We’ll take a break from 3YO to look at the world’s richest race, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup. Held at Gulfstream, it uses a novel approach to entries, which has created a deep, layered field (with one standout favorite in Gun Runner.) I picked Gun Runner to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby, but that turned out to be a bit early on this horse, who has now won 5 Grade I races, including the top races in the division and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Today — win or lose — will be his last race as he’s set to retire to stud after the race. He’s the 4/5 favorite and well-deserving. The biggest knock on him is his outside post (10 of 12) — it’s viciously hard to win from the outside at the 9 furlong distance at Gulfstream. Only Big Brown has done it since the renovation of Gulfstream created the difficult conditions.
The rest of the field has some solid horses. Toast of New York reappears after a Classic try against Shared Belief, California Chrome, and eventual winner Bayern. But he only has one race since then — and there’s not a ton of stats on the second start after a 3-year layoff. Still, he showed class in his US races years back, and if he recaptures that form, he could find himself on the board, and maybe even the winner’s circle. Collected beat last year’s winner, Arrogate, in the Pacific Classic, and, when on his game, he can be fast enough to win — not an easy thing to say in this field. Sharp Azteca has been great at a mile and Jorge Navarro always finds a way to get the most out of his horses. Distance is a question, but he loves Gulfstream. Stellar Wind is a great mare, running for new connections in Chad Brown. This seems over her head, but you have to remember that’s plenty of money for finishing well (but much more for winning — $7 million). West Coast won the Travers and continued on to have a good rest of his campaign. He loves to win and is making his first 4YO start. Seems overmatched — surprising for the Travers winner — but he’d need a bit of improvement. The rest appear overmatched or likely to finish underneath, such as Gunnevera.
I’m intrigued by Toast of New York, as I remember vividly his performance against Shared Belief. He might not be the same horse after the layoff, however, but he’s clearly worth a flyer. I’m also interested in Sharp Azteca, who will take the lead and not give it up. That final furlong may not matter — 8 to 9 furlongs can allow a bit of coasting home with the right pace. And, as much as I respect Gun Runner, who has to be on horizontal tickets, he’s a value-killer throughout the betting unless upsets occur elsewhere. He’s the most likely winner, but there’s value to be found elsewhere, starting with the two mentioned here.