California Chrome dominates the Winter Challenge. 2017 Pegasus World Cup Contender Rankings

pegasus-world-cup-logoDecember 18th 2016

California Chrome looks ready for his next challenge in the Pegasus World Cup. He won the 2016 Winter Challenge yesterday at Santa Anita Park. And quite easily by a 12 length margin. In the process, he established a new track record at Los Alamitos for a 1 1/16 mile race at 1:40.03.

A California Chrome vs Arrogate rematch will be must-see TV. Below are who I feel are the Pegasus World Cup contenders and possible entries. Keep in mind that if a horse hasn’t worked out or raced since the Breeders Cup World Championships in early November, they are highly unlikely to be a candidate for entry in the Pegasus World Cup. Who falls into this category? Dortmund and Melatonin.

Overall, I think it is going tough to attract twelve runners this year in the Pegasus World Cup if both California Chrome and Arrogate are entered. So here is my Top 10.

Pegasus World Cup Contenders 

1) California Chrome – 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 if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
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 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. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

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: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Hoppertunity – Although there haven’t been any rumblings that Hoppertunity will be entered in the Pegasus World Cup, I can’t envision Bob Baffert showing up at the richest horse race in the world with just one horse. Hopps is the best in his barn after Arrogate. He is rarely the race favorite in any race, yet 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. Third place in the Pegasus World Cup pays out $1 Million dollars, that is essentially what 2nd place paid out for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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

4) 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

5) 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. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. 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: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

6) 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
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

7) Shaman Ghost – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. 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
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

8) Neolithic  – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong race last Wednesday at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

9) Stanford  – A nice win in the Harlan’s Holiday stakes (shown below) makes him another Todd Pletcher-trained candidate for the Pegasus World Cup. For 2016, to go along with his Grade 3 win in the Harlan’s Holiday, he has a win in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  1-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.24 (calculated) – 2015 Islamorada Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – 2016 Charles Classic Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Charles Classic Stakes

10) Mr. Jordan – He runs well at Gulfstream Park. He set a course record at Gulfstream Park West in the 2016 Millions Classic Preview Stakes (shown below). His career high Beyer Speed Figure of 105 came back in January in the Sunshine Millions Stakes with a 2nd place finish behind Mexikoma.

Career: 17 Starts 6-4-5-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Kantharos
Trainer: Edward Plesa Jr.
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.43 (calculated) – 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes

Other Possible Contenders

Awesome Slew (Sire: Awesome Again,Trainer: Edward Plesa Jr.)
War Story (Sire: Northern AfleetTrainer: Mario Serey Jr.)
Hard Aces (Sire: Hard SpunTrainer: John Sadler)
Noble Bird (Sire: BirdstoneTrainer: Mark Casse)


On the docket…

My next blog will be a final 2017 Kentucky Derby contender ranking of the 2 year-old class.

–Michael

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