2017 Pegasus World Cup – The Field of Dreams

pegasus-world-cup-logo

December 5th 2016

With the world’s richest horse race coming up in less than 8 weeks, it is now time to speculate on who the twelve runners could be. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is scheduled for Saturday January 28th 2017 at Gulfstream Park and will be televised by NBC. The Pegasus World Cup winner will receive a record $7 million dollars from the $12 million dollar purse.

There has been little news regarding who the potential entries will be other than California Chrome and possibly Arrogate and Shaman Ghost. So my blog will focus on who the twelve runners should be if we could get the best twelve racehorses in the world entered in this race. The 9 furlong distance, where the starting gate will be positioned so that it will give little stretch run before reaching the first turn, should even up the field and attract the best Milers and Classic distance racehorses.

Unfortunately, the creation of this race didn’t have the effect of delayed retirements that I was expecting. The race date of January 28th lends itself perfectly to a post-Pegasus World Cup retirement where the breeding season doesn’t really kick in until mid February to avoid December foals (ie. a horse born in December 2017 will be considered a 1 year old on January 1st 2018).

So if we could have a dream Pegasus World Cup field of horses who will be racing into 2017, below are entries I would include. Keep in mind the retirements of horses that would have made great Pegasus World Cup candidates: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Frosted, Beholder, Effinex, Tamarkuz, Found, Flintshire and Upstart.

My dream Pegasus World Cup field…

1) California Chrome – He is the most popular horse in North America. Chrome draws huge crowds, even for workouts. He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate.

Career: 25 Starts 15-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate – Arrogate is undoubtably the top horse in North America and he is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Songbird – The star filly whose only loss was on a bob to Beholder in the 2016 Breeders Cup Distaff (shown below). Great things are expected from her in the future. Although there are no plans to run her in the Pegasus World Cup, there are plans to race her against the boys at some point in 2017.

Career: 12 Starts 11-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire:  Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.21 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

4) Highland Reel – Highland Reel and the 4 year old turf filly Found were cross-entered in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Both were scratched from the Classic and ran in the Breeders’ Cup Turf race. Highland Reel won the prestigious $4 million dollar turf race while Found finished 3rd. Found was retired shortly after the Breeders Cup World Championships. Their trainer Aiden O’Brien has trained turf horses for dirt races before, doing so most recently with Gleneagles in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. I say, give it another shot!

Career: 19 Starts 7-5-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Galileo
Trainer:  Aiden O’Brien
Jockey: Seamie Heffernan 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 112 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf

5) Dortmund – He was winless in 4 starts in 2016 but still ranked in the Top 25 racehorses in the world by Longines. Unfortunately, he had California Chrome as a entry in three of his four starts. His 4th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was disappointing but perhaps he is not a Miler. He seems to race best at the 8 1/2 to 9 furlong distance. He has never finished below 4th in his career, something that his Derby Trail rival American Pharoah can’t boast. Dortmund is a very talented horse that Bob Baffert plans to race as a 5 year-old in 2017. 

Career: 14 Starts 8-2-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd>2nd–>4th   
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.06 – 2015 Native Diver Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Awesome Again Stakes

6) Keen Ice  – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 18 Starts 2-1-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 8th–>3rd–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

7) Melatonin – In 2016, he completed the elusive Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double (ie. winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup at Santa Anita in the same year). His disappointing 5th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic probably had more to do with a lengthy layoff. He is more of a 10 furlong runner and has only raced once in a 9 furlong race, finishing 2nd to Effinex in the 2016 Oaklawn Handicap. 

Career: 14 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts:2nd–>1st–>5th   
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans 
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.16 (calculated) – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

8) Stellar Wind – She got out of the gate poorly in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and finished 4th. However, she beat the Distaff Champion Beholder twice in four starts in 2016. In the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she lost to Stopchargingmaria by a neck. The future is bright for her career as a 5 year-old Mare. Note that she has never finished below 4th during her career in 12 starts.

Career: 12 Starts 7-2-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-0-2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey:  Victor Espinoza
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.02 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Zenyatta Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Zenyatta Stakes

9) Hoppertunity – Although he is rarely the race favorite in any race, he is one of the most consistent runners in horse racing. In 23 consecutive starts, Hoppertunity has finished 4th or better in every start. He has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race, something that California Chrome can’t boast.

Career: 24 Starts 6-6-4-7   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 9 Starts  2-4-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>4th   
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: John Velazquez/Flavien Prat 
Best Beyer in 1 1/8th Mile Race: 1:48.02 (calculated) – 2015 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

10) ConnectThe 2016 Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile winner. He is another 3 year-old who has a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey:  Javier Castellano/John Velazquez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.69 – 2016 Curlin Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  106 – 2016 Cigar Mile Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2016 Cigar Mile Handicap

11) Gun Runner  –  A very consistent horse who won his first Grade 1 stakes race in the Clark Handicap and also produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104. Up until the Clark Handicap, the Louisiana Derby winner had some nice finishes in some big races (3rd in 2016 Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Travers Stakes, 2nd in the Penn Derby and 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile). I liked how he has developed under Steve Asmussen and expect him to have a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-2-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride  
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap

12) Shaman Ghost – The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano/Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

Five Alternates

1) Hard Aces – The 2015 Gold Cup winner at Santa Anita Park. He finished 6th in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is better at 10 furlong distances or greater and has a closer running style.

Career: 37 Starts 7-6-9-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 10 Starts  1-1-2-2
Last 3 starts: 4th–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer:  John Sadler
Jockey: Santiago Gonzalez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 2015 California Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

2) Noble Bird  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

3) Comfort – The Todd Pletcher-trained 4 year old ran 2nd behind Frosted in the 2016 Whitney Handicap. He has 2 nice wins sandwiched in between: the 2015 State Dinner Stakes (shown below) and the 2016 Seattle Slew Stakes. He has no published workouts since the Seattle Slew Stakes in September.

Career: 9 Starts 5-1-0-4  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Indian Charlie
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.09 (calculated) – 2016 Whitney Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 State Dinner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 State Dinner Stakes

4) Mubtaahij – He ran 2nd in the 2016 Dubai World Cup behind California Chrome and 2nd behind Shaman Ghost in the 2016 Woodward Stakes. He has still yet to win a Grade 1 race.

Career: 15 Starts 4-2-1-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Texas Red  – The 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is back in training and has been working out at Santa Anita Park for the entire month of November. Admittedly, it is a tall order to have ready for an ultra-competitive 9 furlong race by January 28th. But there are prep races available in the the 8 1/2 furlong Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos on December 17th and the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park on December 26th. If he is entered and performs well, he always had the talent to compete with the best. He was my very early 2015 Kentucky Derby favorite before being taken off the Derby trail due to injury.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>5th
Sire: Afleet Alex
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey:  Kent Desormeaux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 2015 Jim Dandy Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  105 – 2015 Travers Stakes


On the docket…

My next blog will preview the upcoming 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity. I should have this posted by Thursday evening December 8th after post-positions and morning line odds are published. The race should have a few of the top 2017 Kentucky Derby contenders. Mostly notably, Mastery.

I also plan to preview the newly created Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos set for December 17th that will feature California Chrome.

–Michael

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