$1,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park
Race 11 (Saturday, January 25, 2020: 4:49 p.m./ET; 1:49 p.m./PT)
Mile and three-sixteenths on turf (4-year-olds and upward)
The second running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) includes a trio of runners from the Chad Brown stable and a star from the Aidan O’Brien yard who ran second in this event last year. The power players on turf are coming to play ball, and it won’t be easy to beat them at their best game, but a seven-figure purse and a Grade 1 victory are on the line, so everyone in here should fire their best shot, making this a fascinating race. Let’s chat about each runner in this affair and pick out a winner.
#1 ZULU ALPHA ran a much better than looked fourth, beaten a length and three-quarters, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) behind potential Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in November. This Mike Maker trainee finished behind #2 ARKLOW, #4 SADLER’S JOY, #5 CHANNEL CAT, and #12 MAGIC WAND (IRE) in a few different races last year, but he did beat #2 ARKLOW by 3-lengths in the September 7 Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) three races ago. He sports a solid record on the Gulfstream Park turf course, with two wins from three starts over the Florida grass. With his best race, he fits, but this distance is probably too short for him.
#2 ARKLOW is another who exits the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). After defeating #1 ZULU ALPHA and #4 SADLER’S JOY in the Turf Classic Invitational (G1) at Belmont, he failed to fire in the Breeders’ Cup. His dull Breeders’ Cup effort was his first poor performance from seven starts in 2019. Four starts ago, he finished a half-length behind #5 CHANNEL CAT in the Bowling Green (G2) but was right there in contention for the win—just like he was in his five other good efforts in 2019. He’s not the flashiest horse, but if he decides to bring his “A” game, then you shouldn’t count him out.
#3 WITHOUT PAROLE (GB) flew from the back of the field to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) on November 2, his first start for trainer Chad Brown. Most of his 10 career races have come racing 8-furlongs, and his only two tries beyond a mile saw him lack that same closing kick. Although he may be best at a flat mile, this guy attracts Frankie Dettori, who flies in to ride, and it’s hard to ignore any Chad Brown trainee on turf. Legit possibility if you think this son of Frankel (GB) can get today’s distance.
#4 SADLER’S JOY is just 2-for-12 in the past two years but comes into this race fresh off a 2-length score in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct as the 13/10 favorite. He finished behind #2 ARKLOW in two separate races earlier in 2019, and he was also beaten by #5 CHANNEL CAT over the summer. Will try to beat him on the win end, but he’s a must-consider underneath in exotics.
#5 CHANNEL CAT is another one who has taken turns finishing ahead and behind multiple entrants in this race. Off at favored odds of 2/1 in his last start, he finished third behind #6 INSTILLED REGARD and #7 ADMISSION OFFICE in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) over this course. In the July 27 Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga, he beat #2 ARKLOW in a driving finish but was defeated by the aforementioned rival in the Turf Classic Invitational (G1) on October 5. In prior starts last year, he finished behind #1 ZULU ALPHA and #4 SADLER’S JOY. Another that may be best used underneath in exotics, if anywhere at all.
#6 INSTILLED REGARD was ultra-game when defeating #7 ADMISSION OFFICE and #5 CHANNEL CAT in the local prep over this course, the Fort Lauderdale (G2). We all know how well Chad Brown does with turf horses, and this runner has never finished off the board in four turf tries. Remember that Brown won this race last year with Bricks and Mortar, so you have to consider all three of his entrants. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode this runner last time out and retains the mount. Another possibility in a very wide-open race.
#7 ADMISSION OFFICE is a deep closer, which means he will need to outkick a lot of very nice horses down the lane. He was the runner-up to #6 INSTILLED REGARD last time out in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) and will need to turn the tables on that foe while also defeating a number of other top-class turf routers in this spot. Jose Ortiz hops off to ride #11 SACRED LIFE (FR), but Kentucky Derby (G1)–winning jockey Flavien Prat picks up the call. Not a bad replacement.
#8 HENLEY’S JOY has been soundly beaten by #10 MO FORZA and will need to pick up the pace significantly to win, or even hit the board, in this spot. Expect him to go off at a big price.
#9 NEXT SHARES snapped a six-race losing streak when beating #11 SACRED LIFE (FR) in the Seabiscuit (G2) at Del Mar in November. With his last win in the books, maybe that will give him confidence going into this much tougher assignment. He was a no-show in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) when defeated by Bricks and Mortar and #12 MAGIC WAND (IRE), who voyages overseas for this 2020 edition.
#10 MO FORZA makes his first career start against older stakes horses here. He has won four races in a row, including a victory in the Hollywood Derby (G1) and a pair of Grade 2 races. The margins of victory in all three stakes wins may be deceiving too, as he won fairly easily with plenty left in the tank. This time around, though, he plays in a whole new ballgame against a lot tougher company. He’ll need to have his running shoes on, and this will be a good indicator as to where he stands against the best older turf horses in the U.S. The acid test is coming up.
#11 SACRED LIFE (FR) is the third Chad Brown trainee signed on, and he may go off at a higher price than the other two. This dude was an easy allowance winner at Keeneland two races ago before returning to run second behind #9 NEXT SHARES in the Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) at Del Mar as the favorite (but with a troubled trip). He has finished first or second in 11 of 13 lifetime starts, so he is very consistent, and Brown obviously feels this horse can be competitive here. Maybe.
#12 MAGIC WAND (IRE), a 5-year-old mare, is the class of the race. Although she has won only three times in 22 lifetime starts, she has faced some of the top turf racers in the world. A mare who has often taken on the big boys, this daughter of Galileo (Ire) ran second in this race last year. In her last two races, she won a Group 1 in Australia and, most recently, came up a nose short in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) on December 8. Ryan Moore has the call for European training legend Aidan O’Brien.
#13 TUSK (Also Eligible) is on the outside looking in and will need a defection to draw into this race. The son of Tapit comes off a 2-length score in the Tropical Turf (G3) on January 11 and wheels back quickly for red-hot conditioner Saffie Joseph Jr. If this gelding does draw in, not only must he face much stricter competition, but he also may “bounce” off such a big effort just two weeks ago. Looking elsewhere.
1. #2 ARKLOW-His two-back effort can win it
2. #12 MAGIC WAND (IRE)-Tough to ignore how classy she is
3. #4 SADLER’S JOY-Could pick up another check
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY-#6 INSTILLED REGARD-Will be close to a slow pace
I’ll box all four selections in exactas and place a straight win bet on my top choice.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$14 Win: #2 ARKLOW
$3 Exacta Box: #2 ARKLOW and #4 SADLER’S JOY and #6 INSTILLED REGARD and #12 MAGIC WAND (IRE) ($36)
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