Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto wins $3 million Pegasus World Cup

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Bob Baffert’s favorite Mucho Gusto won the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida with Eclipse Award-winner jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. This is Baffert’s second Pegasus World Cup win after his horse Arrogate captured the inaugural edition in 2019.

Mike Maker’s Zulu Alpha, jockeyed by 2019 Preakness winner Tyler Gaffalione, overtook Aidan O’Brien’s early favorite Magic Wand (IRE) to win the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf.

The two races were run entirely medication free, which included Lasix, a commonly used anti-bleeding medication. See the placings for both races below.

Dale Romans’ Mr Freeze was out in front for most of the Pegasus World Cup until Mucho Gusto and Ortiz Jr. charged for the lead as they turned for home. Mr Freeze was left cold in second, and War Story finished third after spending some time at the back of the pack. Mucho Gusto went off as the 5/2 favorite after Omaha Beach and Spun to Run scratched on Thursday. This was Mucho GUsto’s first start at Gulfstream Park and first race with Ortiz Jr. He previously 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. Before the Pegasus, his most recent victory came on June 16 in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita.

Preakness runaway Bodexpress managed to run the entire race with jockey Emisael Jaramillo in the saddle. Early on, he put the pressure on frontrunner Mr Freeze.

In the Pegasus World Cup Turf, Magic Wand took the early lead, holding off a hefty challenge from 2019 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) winner Helney’s Joy. In the final moments down the homestretch, Zulu Alpha stormed past the Irish-bred mare to secure the $1 million purse. Magic Wand was second, and Instilled Regard, one of Chad Brown’s three horses in the field, was third.

Already 7 years old, Zulu Alpha couldn’t find his stride until owner Michael Hui claimed the gelding for $80,000 in September of 2018. He went on to win $1.1 million in 2019 alone, 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). Zulu closed out 2019 with a 4th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). He is a descendant of A.P. Indy via his dam Zori.

$3 million Pegasus World Cup placings:

  1. Mucho Gusto
  2. Mr Freeze
  3. War Story
  4. Diamond Oops

$1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf placings:

  1. Zulu Alpha
  2. Magic Wand (IRE)
  3. Instilled Regard
  4. Sacred Life

On Thursday, even money favorite Omaha Beach scratched from the Pegasus World Cup due to swelling in his right hind leg and 7-2 Spun to Run was withdrawn with hives, which opened up the race for Mucho Gusto and the other 9 horses left in the field.

Earlier in the month, high-profile stars Maximum Security and McKinzie declined their invitations to the Pegasus with eyes set on the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on February 29.

The Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series is a series of two invite-only Grade 1 races held annually at Gulfstream Park since 2017 (originally only offering a dirt race before adding the turf division last year). The $3 million Pegasus World Cup runs 1 1/8 miles on the dirt, and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf runs 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Both races are for horses aged 4 years and older and are invitation-only.

This year, the Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park and heads the Pegasus World Cup, announced that both races would be run entirely medication free, as part of an industry-wide push for more safety and transparency in horse racing.

Additionally, all entry fees were waived as purses drop. Entry fees for the Pegasus have peaked as high as $1 million in past years. The Pegasus World Cup’s purse was dropped from $9 million in 2019 to $3 million this year, and the Pegasus World Cup Turf also saw a $6 million purse decrease from $7 million to $1 million. The Stronach Group also announced that 2 percent of the purses would be donated to caring for retired Thoroughbreds ready to be retrained and rehomed.

The horse racing world now looks ahead to the Saudi Cup, as well as the $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 28 at Meydan. Prep races for the Kentucky Derby (May 2 on NBC) will also begin to pick up speed around the country. With 100 qualifying points at stake, the Louisiana Derby kicks off NBC Sports’ coverage of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

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

Betway Challow Hurdle Day - Newbury Racecourse
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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths on Saturday 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.