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 Gulfstreak 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.