HANDICAPPING THE TWO PEGASUS RACES

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By Dean Arnold

This is the fourth year of the Pegasus Invitational, but the first time the races will be run without allowing race-day use of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix.

The $1 million Turf (G1), 1 3/16 miles, turf:

This race was won by overwhelming Eclipse Award Horse of the Year favorite Bricks and Mortar (trained by Chad Brown) in the inaugural running last year. This year, East coast turf stakes runners Zulu Alpha and Sadler’s Joy will face off against a full field including the Aidan O’Brien-trained world traveler Magic Wand and the Chad Brown trio of Instilled Regard, Sacred Life and Without Parole. 

Magic Wand was beaten a nose in the Dec. 8 Hong Kong Cup in her last start. One of the challenges with shipping to Gulfstream Park in the winter is that it is a warm tropical climate. Europeans runners are shipping in from much colder climates. Between having their winter coats and not being used to 70-80 degree air temperatures, it is a tough adjustment for foreign horses even if they appear to be legitimate contenders based on their past performances. The guess here is that this race will go to the horses training locally.

The $3 million World Cup (G1), 1 1/8 miles, main track:

In its brief three year history, the World Cup has been won by well fancied runners, all of whom previously won a Breeders’ Cup race: (4/5 favorite Arrogate in 2017, even-money favorite Gun Runner in 2018 and 9/5 co-favorite City of Light in 2019). 

The main track at Gulfstream Park is a mile-and-one-eighth course with the start/finish line very near the clubhouse turn. Races run at this distance have very few winners drawn outside of post eight, and breaking from the far outside in a large field makes it nearly impossible to win. 

The 2020 Pegasus Cup really comes down to a question of pace. Main contenders Omaha Beach and Spun to Run are both talented front runners that have won in sprints and are bred to handle the two-turn route distance.

Often in a race where the top prospects all have the same front running style, there is a good chance of a pace meltdown. That being said, Gulfstream is rarely a track that yields closers winning from far back. Any thoughts of a stretch runner closing to win from 20-30 lengths back would simply be bucking a lot of history at Gulfstream Park that favors horses with early zip.  

Also, the chances of a battle through a sub :46 second opening half mile leading to Omaha Beach and Spun to Run completely cooking each other in the opening stages are fairly unlikely. A more likely scenario is Spun to Run securing the lead and setting a pace that the other jockeys will not want to contest. 

Under this scenario, Omaha Beach could find himself in pursuit and trying to catch Spun to Run in the stretch just like the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). The outcome in the Pegasus (G1) may very well be that same.

Deep stretch closers are unlikely win candidates. A lot of players will count on Tax, Seeking The Soul or Tenfold to upset the field or at least hit the board due to the anticipated pace setup. If closers at huge odds finish behind Omaha Beach and/or Spun to Run, the exotics will be over-bet and pay off at underwhelming prices. 

Exotics will only pay well if one of those two finishes out of the money. Given that Spun to Run is most likely to lead early, he will be the play on top both on the win end and in exotics. Leaving Omaha Beach off exotic tickets in the win and place spots is risky, but certain to offer generous payouts.

Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon.

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