Fans and horseplayers did not get the stretch duel they expected, but the first running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park lived up to its billing with a dazzling performance by Arrogate, who drew away to win by 4 ¾ lengths.
The Bob Baffert trainee was sent off as the 4-5 betting favorite despite word circulating that he had a very minor foot abscess. He was the 4-5 favorite while his chief rival California Chrome was sent off as the second choice at 6-5 in the 12-horse field.
It was a not to be California Chrome’s day, as jockey Victor Espinoza was able to get the colt out from the outside post in good order without losing too much ground going into the first turn, but it was obvious on the far turn the 2016 Horse of the Year did not bring his “A” game to world’s richest race.
He tossed in the towel in the stretch and faded to finish a disappointing ninth.
Meanwhile Mike Smith aboard Arrogate was able to get good position sitting just inside the pacesetters and angled out in the stretch drive to win without much urging from the Hall of Fame jockey, returning $3.80 and stopping the timer for the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.61. His Beyer Speed Figure came back at 116.
Pegasus World Cup Replay via TVG
The Jimmy Jerkens trained Shaman Ghost rallied late for the runner up spot at 19-1, completing a $2 exacta that returned $33.80.
The Todd Pletcher trained Neolithic was part of the early pace and hung on to third at 23-1, the $1 trifecta paying $104.00.
It is being reported that California Chrome had some fluid on his knee after the race and will be examined by vets for a possible bone chip.
Sherman: “It might be a chip, which we could take out arthroscopically. I knew something was wrong at the half. He just didn’t fire.”
— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) January 28, 2017
In a press release by Gulfstream Park, the track reported that all-sources handle on the 12-race card on Saturday was $40.2 million, a record for a single program at the track. The previous record was set on a 14-race card on Florida Derby Day in 2016, when bettors wagered $32.1 million on the program.
Overall Frank Stronach has to be thrilled with the first edition of the Pegasus. There are some kinks to work out, like having the fourth through 12th place finishers earning the same purse and perhaps the distance, but the track put on a good show.
The supporting stakes drew full and competitive fields, and the race is going to be a game changer. No longer will horses be retired after the Breeders’ Cup.
With $12 million up for grabs in January and another $10 million (and possibly more in the future) at the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, we are going to see more horses stick around longer before heading to the breeding shed.
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