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 Spun to Run was withdrawn with hives, and even money favorite Omaha Beach scratched due to swelling in his right hind leg.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, 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, and the NBC Sports app on Saturday, January 25 from 4:30 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.