$3 Million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1)

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$3,000,000 Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park Race 12 (Saturday, January 25, 2020: 5:34 p.m./ET; 2:34 p.m./PT)
Mile and an eighth (4-year-olds and upward)

The fourth running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) features a field of ten horses competing for the $3,000,000 prize. The first three editions of the Pegasus (G1) have resulted in short-priced horses taking home the gold medal with superstars Arrogate, Gun Runner, and City of Light basking in Gulfstream glory—but this Saturday, with the scratches of heavy favorite Omaha Beach and solid second choice Spun to Run, this year’s renewal is completely up for grabs. Let’s look at each contender in the 2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1), beginning with the rail post position.

#1 TRUE TIMBER has finished behind Maximum Security in his past two starts: the Bold Ruler (G3) and the Cigar Mile (G1). His best races have come around one turn, and he is 0-for-3 when traveling 9 furlongs, including a seventh-place finish in this race last year at 73/1. In fact, he’s winless going two turns at any distance, so for that reason, we have to side with others.

#2 TAX made his first start off a three-month break in the November 30 Discovery (G3) at Aqueduct and finished a no-excuse second as the favorite. His biggest win last year came in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga—a great effort, but the race was restricted to 3-year-olds, and the best of his generation weren’t in that race. He now makes his first start against older horses, and his regular rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., opts to ride #10 MUCHO GUSTO. Little brother Jose Ortiz picks up the mount on a horse who should at least get a good forwardly placed trip.

#3 DIAMOND OOPS was a stalk-and-pounce winner of the Mr. Prospector (G3), sprinting 7-furlongs over this track on December 21. He thrives on the Gulfstream dirt, with five wins from six lifetime starts over the surface. That said, he’s a confirmed sprinter, and his one effort beyond 7-furlongs on the dirt saw him finish well back in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He looks like a pace factor in here.

#4 SEEKING THE SOUL, a 7-year-old, has been soundly beaten in his last four races, all against similar company. He would need a form reversal to hit the board today (though optimists will point to the fact that he did finish second in this race last year at 34/1). Passing on the win-end, but he could clunk up for second or third if a hot pace develops.

#5 OMAHA BEACH—scratched.

#6 HIGHER POWER finished an average third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), beaten 8-lengths by Vino Rosso. His workouts leading up to this race have been superior, though, and he figures to sit a good stalking trip off a solid pace. Look for him to make some noise if he shows up with his best, especially since he’s a Grade 1 winner facing a bunch of less classy animals. He benefits the most with the defections of Omaha Beach and Spun to Run.

#7 WAR STORY won the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) over this track on December 14—a race that was arguably one of the best efforts of his long career. He has had ample time to recover since then but faces a much stronger cast of characters this time around. His two previous tries in this race—in 2017 and 2018—were not up to par, so unless this 8-year-old veteran takes a big step forward, an exotics placing may be his ceiling.

#8 MR FREEZE finished third behind the sharp Tom’s d’Etat in the Clark Handicap (G1) despite a perfect trip. And even though he won’t have to face his nemesis today, he’ll have to face some quality animals. His only win last year came in the one-turn Ack Ack (G3), so he looks like another entrant who may be a notch or two below the best in here.

#9 SPUN TO RUN—scratched.

#10 MUCHO GUSTO makes his first afternoon appearance since a fourth-place finish as the heavy favorite in the Oklahoma Derby (G3). In his two races before that, he hit the board against top-class 3-year-olds Maximum Security and Code of Honor in the Haskell (G1) and Travers (G1), respectively. He sports a sharp series of works leading up to this race for trainer Bob Baffert, who won the inaugural running of this event with Arrogate. Baffert will have him ready, but the question simply becomes whether he can finally win at today’s distance after three failed attempts last year.

#11 TENFOLD has failed to hit the board in five straight races and faces a much tougher field than what he has seen in his last few starts. He is a deep closer who tries to do his best work late, which means others will get first jump on him—and his speed figures do not stack up with the major contenders in this race.

#12 BODEXPRESS draws the worst post position of all. The run to the first turn is short, and he is likely going to be floated wide. His last start, a third-place finish in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3), was an average effort. He has a lot to overcome, especially since his only two wins came at the much weaker Gulfstream Park West meeting.

SELECTIONS

1. #6 HIGHER POWER-Has races that are good enough to beat this field

2. #2 TAX-should be in the hunt turning for home and could easily hold on for third

3. #4 SEEKING THE SOUL-He could clunk up for third with a pace collapse

LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY-#7 WAR STORY-Possible to pick up the pieces for a minor award

WAGERING STRATEGY

This became a much trickier race to assess given the two scratches, but perhaps there is some value in trying to keep MUCHO GUSTO (and his potential distance limitations) out of the exotics, so let’s key #6 HIGHER POWER on top of our other choices.

BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)

$25 EXACTA: #6 HIGHER POWER over #2 TAX and #4 SEEKING THE SOUL ($50)

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