The inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) will make history on Saturday, but horseplayers will have plenty of other reasons to get excited about the Gulfstream Park card, with six supporting stakes on tap.
California Chrome and Arrogate are obviously the headliners as they throw down again after an epic finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). A field of 12 will line up in the Pegasus World Cup with a $7 million payday awaiting the winner.
The breeding shed awaits Horse of the Year winner California Chrome as he makes his last career start on Saturday.
When I first heard of Frank Stronach’s idea for a $12 million race with a $1 million buy-in for stakeholders, I was skeptical. But he pulled it off, getting the two best dirt horse on the planet and a full field.
There is talk of adding a race for turf runners next year, and maybe even moving the race to Santa Anita. Keeping horses in training a couple of extra months is great for the game. If not for this race California Chrome would be retired and Arrogate would be vacationing.
As with most big race days, tracks are now sprucing up the undercard and Gulfstream Park did an outstanding job of making Saturday a late Christmas present for horseplayers.
Let’s take a quick look at the sporting stakes:
$100,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3)
The first stake on the 12-race card is the Hurricane Bertie, the third race and drawing a field of eight fillies and mares that will go seven furlongs on the main track. Curlin’s Approval is the 6-5 morning line favorite, coming off a game runner up finish in the Rampart Handicap (G3) over the Gulfstream Park main track in her last outing.
$400,000 Poseidon Handicap
This race was created as a back-up to the Pegasus World Cup and it is good to see we have a field of nine set to go 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The Todd Pletcher trained Stanford is the even money favorite. The five -year-old probably would have been the third or fourth choice in the betting for the Pegasus. He was a good-looking winner of the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) in his last outing.
$125,000 Ladies’ Turf Sprint
A dozen will line up in the Ladies’ Turf Sprint at five furlongs on the turf. The turf rails have come down for the first time in months, and the inside paths are likely going to be the place to be. The 4-1 morning line favorite is Everything Lovely, who drew the far outside 12 post.
$125,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint
The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner Mongolian Saturday is the headliner in this field of 12. He makes his first start since running ninth in the Turf Sprint this year, but remember that race was run going 6 ½ downhill at Santa Anita., He won the Woodford (G3) two back at Keeneland at 5 ½ furlongs and figures to bounce back with a much better effort, but catches a solid group.
$200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap (G3)
Another full field of 12 and horseplayers playing the Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 5 are going to have their hands full with this card. Suffused is the 3-1 morning line favorite for trainer Bill Mott but she drew the 12 post which makes her a tough play. Via Borghese winner Paige and Red Carpet (G3) runner up Aries fit with their best in a wide-open race.
$200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (G3)
How about another full field of 12 on the lawn? Twilight Eclipse has earned over $2 million in his career and is the 4-1 morning line favorite, but may not end up the betting favorite by post time. He was 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in his last start. Charming Kitten is back from his trip to Ireland, Danish Dynaformer was a good second in the Red Smith ‘Cap (G3) and Taghleeb is coming in off a win in the two-mile Allen Jerkens over the turf here.
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