In the days leading up to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, usracing.com will profile the horses in the race set for Jan. 23. The profiles will be updated on Jan. 20 with morning-line odds, post positions and jockeys.
By Lynne Snierson
The Maryland-bred Harpers First Ride looks to build upon the ‘Big Mo” he established during his outstanding 2020 season, when he won four of his last five starts in stakes races, all at the Maryland tracks. One of those stakes scores was in the storied Pimlico Special (G3) on Preakness Weekend in early October.
Trainer Claudio Gonzalez caught lightning in a bottle when he claimed this son of Paynter for $30,000 out of a win at Churchill Downs in September 2019. Harpers First Ride has gone on to win nine more times for Gonzalez, who dominates the Maryland circuit and topped the year-end standings for the fourth straight year.
This gelding took seven of 11 races last year and Gonzalez said that he keeps getting better and better in every race. But the Pegasus (G1) presents a big class hike from the $100,00 Native Dancer, which he won last out at Laurel Park on December 26 at 1 1/8 miles. Nonetheless, he is proven at the Pegasus distance and he doesn’t need the race to go all his way.
“He’s the kind of horse that can run all day. He does everything right,” said Gonzalez. “When he runs if you push him, he can be on the lead or he can come from behind. This is just a nice horse.”
Harpers First Ride had his first breeze at Gulfstream on January 16, and just got a feel for his new surroundings, traveling 4 furlongs in :59.25. His time was the slowest of 101 horses working the same distance.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Claudio Gonzalez
Owners: MCA Racing Stable LLC
Career record: 17 10-2-1
Career earnings: $573,055
Top Equibase speed figure: 110
Pedigree: Paynter- Polyester by Tiz Wonderful
Color: Dark Bay
Running style: Versatile
Notes: Gonzalez, who worked his way up from the bottom on the Monmouth Park backside over15 years before going out on his own with five horses in 2012, is looking for his first G1 victory. Last July he returned to Monmouth to run Lebda in the Haskell (G1) and saddled Harpers First Ride in the Monmouth Cup (G3) to a fifth-place finish…No matter the Pegasus result, Gonzalez is also a winner. He beat testicular cancer in 2008 while being unable to come to the barn to work at his job for trainer Ben Perkins, Jr. for the entire six months he underwent surgery, chemotherapy and treatment. Perkins and his owners rallied to support Gonzalez and his wife and children for the entire time.
Lynne Snierson, a former director of communications at Arlington Park and Rockingham Park, currently is a freelance writer and racing publicist. She covered thoroughbred racing as an award-winning sportswriter for newspapers In Boston, Miami, and St. Louis. She lives in New Hampshire. Secretariat remains her all-time favorite horse.