Big scratches shake up Pegasus World Cup field

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With Champion 3-Year-Old Male finalist Omaha Beach and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run out for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, the field has opened up for the remaining 10 horses. Spun to Run was withdrawn with hives, and even money favorite Omaha Beach scratched due to swelling in his right hind leg.

Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto and John Sadler’s Higher Power take over as two of the favorites. Below are updated odds and post positions for the Pegasus World Cup, as well as the Pegasus World Cup Turf.

The 2020 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series will take place on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET. Post time for the Pegasus World Cup Turf is approximately 4:49 p.m. ET, and post time for the Pegasus World Cup is approximately 5:34 p.m. ET. Watch live race coverage and analysis on NBC, NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.

Stream the Pegasus World Cup here.

$3 million Pegasus World Cup post positions and odds as of Jan. 24:

  1. True Timber (15-1), trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, jockey Joe Bravo
  2. Tax (8-1), trainer Danny Gargan, jockey Jose Ortiz
  3. Diamond Oops (15-1), trainer Patrick Biancone, jockey Julien Leparoux
  4. Seeking the Soul (30-1), trainer Dallas Stewart, jockey John Velazquez
  5. Omaha Beach (SCRATCHED), trainer Richard Mandella, jockey Mike Smith
  6. Higher Power (6-1), trainer John Sadler, jockey Flavien Prat
  7. War Story (30-1), trainer Elizabeth Dobles, jockey Joel Rosario
  8. Mr Freeze (20-1), trainer Dale Romans, jockey Luis Saez
  9. Spun to Run (SCRATCHED), trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero, jockey Javier Castellano
  10. Mucho Gusto (9-2), trainer Bob Baffert, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
  11. Tenfold (30-1), trainer Steve Asmussen, jockey Tyler Gaffalione
  12. Bodexpress (30-1), trainer Gustavo Delgado, jockey Emisael Jaramillo

$1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf post positions and odds as of Jan. 24:

  1. Zulu Alpha (12-1), trainer Mike Maker, jockey Tyler Gaffalione
  2. Arklow (6-1), trainer Brad Cox, jockey Luis Saez
  3. Without Parole (GB) (4-1), trainer Chad Brown, jockey Frankie Dettori
  4. Sadler’s Joy (8-1), trainer Tom Albertrani, jockey Javier Castellano
  5. Channel Cat (10-1), trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey John Velazquez
  6. Instilled Regard (10-1), trainer Chad Brown, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
  7. Admission Office (30-1), trainer Brian Lynch, jockey Flavien Prat
  8. Henley’s Joy (30-1), trainer Mike Maker, jockey Julien Leparoux
  9. Next Shares (30-1), trainer Richard Baltas, jockey Jose Valdivia Jr.
  10. Mo Forza (5-1), trainer Peter Miller, jockey Joel Rosario
  11. Sacred Life (FRA) (12-1), trainer Chad Brown, jockey Jose Ortiz
  12. Magic Wand (IRE) (7-2), trainer Aidan O’Brien, jockey Ryan Moore

Trainer Bob Baffert captured the very first Pegasus World Cup back in 2017 with Arrogate, and this year, Mucho Gusto could give him another win. With two of his biggest threats now gone, Mucho Gusto’s 9-2 odds make him one of the frontrunners heading into the $3 million race. This will be his first start at Gulfstream.

His last time out, he finished 4th in the G3 Oklahoma Derby back in September, but he’s seen his fair share of close misses. Over the summer he took third to Code of Honor in the Travers (G1) and finished second behind Champion 3-Year-Old Male Maximum Security in the G1 Haskell. His last victory came on June 16 in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Irad Ortiz Jr., the newly minted Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey, will take the reins from Joe Talamo.

Coming out of the No. 6 spot with 6-1 odds, 5-year-old Higher Power finally hit his stride when he won the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) back in August at Del Mar by a whopping 5 1/4 lengths. He managed to salvage a third place finish in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) in September after a bad stumble at the beginning of the race, and most recently took third again, this time in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2.

Tax (8-1) is the only horse in the Pegasus World Cup field who has won a race (his first career win) without the drug Lasix, which is banned from both events on Saturday for the first time ever. In his most recent race, he took second in the Discovery Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct in November despite being the 6-5 favorite. He ran in the Kentucky Derby (finished 15th, placed 14th), Belmont (4th) and Travers (7th) to little fanfare but does boast a win in the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. Irad Ortiz Jr. hands the reins over to his brother Jose Ortiz.

Last year’s Pegasus World Cup runner up Seeking the Soul gets another shot, albeit 30-1, on the Gulfstream dirt. Now 7 years old, he enters the new year off months of disappointing Grade 1 finishes, including 4th in the Awesome Again Stakes and 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Seeking the Soul, who is owned by mining magnate Charles Fipke, hasn’t win a race since the G2 Stephen Foster Stakes last June. This will be his third time running in the Pegasus World Cup (he finished 5th in 2018). Fellow 30-1 longshot War Story (No. 7) will also run in his third Pegasus World Cup.

Bodexpress demanded the country’s attention last spring when he ran the whole entire Preakness Stakes riderless after throwing his jockey John Velazquez right out of the gate. Most recently, he took third place in the G3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream in December, but not without throwing another jockey (his Pegasus rider Emisael Jaramillo) while loading into the gate. Earlier last year, he finished one spot ahead of Tax in the Kentucky Derby and took second in the Florida Derby, also at Gulfstream, behind Maximum Security.

What to know about the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series

One year after finishing second in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf, Aidan O’Brien’s mare Magic Wand (IRE) is the 7/2 favorite. The globetrotting 5-year-old closed out 2019 with a three-race stint in Australia, where she finished 10th in the G1 Melbourne Cup then won the G1 Seppelt MacKinnon Stakes four days later, and a second in a Grade 1 race in Hong Kong.

Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer Chad Brown fields three horses on the turf: dirt-to-turf convert Instilled Regard, French-bred Sacred Life and Without Parole (GB), who will be running in his second career start on this side of the pond.

Champion Male Turf Horse finalist Mo Forza is on a roll after winning all three races he’s run in since breaking his maiden. The 4-year-old son of Uncle Mo notably took the G1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar in November, and heads into the weekend with 5-1 odds.

Sadler’s Joy, the 7-year-old son of dominant turf sire Kitten’s Joy and half sibling to fellow invitee Henley’s Joy, heads to Gulfstream at 8-1 odds with a number of graded stakes placings and almost $2.5 million in career earnings. Though he’s only finished outside of the money five times in 22 starts since breaking his maiden, Sadler’s Joy only has one Grade 1 win: the Sword Dancer Stakes way back in August of 2017.

Calumet Farm had a phenomenal 2019 season, they’ll look to start 2020 off right with Todd Pletcher-trained Channel Cat in the Pegasus World Cup Turf at 10-1 odds. The 5-year-old has five firsts in 20 starts but hasn’t claimed a win since July after leading wire-to-wire in the G2 Bowling Green Stakes.

Already 7 years old, it wasn’t until 2019 that Calumet-bred Zulu Alpha (12-1) seemed to really hit his stride. His $1.1 million earnings for 2019 far outpaces his $161,000 the year before, thanks in part to wins in the G3 Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes at Kentucky Downs and back-to-back graded wins at Gulfstream Park. Most recently, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

2019 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) winner Helney’s Joy will compete against her sibling Sadler’s Joy, by way of their shared sire Kitten’s Joy. With just over $1 million in earnings so far, the 30-1 longshot will be looking to snap a cold streak that hasn’t seen a win since July.

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.

Breeders’ Cup preps reach crescendo with Fall Stars Weekend at Keeneland

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To the horse racing world, Keeneland is Disneyland. Everything about the Keeneland experience tells you that you are in a special place where the world revolves around thoroughbred racing and breeding.

Take Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, for example. Although it’s in a relatively small marketplace, it can handle 747 jets, because wealthy owners attending the horse sales often arrive in a jumbo jet with a large entourage. When you leave the airport, you are at the intersection of Man o’War Boulevard and Versailles Road. You’re literally across the street from Gate 1 of Keeneland Race Course. Keeneland, by the way, is adjacent to the legendary Calumet Farm. Venturing out onto various side streets, you will almost stumble upon some of the most famous breeding facilities in the world. In the paddocks of these farms, the vision of mares and their foals frolicking is commonplace, looking like a scene from a movie.

Keeneland is unique, as its elegance and its racing exist side by side with its primary purpose: being a place where millions of dollars change hands on a regular basis in the sales pavilion. A countless number of legendary horses had their careers begin with their purchase in that pavilion. Unlike venues in places like New York and California, where racing is conducted virtually year-round, racing at Keeneland is held for three weeks in the spring and three weeks in the fall.

RELATED: Pleasant Passage wins Miss Grillo Stakes

The fall meeting is situated perfectly to provide final prep races for many of the horses who are pointed to a performance in the Breeders’ Cup. In a span of 3 days, from October 7th to 9th, Fall Stars Weekend will feature 9 different “Win and You’re In” races in nine different Breeders’ Cup divisions. Normally, these would be very attractive races with large purses, but when you add in the fact that the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Keeneland this year, they are even more attractive. These races offer the prospect of having a horse get a final prep at Keeneland, stay stabled in the Lexington area, and then compete in the Breeders’ Cup, all in a four-week span. For those based at Keeneland, it means they will just have a brief walk through the magnificent stable area to get to the location where they will be racing.

History of The Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland

The first Breeders’ Cup held at Keeneland was the 2015 edition, and the decision to hold the event there was controversial. Many in the racing world felt that the facility was too small, as it could not hold the large crowds of Churchill Downs and Santa Anita. Brilliant management at Keeneland led to the attendance in the main building being limited, with satellite locations on the grounds handling the overflow of a total crowd of about 40,000. It was a comfortable event to attend, helped in no small part by the fact that the star of the show was the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. American Pharoah lived up to his billing, turning in a dominant performance to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the final race of his career. The event returned to Keeneland in 2020, but attendance was limited due to the pandemic. Once again, however, the star of the show delivered, as Kentucky Derby winner Authentic capped off his career with a win in the Classic.

Fall Stars Weekend will be featured in two telecasts, to be shown at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on CNBC. Each day will feature two live races, along with highlights of some of the other “Win and You’re In” races from the weekend.

RELATED: Alpinista overcomes heavy ground to win l’Arc de Triomphe

Saturday storylines at Fall Stars Weekend

On Saturday, the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity will be shown live. The winner will gain entrance to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The likely favorite will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Forte, who was a dominant winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Pletcher has another interesting prospect in Lost Ark, who is 2-for-2 lifetime, including a runaway win in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth in his last start. Bob Baffert will be shipping in two juveniles for a possible start in the Breeders’ Futurity. Most notable of these is Carmel Road, who captured a maiden race at Del Mar by 8 ½ lengths in his last start. The other possible Baffert starter is National Treasure, who captured a 6 ½ furlong Maiden race at Del Mar in a fast time in his only career start. Another youngster pointed to this race is Frosted Departure, from the barn of Ken McPeek. This one captured an allowance race at Churchill Downs by 9 ¼ lengths last time out.

The other live race on Saturday’s telecast is the Coolmore Turf Mile, which is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. This is always a contentious race, and some veteran campaigners who haven’t lost a step highlight this year’s field. One of those vets is the Bill Mott-trained Casa Creed, who won the Fourstardave Stakes at Saratoga in his last start. Major turf races at this time of year frequently feature Chad Brown trainees, and this race is no exception. His top two probables here are Emaraaty, who won the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga in his last start, and Masen, who won the Poker Stakes at Belmont earlier this year. Paulo Lobo will return with In Love, who won this race last year.  Finally, how about a horse who has been 1st or 2nd in 10 of 12 lifetime starts at 1 mile on turf? That’s trainer Michael McCarthy’s veteran Smooth Like Strait. This one is a wide-open affair with some worthy contenders, to be sure.

RELATED: Mo Donegal rewards team’s confidence at Belmont

Sunday storylines at Fall Stars Weekend

The first live race on Sunday’s telecast from Keeneland will be the Bourbon Stakes, for 2-year-olds on the turf. It is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Some key trainers dominate the storylines in this race. Mark Casse has won the Bourbon Stakes in 4 of its last 7 runnings, and he will run Boppy O, the winner of the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga in his last start. McPeek is another 4-time winner of the Bourbon. He won last year with Tiz The Bomb, who then went on to finish 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. His 2 probables for the race are Rarified Flair (2nd in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile last out) and B Minor (won a Maiden race on dirt at Churchill Downs in his last start). It also should be noted that North America’s all-time leading trainer in wins, Steve Asmussen, will have two probable entries in Red Route One and Gigante. Red Route One won a Maiden race at Kentucky Downs in his last, while Gigante was the winner of the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs in his last appearance. Finally, there is Brendan Walsh, who seems to always be a factor in Kentucky, and especially in turf races. He presents Reckoning Force, who won that $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile in his last out.

The show-topper on Sunday is the venerable Juddmonte Spinster Stakes. Back in 1984, Princess Rooney posted a win in the Spinster as her final prep before winning the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Other notables who have won this race in their final prep before winning the Distaff include Bayakoa, Paseana, Inside Information and Blue Prize.

This year’s Juddmonte Spinster features a matchup between two of the top females of the past couple of years in Letruska and Malathaat. Letruska won the Spinster last year on her way to an Eclipse Award as top older female dirt horse. This year, she has posted 2 wins and a third in 4 starts. Malathaat won the 2021 Kentucky Oaks and was 3rd in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She enters this race off a win in the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga.

This weekend presents the final North American “Win and You’re In” opportunities for the Breeders’ Cup. In New York, California, and Kentucky, 14 horses will gain entry into the “Big Dance” of Thoroughbred Racing. Most of us will be getting a case of “Breeders’ Cup Fever” this weekend, as the reality of those races on the first weekend of November draws ever so much closer.

Alpinista overcomes heavy ground to win l’Arc de Triomphe

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PARIS – Alpinista made light work of the rain and heavy ground to narrowly win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Jockey Luke Morris attacked heading into the last furlong and the 5-year-old mare just held off a late charge from Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon on Vadeni and last year’s 80-1 winner Torquator Tasso, ridden by veteran Italian jockey Frankie Dettori.

“I had a beautiful draw in stall six and after being perfectly placed, there was a second when I thought we were getting drawn into it too early,” Morris said. “But once she had taken charge, I was able to sit on her from 100 meters out.”

Morris felt the conditions would have made it harder for Alpinista to attack the way she did.

“I was concerned when all that rain came but the race went very smoothly,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how it could have in a 20-runner Arc. It was incredible.”

Alpinista was among the pre-race favorites.

“If it hadn’t been my horse, I would have thought it was going to win every inch of the way, but when it’s your own of course it’s a nightmare,” Alpinista trainer Mark Prescott said. “I didn’t think all that rain would help, but she’s never traveled better and has come on with each race.”

It was not yet clear if Alpinista will next race at the Breeders’ Cup or the Japan Cup next month.