication free for the first time in its four runnings. This comes as part of a growing effort across the industry to improve standards and safety in horse racing after Santa Anita, also owned by Stronach, saw 37 horses die in less than 12 months. Entry fees were entirely waived, and the purse dropped from $9 million to $3 million. Additionally, 2 percent of the purses, which are put up by Stronach, will go to caring for retired Thoroughbred racehorses.

Full list of invitees for the Pegasus World Cup: 

  • Gift Box, trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing
  • Higher Power, trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing
  • Magic Wand (IRE), trained by Aidan O’Brien and owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Mr. M.J. Jooste
  • Math Wizard, trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. and owned by John Fanelli, Khalid Mishref, Cash is King, LC Racing, Collarmele Vitelli Stables, Ioannis Zoumas, and Bassett Stables
  • Maximum Security, trained by Jason Servis and owned by Gary and Mary West
  • McKinzie, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram, and Paul Weitman
  • Mr Freeze, trained by Dale Romans and owned by Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister
  • Omaha Beach, trained by Richard Mandella and owned by Fox Hill Farms
  • Roadster, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Speedway Stable
  • Seeking the Soul, trained by Dallas Stewart and owned by Charles E. Fipke
  • Spun to Run, trained by Juan Carlos Guerrero and owned by Robert P. Donaldson
  • Tax, trained by Danny Gargan and owned by R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch, and Corms Racing Stable

Reserve invitees for the Pegasus World Cup: 

  • Mucho Gusto, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Michael Lund Petersen
  • War Story, trained by Elizabeth Dobles and owned by Imaginary Stables and Glenn K. Ellis
  • Bravazo, trained by D. Wayne Lukas and owned by Calumet Farm
  • Diamond Oops, trained by Patrick Biancone and owned by Diamon 100 Racing Club, Amy E. Dunne, DP Racing, and Patrick L. Biancone Racing
  • True Timber, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and owned by Calumet Farm

Full list of invitees for the Pegasus World Cup Turf: 

  • Arklow, trained by Brad Cox and owned by Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger, and Peter Coneway
  • Channel Cat, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Calumet Farm
  • Magic Wand (IRE), trained by Aidan O’Brien and owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Mr. M.J. Jooste
  • Henley’s Joy, trained by Michael Maker and owned by Bloom Racing Stable
  • Instilled Regard, trained by Chad Brown and owned by OXO Equine
  • Mo Forza, trained by Peter Miller and owned by Bardy Farm and OG Boss
  • Next Shares, trained by Ricard Baltas and owned by Debby Baltas, Richard Baltas, Christopher T. Dunn, Jules Iavarone, Michael Iavarone, Jerry McClanahan, Ritchie Robershaw, and Mark Taylor
  • Sadler’s Joy, trained by Thomas Albertrani and owned by Woodslane Farm
  • Starship Jubilee, trained by Kevin Attard and owned by Blue Heaven Farm
  • United, trained by Richard Mandella and owned by LNJ Foxwoods
  • Without Parole (GB), trained by Chad Brown and owned by John and Tanya Gunther
  • Zulu Alpha, trained by Michael Maker and owned by Michael M. Hui

Reserve invitees for the Pegasus World Cup Turf: 

  • Sacred Life (FRA), trained by Chad Brown and owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, Bethlehem Stables
  • Admission Office, trained by Brian Lynch and owned by Amerman Racing
  • A Thread of Blue, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and owned by Leonard C. Green
  • Mr. Misunderstood, trained by Brad Cox and owned by Flurry Racing Stables
  • Lucullan, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and owned by Godolphin

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

Road to the Kentucky Derby: Forte seems dominant ahead of Florida Derby prep race


The numbers speak for themselves. Horses trained by Todd Pletcher have earned more purse money (over $455 million) than those trained by any other person in the history of thoroughbred racing. He has won with an impressive 23% of his starters, and 52% have finished first, second or third.

When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, however, Pletcher becomes a mere mortal. From 62 career starters, he has won the race twice, with two seconds, and four horses who finished 3rd. Many of Pletcher’s Derby horses were longshots who were in the race primarily so their owners could have a horse in America’s biggest race. His two Derby winners, while they were reasonably backed at the windows, were far from odds-on favorites. When Super Saver won in 2010, he paid $18.00 for a $2 win ticket. Always Dreaming, his 2017 winner, was a very lukewarm favorite who returned $11.40 to win.  Many racing fans are used to seeing Pletcher’s horses win at short odds, primarily in New York and Florida. They might be shocked to find out that when Always Dreaming won the 2017 Derby, he was the shortest-odds horse that Pletcher had ever saddled in the Kentucky Derby, despite having odds just under 5-1.

RELATED: Kingsbarns goes wire-to-wire in Louisiana Derby

This Saturday, he will saddle Forte in the Florida Derby. Forte will enter the race on a four-race win streak, with those wins coming in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. He is a 4/5 morning line favorite, and if he wins the race, he should move forward to Louisville as a very strong favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Clearly, he would be the shortest-priced horse Pletcher has ever had in the race, but that almost wasn’t the case.

In 2010, we know that Pletcher scored a mild upset in the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. He was definitely not the best three-year-old in Pletcher’s barn. That year, he had a horse named Eskendereya, who seemed as unbeatable as Forte does now. He was set to enter the Derby off a three-race win streak. That streak included an 8 ½ length victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and a 9 ¾ length win in the Wood Memorial. The Pletcher barn was devastated when Eskendereya suffered a career-ending leg injury in training one week before the Kentucky Derby. So, instead of saddling the big favorite in the race, he took his shot with four other horses. As the chart tells us, Super Saver benefitted from a rail-skimming ride by Calvin Borel and gave Pletcher his first Derby winner.

As far as I am concerned, any discussion of Forte and the Florida Derby should begin with the concept of professionalism in a racehorse. In one respect you can call him more professional than (dare I say?) Secretariat. Big Red was brilliant, and he showed the ability to win on the engine and from off the pace. Forte’s three career races around two turns, however, are a virtual carbon copy of each other.

As a two-year-old, in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, he was in fifth place after six furlongs, sitting 2 ½ lengths off the lead, and he went on to win by a neck. That race set him up for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In the Juvenile, he was again in fifth after six furlongs, sitting four lengths off the lead before he went on to win by 1 ½ lengths. It’s been said that race horses mature the most between ages two and three, and Forte’s only race this year showed that maturity. In the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, he was in fourth after six furlongs, sitting about two lengths off the lead, and then he blew by the field, going on to win by 4 ½ lengths.

RELATED: Arabian Knight off Kentucky Derby trail; will return later

This concept of professionalism in a racehorse is based in part on how well the game plan of the trainer is executed by the horse. Forte is a horse that has clearly used his fast cruising speed and his ability to relax off the pace to his advantage. Looking at those three wins he posted around two turns, they show that Forte’s natural ability allows him to idle like a Cadillac behind front-runners, and he has a growing ability to pass his competition on the far turn and power through the stretch on his way to victory. The Pletcher game plan, nurtured through the experience of 62 starts in America’s most important race, has been very convincing thus far.

Working in Forte’s favor even more is the fact that there are several horses in the race who tend to run on the front end, which should set up jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. to make Forte’s signature move to the lead as the front-runners start to tire. Skeptics might point to Forte’s journey from the #11 post as a reason to think he might have a problem here, but the fact that he relaxes in races and has a high cruising speed should allow Ortiz to get a mid-pack position to pounce from.

As for the rest of the field, the two most likely to finish underneath Forte in exotic wagers are Fort Bragg and Cyclone Mischief. Fort Bragg is a horse who sold for $700,000 as a yearling. He was formerly trained by Bob Baffert and has been transferred to the care of Tim Yakteen. He should be near the front end early and is likely to have the class to last longer that some of the other forwardly-placed runners.  Another who has a good chance to hit the board is the Dale Romans-trained Cyclone Mischief. He has raced against some of the top horses of his age group and was third to Forte in the Fountain of Youth, beaten by nearly 6 lengths. Although he was on the lead in that race, I expect him to sit a couple of lengths off the pace here. There are two longer-priced entries here that could hit the board to fill out some tickets. They are the lightly-raced Mage (fourth in the Fountain of Youth with a troubled trip) and West Coast Cowboy, who has tried hard in all three career races and is 20-1 on the morning line.

RELATED: Two Phil’s dominates Jeff Ruby Steaks

For those who think they might be able to beat Forte, consider Todd Pletcher’s record in the Florida Derby. He is the leading trainer in the history of the race with six wins, and five of those have been in the last nine years.

If there is a theme to the Derby prep season thus far, it is Pletcher, Pletcher, Pletcher. In addition to Forte, he trains Kingsbarns, the front-running winner of the Louisiana Derby, and Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapit Trice. Tapit Trice, who will run in the Blue Grass Stakes on NBC a week from Saturday, is an intriguing horse who won the Tampa Bay Derby with come-from-behind style. As talented as Forte is, we don’t know how talented Tapit Trice can be, as he seems to mature more with each start. At Tampa Bay, he was eighth in the middle of the stretch and got home to win by an easy two lengths. He is an 8-1 second choice in the most recent Derby futures pool, with Forte favored at 3-1.

It is always fascinating when the early Derby favorite has his final prep race. We’ll have to sit back and watch on Saturday to determine whether Forte will continue his dominance or if he will hit a bump in the road. His talent and his ability to duplicate his running style from race to race lead me to think that his growth and maturity will continue to be on display in the Florida Derby, and he’ll advance to Kentucky a huge favorite for America’s biggest race.

How to Watch the Florida Derby

  • Date: Saturday, April 1st
  • Time: 6pm ET
  • TV Network: CNBC
  • Streaming: Peacock

When is the 2023 Kentucky Derby?

The 149th Kentucky Derby is set for Saturday, May 6th, and will air across the networks of NBC and Peacock.

Horse racing’s national anti-doping program starts

NBC Sports

Horse racing’s efforts to clean up the sport and level the playing field take another step forward with the launch of a new anti-doping program.

It’s an attempt to centralize the drug testing of racehorses and manage the results, as well as dole out uniform penalties to horses and trainers instead of the current patchwork rules that vary from state to state.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) was created by the federal government nearly three years ago. It has two programs: racetrack safety, which went into effect in July, and anti-doping and medication control.

“It’s one standard. You can be in Kentucky, you can be in Ohio, you can be in California and you’re going to be judged by the same standard,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said.

HISA’s Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit – its independent enforcement agency – has reached agreements with all of the state racing commissions and/or racetracks that will have live racing as of Monday.

Seven of the biggest racing states – Arkansas, California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma – will continue to use their current staff to collect samples.

In Arizona, Illinois and Ohio, there is no signed voluntary agreement with HISA, so it contracted directly with either current staff or hired its own personnel to collect samples. Post-race testing only in New York will be handled this way.

States that have live racing after mid-April are in discussion with the enforcement agency, HISA said.

The agency will work with accredited labs in Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky to analyze samples.

“For the first time, racing’s labs will be harmonized and held to the same performance standards nationwide,” said Ben Mosier, executive director of the enforcement agency. “Thoroughbred racehorses will be tested for the same substances at the same levels, regardless of where they are located or compete.”

Unlike the central offices that govern the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, the 38 U.S. racing states have long operated under rules that vary from track to track. Horses, owners, trainers and jockeys move frequently between states to compete. Locales would honor punishments meted out elsewhere, but inconsistencies created confusion and made it possible to game the system.

Lazarus said that in talking with horsemen they want three things from HISA: Catch the cheaters, be realistic about medication, and be aware of environmental contaminants that trainers cannot control but can trigger positive tests.

“That’s exactly what our program does,” she said recently.

HISA has been met with resistance in its short existence.

Last year, a federal appeals court ruled it unconstitutional, saying Congress gave too much authority to the group it established to oversee the racing industry. Congress tweaked the wording of the original legislation to fix that. It also gave the Federal Trade Commission the authority to oversee HISA.

Legal challenges in Texas and Louisiana to HISA resulted in the federal appeals court preventing it from operating, so state regulations will continue to govern the sport. Racetracks in Texas and Nebraska have chosen not to broadcast their simulcast signals out of state, so HISA currently has no authority to regulate them, Lazarus said.

As a result of the ongoing legal issues surrounding HISA, the anti-doping program won’t begin in every state on Monday as Lazarus had hoped.

“It’s not perfect,” she said. “We have to change some things, we have to see how some things go.”

There’s also been vocal opposition among some in the industry over the prospect of sweeping change – as well as its cost to racetracks, horse owners and trainers, and the impact it will have on business.

“They’ve been taking away certain medications, therapy machines, things that are truly beneficial,” said trainer Bret Calhoun, whose stable operates in Louisiana, Kentucky and Texas. “They’re having the opposite effect of what they’re saying … safety of the horse and rider. They’re doing absolutely the opposite.”

Calhoun spoke earlier this month at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association national convention in Louisiana.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry was even more blunt.

“At the core of HISA is this: a handful of wealthy players wish to control the sport through a one-size-fits-all, pay-to-play scheme that will decimate the inclusive culture of horse racing,” he said at the convention.

Lazarus counters the criticism, saying, “We’re there to make racing better.”

She has said she’s aiming for transparent investigations and speedier resolutions of disputes. And Lazarus has spent much of her first year on the job trying to “overcommunicate and overeducate.”

“I’m really hopeful that the message is getting through,” she said.

There will be no trial period for infractions under the new rules. Veterinarians who administer medications to horses have had to get up to speed on the regulations as well as trainers who are ultimately responsible for what goes into their horses.

“Change I think is always hard,” Lazarus said, “and this is like seismic change.”