Knicks Go has returned to Gulfstream Park for a highly anticipated title defense in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by 1/ST BET, which promises to provide Korea Racing Authority’s Thoroughbred star with an opportunity to close out a remarkable racing career in style.
The Pegasus World Cup headlines Saturday’s 12-race program that will also feature the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G3) presented by PEPSI, as well as four other graded stakes, during the annual celebration of Thoroughbred racing, entertainment, fashion and dining. First-race post time is set for 11:30 a.m.
NBC will nationally televise the Pegasus World Cup Day festivities from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The all-stakes late Pick 5 (Races 8-12) and the late Pick 4 (Races 9-12) will both offer guaranteed gross pools of $750,000. The all-stakes Rainbow 6 will span Races 7-12. All four muti-race wagers will be anchored by the Pegasus World Cup, a 1 1/8-mile feature for older horses.
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Knicks Go, who was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in a field of nine older horses after drawing the No. 1 post position Tuesday, produced a dazzling 2 ¾-length victory in last year’s Pegasus World Cup that would set the tone for a dominating campaign that is widely expected to earn him the 2021 Horse of the Year title next month. The 6-year-old son of Paynter, who is coming off an impressive 2 ¾-length triumph in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, is riding a spectacular four-race winning streak in which he has beaten his opponents by a total off 21 ½ lengths while flashing his brilliant natural speed from start to finish. Knicks Go was named the 2021 Longines World’ Best Racehorse during a virtual ceremony Tuesday at the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket, England.
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It remains to be seen if the Brad Cox trainee will be able to defend his title in his usual front-running fashion before starting his stallion career. This year’s Pegasus World Cup has also attracted CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm LLC’s Life Is Good, who has won six of seven career starts from gate to wire, including a scintillating 5 ¾-length victory in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar.
“We’re not really going to deviate from what we’ve done in the past. [Life Is Good] is a very fast, brilliant horse. We’re not going to let him have his own way, and I think he’s probably not going to let us have our own way. We’re going to break running, hopefully get to the lead. We’re going to be very aggressive to get him there,” Cox said. “It’s the same approach we took in the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll see how it goes. He’s proven at a mile and an eighth and he does like the surface there. He likes the configuration of the racetrack there at Gulfstream – he proved that last year. We’re just going to come out of there running and see what happens.”
Life Is Good Wins Dirt Mile
Life Is Good, who was rated second at 7-5 in the morning line after drawing the No. 4 post position, was top rated on last year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby when he won his first three starts on the front end impressively but was sent to the sidelines with an injury. After being transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, the son of Into Mischief was upset by Jackie’s Warrior by a head in the seven-furlong Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga in late August. He came back to capture the one-mile Kelso (G2) at Belmont by 5 ½ lengths and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in front-running style.
“You’ve got two super talented horses with similar running styles, so it makes for a very exciting race. It’s going to be very exciting to see how the pace unfolds,” Pletcher said. “Speed is our horse’s weapon and we’re not looking to take it away from him, and I’m sure the Knicks Go team knows what works for their horse. We’ll just see how it plays out.”
Life Is Good, who hasn’t run beyond 1 1/16 miles, is in the same position that Knicks Go was in last year when he attempted to carry his abundant speed 1 1/8 miles for the first time. Knicks Go has gone on to prove himself to be just as effective or even more effective at longer distances.
Colonel Liam Returns Seeking Title Defense in G1 Pegasus Turf
Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam, thrilling winner of last year’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) in his graded-stakes debut, will end a 239-day gap between starts as he launches his comeback while attempting to defend his title in the richest turf race of the winter Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The fourth running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf presented by Baccarat and the sixth renewal of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by 1/ST BET on dirt, both at 1 1/8 miles, and the inaugural $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) presented by PEPSI comprise the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series, headlining a blockbuster 12-race program featuring seven graded stakes worth $5.2 million in purses.
First race post time is 11:30 a.m. EST. NBC will provide live national coverage from 4:30 to 6 p.m. EST.
Colonel Liam will become one of only five horses to run in the Pegasus Turf more than once, a group led by California-based Next Shares, who took part in each of the first three editions. Cross Border, third behind Colonel Liam and Pletcher-trained stablemate Largent last year, as well as Sacred Life and Channel Cat, respectively fourth and 10th in 2020, also return this year.
Neither previous Pegasus Turf winner –subsequent 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar or Zulu Alpha (2020) – returned for a title defense.
“It would be awesome,” Pletcher said of back-to-back Pegasus Turf victories. “We feel good about everything going into it. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed for a good trip and, hopefully, he can come with another big effort.”
Colonel Liam 3-1 ML Favorite
During Tuesday’s post-position draw inside Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Theater, Colonel Liam was made the narrow 3-1 favorite among 11 stakes winners, nine of them graded, including fellow Grade 1 winners Channel Cat and Hit the Road. Second choice on the morning line at 7-2 is stablemate Never Surprised, with Sacred Life (6-1) and Hit the Road (8-1) the others listed at single-digit odds.
Following the Pegasus, Colonel Liam went on to capture the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) and dead heat for first with Domestic Spending in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. A 5-year-old son of Liam’s Map, a two-time Grade 1 winner on dirt for Pletcher, Colonel Liam has not raced since finishing eighth to Domestic Spending in the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan (G1) last June at Belmont Park. He got some time off starting in late summer and returned to the work tab in early December at Palm Beach Downs.
“I think over the years we’ve done pretty well in layoff situations, so I think it was important that we got the works into him that we did and we were fortunate enough that everything went according to the way we mapped it out,” Pletcher said. “So, I feel good about that. You never know if they’re going to be quite as sharp off a layoff, but he’s certainly trained well enough and has run well fresh before. Hopefully we can get the same type of effort. He’s given us every indication that he’s come up to it as good as ever.”
Among his rivals in the Pegasus Turf will be 4-year-old Never Surprised, a front-running type that is coming off a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Tropical Park Derby Dec. 26 at Gulfstream, the same race Colonel Liam won in his Pegasus prep.
Shifty She Faces Toughest Challenge in Filly & Mare Turf
Fully recovered from a career-threatening injury that cost her all of 2020, Shifty She, with her distinctive name and background, is ready for a stern test Saturday in the inaugural running of the TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational Presented by PEPSI (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Peter Brant’s Grade 1 winner Regal Glory, trained by Chad Brown, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/16 miles turf test that drew a field of 11 stakes runners. Regal Glory will start from Post No. 4 with jockey Jose Ortiz. The lineup includes Robert amd Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania, who edged Shifty She in the Suwannee River (G3) on Dec. 18, and Team Valor’s Irish-bred Wakanaka, who will make her U.S. debut.
The $500,000 Filly and Mare Turf is the newest addition to Gulfstream Park’s program of seven graded stakes topped by the sixth running of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) present by 1/ST Bet.
Shifty She, a Florida-bred daughter of Gone Astray, had won three of four starts as a 3-year-old in 2019 before going to the sidelines with a tendon injury.
“In this game you have to be very patient and I’m a very patient guy,” said Chris Pallas, who is the mare’s co-breeder and co-owner.
Pallas credits the vets at Ocala Equine with the treatment that enabled her to resume her career.
“We got her back and she is just a pleasure to be around,” he said. “She’s just a very smooth horse. When you watch her, she glides over the grass. She’s very graceful and she loves what she’s doing. That’s really her mindset. She’s all about the business and she loves to run.”
Since her return in April with new trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., the speedy daughter of Gone Astray has a record of 3-1-1 from seven starts, topped by a victory in the Noble Damsel (G3) on Oct. 23 at Belmont Park.
Chris Pallas and his brother-in-law George Klein bred the mare and Pallas is a co-owner in Pedigree Partners. Pallas and Klein were given the unraced broodmare Perilous Hope and they followed their plan to have the Phipps family mare Pure Profit on both sides of Shifty She’s pedigree. Pure Profit’s daughter, Educated Risk, is the third dam of Perilous Hope and her Hall of Fame daughter, Inside Information, is the third dam of the Florida-based sire Gone Astray.
“We had won a silent auction to a season with Gone Astray so we kind of did this for practically nothing. Here we are today,” Pallas said. “This is an expensive sport and if you can match up your pedigrees you can do this fairly inexpensively and you can get pretty lucky.”
Pallas, a longtime Fort Lauderdale resident, said there was a similar breeding approach with the graded-stakes winning sprinter Mambo Meister he co-owned from 2007 to 2012.
Shifty She – Pallas fashioned the name from her breeding – showed stakes ability while tiring and finishing fourth in her comeback race in April in an optional claimer and has been in stakes company since. At her best when on or near the lead, she led from gate to wire in the Noble Damsel.