$16,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) – Gulfstream Park

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Race 12 (Saturday, January 27, 2018: 5:35 p.m./ET; 2:35 p.m./PT)

Mile and an eighth on the main track (four-year-olds and upward)

The Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) features a full starting gate of twelve talented equines, highlighted by #10 GUN RUNNER, who looks to cap off his outstanding career with a win in the richest race in the world while the Bob Baffert trained duo of #2 WEST COAST and #5 COLLECTED will attempt to turn the tables on the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) champ. Many storylines surround the race this year, so without further ado, let’s get to the analysis:

#1 SINGING BULLET won an allowance race at Churchill Downs two starts back, but most recently ran fourth as the 4/5 favorite over this track. He had an excuse for the poor performance, as he stumbled and lost a lot of ground on both turns. That said, he’ll need to run much better than he has been to make an impact against the best dirt horses in the world.

#2 WEST COAST was the best three-year-old in the nation last year, reeling off victories in the Travers (G1), the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and the Los Alamitos Derby (G1). In his first start against older horses, this son of FLATTER put up a gallant effort, finishing third behind #10 GUN RUNNER and stablemate #5 COLLECTED in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Has the look of a major player in the 2018 handicap division.

#3 STELLAR WIND was purchased at the November Keeneland sale by the Coolmore partners for $6 million dollars and will race once more today before heading to the breeding shed. Daughter of CURLIN has earned over $2.2 million in her racing career, with 10 wins from 16 lifetime starts. Last year, this gal won three Grade I’s but most recently ran eighth (and last) in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Even though this is her first start under the care of trainer Chad Brown (and we all know how well his horses are running these days), she’ll need to dramatically improve off that poor effort in the Breeders’ Cup.

#4 SHARP AZTECA won the Cigar Mile (G1) in emphatic style, stalking the pace before drawing off to win by over five lengths. The Jorge Navarro trainee also finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and scored a nice victory in the Kelso Handicap (G2) earlier in the fall. Even though this guy has never raced nine furlongs before, he is tactical and won the Monmouth Cup (G3) at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, while sporting a three-for-five record over the Gulfstream Park main track.

#5 COLLECTED ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) two starts back and beat 2017 Pegasus Invitational winner ARROGATE in the Pacific Classic (G1) three starts ago. Prepping for this race, COLLECTED ran a subpar third behind GIANT EXPECTATIONS in the San Antonio Stakes (G2), but keep in mind that he sat too far off the pace that day, running into a slow tempo, and was not given a great scenario to perform at his best. Expect him to be forwardly placed and run an improved race this time.

#6 GUNNEVERA finished second in the Travers (G1) to #2 WEST COAST and ran a respectable fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), his most recent appearance. All four horses that finished in front of him in the Breeders’ Cup are entered here, so he’ll need to improve greatly to turn the tables on that quartet.

#7 FEAR THE COWBOY won the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) over this track on December 16 while running the best race of his life that day. The second place finisher, MR. JORDAN, came back to run second in the Sunshine Millions Classic. The field here is much tougher and he’ll need to run much faster to hit the board.

#8 WAR STORY finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) behind #10 GUN RUNNER, #5 COLLECTED and #2 WEST COAST while having to make up at least four lengths on those rivals. An exotics placing appears to be his ceiling.

#9 TOAST OF NEW YORK finished second in the 2014 Pacific Classic (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) before being injured and retired. Three years later, his connections decided to make him a racehorse again, and the seven-year-old won his first start off a 37-month break on December 6, in England, against allowance caliber runners. This is obviously a huge step up in class, but he once had the class to be competitive against this level of company in 2014. Whether he still does today is the $16 million dollar question.

#10 GUN RUNNER had a sensational 2017. The son of CANDY RIDE won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in gate to wire fashion last time out after winning the Woodward (G1), Whitney (G1) and Stephen Foster (G1) earlier in the year. He sports a blazing fast six-furlong workout (1:11 flat) in preparation for this race and his best effort will make him tough to run down. His post position is the lone concern since there is a very short run to the first turn, so it’s pretty much a guarantee that this guy will lose some ground on the clubhouse turn.

#11 SEEKING THE SOUL comes into this off a hard fought victory in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs two months ago. He is in peak form right now and is going to get projected fast fractions in this race to run into. A contender to hit the board at a price?

#12 GIANT EXPECTATIONS got an easy lead in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) and took advantage by taking the field gate to wire, defeating heavily favored #5 COLLECTED in the process. That said, his post position draw is a major concern and he’s bound to have company on the front end this time.

#13 GIUSEPPE THE GREAT is on the also eligible list and would need a scratch to get into the race. He won an allowance race on December 10. This is a much, much tougher group he’ll face if he gets into the race.

#14 GAME OVER would need two scratches to draw into the race. The last time he ran, he finished fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) behind #2 WEST COAST. Before that effort, he ran second in the West Virginia Derby (G3).

SELECTIONS

  1. #10 GUN RUNNER - Looking to cap off his career with a win in the world’s richest race.
  2. #2 WEST COAST - Getting better with age.
  3. #5 COLLECTED - Needs to turn the tables on my top pick.

LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY- #11 SEEKING THE SOUL - Fast pace would benefit his chances.

WAGERING STRATEGY

I’ll key my top selection over my other three picks in exactas and trifectas. When all is said and done, I still have two dollars left to bet, so I’ll make a win bet on my longshot value play.

BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)

$10 Exacta: #10 GUN RUNNER over #2 WEST COAST and #5 COLLECTED and #11 SEEKING THE SOUL ($30).

$3 Trifecta Box: #10 GUN RUNNER over #2 WEST COAST and #5 COLLECTED and #11 SEEKING THE SOUL ($18).

$2 Win: #11 SEEKING THE SOUL

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