By Richard Rosenblatt
With so many top horses from 2020 having been retired, the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) may lack for stars but offers the contenders a chance for a breakout performance to kick off the new year.
The leading role for Saturday’s fifth edition of the race has been given to Knicks Go, the impressive winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) two months ago.
Trained by Eclipse Award finalist Brad Cox, the 5-year-old gray was made the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the first huge money race of 2021. A winner of three in a row under Cox’s tutelage since 2020 after going 2-for-14, Knicks Go (pronounced K-nicks Go) headlines a field of 12 entered on Wednesday for the 1 1/8-mile race.
“It’s a very prestigious race. It hasn’t been around that long, but with the likes of Gun Runner, Arrogate and City of Light, there are champions that have won this race,’’ Cox said. “It means a whole lot. It’s a race that can make a stallion, and we’re still trying to do that with Knicks Go.’’
Code of Honor, despite an 0-for-4 record since a win in the Westchester (G3) more than six months ago, is the second choice at 9-2.
“He’s a nice horse,’’ trainer Shug McGaughey said of Code of Honor, noting that the past three races were not close to his best performances. “Maybe this will be his day”
Mr Freeze, runner-up in last year’s race to Mucho Gusto, finished sixth in the BC Dirt Mile and fifth in the Clark (G1) in his last two starts, is a 15-1 longshot for trainer Dale Romans.
“Mr Freeze has plenty of gas, so he can get out and settle where he needs to be. It’s a pretty fair race going a mile and an eighth here no matter where you draw,” Romans said. “He loves this racetrack.”
The rest of the field is a mix of one-hit wonders and longshots out to grab a piece of the big payday.
Among them are Math Wizard, a 39-1 longshot winner of the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) but 0-for-7 since; Jesus’ Team, 0-for-his-last-6 but a contender in some big races before winning the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes on Dec. 5; and Tax, winner of the 2019 Jim Dandy (G2) and 0-for-4 thereafter before winning the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) on Dec. 12.
Tax, trained by Danny Gargan, was impressive enough is his recent win at Gulfstream Park to be made the 5-1 third betting choice.
“He’s better now than he’s ever been. We always knew he was a really good horse,’’ Gargan said. “He’s grown and developed into a better horse than he was last year. I think with age he’s getting better and getting stronger, healthier. I’m expecting a big performance.”
Others including Harpers First Ride, a winner in three of his last four including the 2020 Pimlico Special (G3); Sleepy Eyes Todd, a winner in two graded stakes in his last three starts; and Kiss Today Goodbye, riding a two-race win streak out West, are potential spoilers.
Also entered were Coastal Defense and Independence Hall, a pair of late invitees after 2020 winner Mucho Gusto was retired, and Charlatan was withdrawn from consideration in favor of preparing for the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20.
Last Judgment was a last-minute entry after True Timber, 0-for-13 before taking the Cigar Mile (G1) at 7-1 odds on Dec. 5, was withdrawn from consideration early Wednesday because he was “slightly off cooling out” in the morning, trainer Jack Sisterson posted on his Twitter account.
Last Judgment, among the three longest shots in the field at 20-1, is making a quick turnaround after winning the Sunshine Classic Stakes on Jan. 16.
Knicks Go drew the No. 4 post in the full field, and will have Joel Rosario aboard, while Code of Honor drew the No. 10 post with Tyler Gaffalione getting the call for the first time.
Jesus’ Team and Sleepy Eyes Todd are at 8-1; Harpers First Ride and Kiss Today Goodbye are 10-1; Mr Freeze and Coastal Defense at 15-1; and Independence Hall and Math Wizard joining Last Judgment at 20-1.
Top horses from 2020 that have been retired include Kentucky Derby (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Authentic, Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers (G1) winner Tiz the Law, three-time Grade 1 winner Improbable, and Maximum Security.
(listed by post position; profiles written by Ed McNamara and Lynne Snierson)
This 5-year-old gray is an iron horse. The model of consistency has won eight of 15 starts at 11 different tracks across the country at distances from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 ½ miles on dirt and on turf. He always shows up and enters fresh from a half-length score over G1 winners Firenze Fire and Mind Control in the Mr. Prospector (G3) on Dec. 19. But that race was a 7-furlong sprint. He has been victorious in a graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles, winning last year’s Charles Town Classic (G2) on the front end all the way by a record 7 ½ lengths, but that track is a 6-furlong oval.
Following his impressive win at Charles Town, his connections took him to Santa Anita and stepped him up into the Awesome Again (G1), where he had a tough day against multiple G1 winners Maximum Security and Improbable, the odds-on favorite to win the Eclipse Award as the Older Dirt Male, finishing fifth, 12 ½ lengths behind. Sleepy Eyes Todd must prove he can achieve success at the top level, but his triple digit speed figures in the last six and nine of his last 11, plus his victory over this track against previous G1 winners, signal it would be wise to factor him into the exotics.
Post position: 1
Trainer: Miguel Angel Silva
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Owners: Thumbs Up Racing LLC (David and Brenda Cobb)
Career record: 15 8-2-0
Career earnings: $744,825
Top Equibase speed figure: 119
Pedigree: Paddy O’Prado- Pledge Mom, by Wild Rush
Running style: Versatile. Can set the pace or close
Notes: Worked 4 furlongs in 50.80 seconds on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream … This horse is the only graded stakes winner for veteran conditioner Silva, who has 4,213 starters, and for the owners, who are in just their second year in the sport and are looking for their first win in 2021 … Bought for $9,000 as a weanling at the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, his name reminds that Donald Trump referred to NBC’s Meet the Press moderator and MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd with the insult “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd” in tweets and at rallies.
If this weak edition of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational deserved to be a Grade 1, $3 million race, Coastal Defense wouldn’t belong in it. He’s a 5-year-old who’s 2-for-9 lifetime and finished fourth in his last two races, the Clark and Fayette Stakes.
In his defense, he missed by only about two lengths in the Clark and by about a length in the Fayette, and Dale Romans’ horses often outrun their odds in big races. He’s been close to Pegasus entrants Mr Freeze (also trained by Romans) and Code of Honor, who’ll be one of the top three choices. Coastal Defense even finished one spot ahead of Mr Freeze in the Clark. So that data may tempt longshot players.
His late move was too little, too late in the Clark, when the chart footnote says he was “unprepared for the start.” If he runs a similar race in the Pegasus, fourth would be his ceiling. I won’t be playing him.
Post position: 2
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Owner: Albaugh Family Stables, Helen K. Groves Revocable Trust
Career record: 9-2-2-0
Career earnings: $155,266
Top Equibase speed figure: 108
Pedigree: Curlin-Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway
Running style: Closer
Notes: Romans ran a distant second with Mr Freeze in last year’s Pegasus, and he’s never afraid to take a shot. Remember his deep closer Keen Ice’s upset of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers? … Coastal Defense breezed 4 furlongs in a quick 47.11 seconds Jan. 16 at Gulfstream … Coastal Defense didn’t debut until he was 4. “He was hurt as a 2-year-old and as a 3-year-old,” Romans said. “But we always knew he was a good horse, and he started to come around at the end of the year.”
Will the real Independence Hall please stand up? Is he a one-turn specialist or has Michael McCarthy, who took over his training last year, molded him into a two-turn horse?
After starting like a house afire in his first three starts as a juvenile and setting records for both final time (1:34.66) and margin of victory (12 ¼ lengths) in the one-turn mile 2019 Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, the then undefeated colt was put squarely on the 2020 Triple Crown trail. But when Michael Trombetta, then his conditioner, tried to stretch him out the wheels came off in two successive Kentucky Derby preps.
Sent to Trombetta’s Fair Hill, Maryland operation for rest and relaxation after his fifth place finish in the 1 1/8 miles Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park last March, it was time to hit the reset button. Independence Hall was transferred to McCarthy and didn’t reappear until seven months later when he impressively won an allowance optional claimer at 6 ½ furlongs on Nov. 8 at Del Mar. Last out he was fifth when sprinting in the Malibu Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
He has worked well for the Pegasus, turning in a bullet 6-furlong breeze (1:12.60) on Jan. 16 at Santa Anita but he must prove he’s now a legitimate two-turn horse, and do it against top level competition. He figures to be a longshot in this field.
Post position: 3
Trainer: Michael McCarthy
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC, Kathleen and Robert Verratti
Career record: 7 4-1-0
Career earnings: $316,600
Top Equibase speed figure: 108
Pedigree: Constitution-Kalahari, by Cape Town
Color: Dark Bay
Running style: Versatile. Can be up on the pace or rate behind the speed
Notes: When Independence Hall was sent to Fair Hill after last year’s Florida Derby, owner Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners said they needed to recapture his brilliance and explosiveness and solidify his value as a stallion prospect …The Verrettis were his sole original owners and paid $100,000 for him as a Keeneland September yearling. They tried to pinhook him at the Gulfstream Fasig-Tipton sale of 2-year-olds-in-training but when he didn’t meet his $200,000 reserve they bought him back and later added the other partners … Eclipse Thoroughbred partners is a multiple G1-winning syndicate and absorbed the former Dogwood Stable upon Cot Campbell’s retirement …Twin Creeks Racing Stable is a multiple graded stakes winning owner and took the 2013 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream with Graydar.
Front-runner made a big splash late in his 2-year-old season, taking the 2018 Breeders’ Futurity at 70-1 odds before running second at 40-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He lost eight in a row and was 2-for-14 lifetime before joining trainer Brad Cox last year and getting back his mojo, going 3-for-3 by an average margin of seven lengths.
He was bet down to 9-5 before dominating the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by 3 1/2 lengths in a Keeneland-record 1:33.85 while being geared down. Cox said he was surprised Knicks Go went off at that low a price, but his bettors couldn’t have been smarter. He’ll be favored in the Pegasus, where the defection of Bob Baffert’s Charlatan left Knicks Go as the controlling speed.
On paper, he looks tough to go against for a trainer who won a record-tying four races on Breeders’ Cup weekend.
Knicks Go ended up in the Dirt Mile following a 10 1/4-length runaway off a 7 1/2-month layoff.
“If I told you when we ran in that allowance race that we were pointing for the Dirt Mile, I’d have been lying to you,” Cox said. “This all happened quick.”
Almost as quick as Knicks Go, who should be very tough to catch in the Pegasus.
Post position: 4
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Owner: Korea Racing Authority
Career record: 17-5-3-1
Career earnings: $1,348,995
Top Equibase speed figure: 120
Pedigree: Paynter-Kosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker
Running style: Front-runner
Notes: Like most people, at first I thought Knicks Go was named by a fan of the NBA’s hapless New York Knicks. Not so. He’s owned by the Korea Racing Authority, and the name is a blend of “K” for Korean and “nicks,” as in nicking patterns for mating horses. So it’s supposed to be pronounced “K-nicks,” but you rarely hear that.
This unheralded colt proved you don’t have to finish first to enrich your owner and the bettors. Finishing second as the longest shot in the field (62-1) in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and third at 40-1 in the Preakness (G1) made megabucks for Grupo 7C Racing Stable and anybody who used Jesus’ Team underneath in trifectas and superfectas.
When Grupo 7C put up $25,000 to supplement him to the Preakness, it looked like a wild stab. Turns out it wasn’t, because third was worth $110,000. Nice score.
Despite a six-race losing streak, Jesus’ Team (say hay-SOOS) earned more than half a million last year, when his only off-the-board finish in a stakes was a fourth in the Grade 1 Haskell. He’s 3-for-4 on Gulfstream’s main track, including a win Dec. 5 in the Claiming Crown at 9 furlongs, the Pegasus’ distance. I can’t recommend a win bet, but he’s a must-use in exotic plays. A repeat of the Knicks Go-Jesus’ Team exacta in the Dirt Mile would be no shock. It just wouldn’t pay $219.60 again.
Jesus’ Team went 6 furlongs in 1:13.40 in a stamina-building breeze Jan. 9 at Palm Meadows. “The hard work was last week,” trainer Jose D’Angelo said. “He did it the way I want. I wanted an easy work. I think he’s ready.”
Post position: 5
Trainer: Jose D’Angelo
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Owner: Grupo 7C Racing Stable
Career record: 13-3-4-3
Career earnings: $518,540
Top Equibase speed figure: 114
Pedigree: Tapiture-Golden Memories, by Suave
Running style: Mid-pack rallier
Notes: Jesus’ Team is not a religious reference. He’s named for the owner’s son. The Grupo 7C stable also has a 4-year-old named Charly Jesus’ Team, who’s 0-for-3 with $700 in career earnings. The good ones pay for the bad ones … Three months ago, D’Angelo said: “In all his races, I think Jesus’ Team runs his best race last to front. I think that will be his best way in the Preakness.” That’s what he did at Pimlico, rallying from eighth on the backstretch to be a distant third to Swiss Skydiver.
This recently turned 4-year-old and newly minted graded stakes winner steps up to Grade 1 competition for the first time with two straight victories on the Southern California tracks. Following a first level allowance win at 1 mile at Del Mar, he was the 15-1 upset winner of the 1 1/6 miles San Antonio Stakes (G2) on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita while going from last to first and defeating the heavily favored 2020 Pegasus winner and now retired Mucho Gusto in the process.
Kiss Today Goodbye was the first 3-year-old to win the San Antonio, which dates to 1935. Said trainer Eric Kruljac following the accomplishment, “He was always very immature early on. It just took him longer to get to where he is, and I think he is really just beginning to mature.”
As a sophomore he put a scare into top Kentucky Derby prospects Thousand Words and Honor A.P., finishing third behind those two subsequently retired colts in the Shared Belief in August at Del Mar. He’s tuned up for the Pegasus with a terrific workout at Santa Anita (48.60 handily, 3/12) on Jan. 16 and has the opportunity to stake out a prime position in the handicap division now left wide open with the retirement of so many of the “Big Boys” after last season.
Post position: 6
Trainer: J. Eric Kruljac
Jockey: Mike Smith
Owner: John Sondereker
Career record: 11 3-0-3
Career earnings: $230,802
Top Equibase speed figure: 108
Pedigree: Cairo Prince-Savvy Hester, by Heatseeker
Color: Dark Bay
Running style: Off the pace
Notes: Owner Sondereker, 78, has a lifetime passion for thoroughbred racing and as a teenager mucked stalls for $1 per hour at the long-defunct Ascot Park in Ohio. After his dad took him to the 1961 Kentucky Derby and they watched Carry Back win, he wished that someday he could own a horse like that and he still has the Derby dream. During his 40-year career with Wells Fargo in Des Moines, Iowa, he owned some low-level claimers at Prairie Meadows and got more serious about ownership after retirement in the early 2000s … He picked out this horse at the 2018 Keeneland January Sale for $150,000 and named him for his favorite song. Kiss Today Goodbye is the opening line in the lyrics of “What I Did for Love”, the classic ballad from the musical A Chorus Line … Kruljac, 69, is a G1-winning trainer based in Southern California but this colt’s win in the San Antonio was his first stakes win above the G3 level since 2012. He has had horses for Sondereker for about 10 years.
He was bred by venerable Claiborne Farm, the undisputed all-time leader in clever names. This gelding got his through a play off his dam’s, Toll. Not many Claiborne products end up in maiden claimers as 2-year-olds, but that’s where trainer Danny Gargan grabbed Tax for $50,000 out of a race he won at Keeneland in October 2018.
Gargan has been unusually successful with claims, and this was one of his best. Six weeks later, Tax ran third in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct. The next winter, Tax was on the Triple Crown trail, and he had a solid season. Although he struggled in the marquee races — 14th in the Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Belmont, seventh in the Travers — he won the Withers and Jim Dandy and ran second in the Wood Memorial.
He’ll be trying to improve upon his ninth-place finish behind Mucho Gusto in last year’s Pegasus. He prepped for it impressively at Gulfstream on Dec. 12, prat1/2-length romp in the ungraded Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He led throughout, so maybe he can put a little pressure on front-runner Knicks Go in the Pegasus.
“We were just saving him for the next time,” jockey Luis Saez said.
Nine furlongs is Tax’s best distance, so consider him a contender with an outside shot.
Post position: 7
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Jockey: Luis Saez
Owner: Hugh Lynch, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, R.A. Hill Stable
Career record: 13-4-3-1
Career earnings: $957,060
Top Equibase speed figure: 115
Pedigree: Arch-Toll, by Giant’s Causeway
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Speed/stalker
Notes: Tax has won three graded stakes but no Grade 1 … Gargan, a personable native of Louisville, said: “I think this will be his best year. He’s grown, developed. He’s sound. He’s bigger, stronger than he’s ever been.” … The Harlan’s Holiday was his return off a seven-month layoff, so he’s still fresh and should have more to give … Worked 4 furlongs in 48.00 seconds on Jan. 15 at Palm Meadows Training Center.
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: 8
Trainer: Claudio Gonzalez
Jockey: Angel Cruz
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.
The late defection of True Timber and a front-running victory last Saturday in a five-horse race for Florida-breds put Last Judgment in the field. That win in the Sunshine Millions was at Gulfstream, so at least he likes the track.
He’s 3-for-8 there but ran eighth behind Pegasus rival Sleepy Eyes Todd last month in the Grade 3, 6-furlong Mr. Prospector.
Last Judgment has never been in a Grade 2 or a Grade 1 and is 0-for-2 in Grade 3’s, so his 20-1 morning-line odds look like an underlay. I have great respect for trainer Mike Maker, but I think the best this gelding can do is add to the early pace. No chance.
Post position: 9
Trainer: Mike Maker
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Owners: Michael Dubb, Steve Hornstock, Bethlehem Stables LLC, Nice Guys Stables
Career record: 14-6-0-1
Career earnings: $273,365
Top Equibase speed figure: 107
Pedigree: Congrats-Fantasy Forest, by Forestry
Running style: Front-runner
Notes: Maker took Last Judgment for $62,500 on Oct. 25 at Belmont Park. He’s one of the best claiming trainers, and it took him only two races to get him to the winner’s circle … For many years, Michael Dubb has been one of New York’s most successful owners. After his last race, Dubb said: “This is a class horse. I’ve followed him since the beginning of his career.”
Comes in on a four-race losing streak after an underachieving, 1-for-5 season as a 4-year-old. The win came against unimpressive opponents in the Grade 3 Westchester. That he’s one of the marquee horses in the Pegasus tells you all you need to know about an uninspiring field. A race with a $3 million purse should have attracted superstars, not a second-tier group.
Code of Honor burned plenty of money finishing second in the Clark and the Kelso, fourth in the Whitney and third in the Met Mile. Much more was expected of him last season after he won the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup (via DQ) and ran second in the Kentucky Derby (via DQ). Traffic trouble and lack of pace were somewhat to blame for his slump at 4, but he hasn’t been himself since he ran seventh in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Before the Clark, trainer Shug McGaughey said, “I think the two turns and the mile and an eighth probably suit him better than the mile in the Kelso did.” He’ll get his preferred 9 furlongs in the Pegasus, where he’ll probably be an underlay. Certainly could win if he can finally work out a trip and recapture his 3-year-old form.
Post position: 10
Trainer: Shug McGaughey
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Will Farish
Career record: 15-6-4-2
Career earnings: $2,644,320
Top Equibase speed figure: 115
Pedigree: Noble Mission-Reunited, by Dixie Union
Running style: Closer
Notes: Code of Honor’s trip in the Clark: Sixth early, steady progress, four-wide move at the three-sixteenths pole but fell a length short of front-running upset winner Bodexpress. “I thought he ran fine,” McGaughey said. “I was disappointed he didn’t win, but once he got freed up, the other horse jumped away from him and we just couldn’t catch him.” … Code of Honor is 1-for-2 at Gulfstream, winning the Fountain of Youth and running third behind Maximum Security in the Florida Derby.
He was last year’s Pegasus runner-up, 4 1/2 lengths behind Mucho Gusto after setting the pace. He’s 2-for-8 at 1 1/8 miles, with three seconds and two thirds, and a winner of four graded stakes. There was no way Mr Freeze was going to catch Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and he finished sixth. But if the front-running Pegasus favorite tires late (unlikely) in his first try at 9 furlongs, Mr Freeze might have a shot.
Problem: He’s 0-for-6 in Grade 1 races, and not many 6-year-olds make the breakthrough at the top level. I wouldn’t recommend a win bet on him unless he’s double-digit odds, but he’s a must-use for trifecta and superfecta plays.
If you like speedy workouts, then note Mr Freeze worked 5 furlongs in 59.83 seconds at Gulfstream on Jan. 16 (Saturday), the fastest of 39 going the same distance.
Post position: 11
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owners: Jerry Isbister, Jim Bakke
Career record: 18-6-4-2
Career earnings: $1,595,600
Top Equibase speed figure: 115
Pedigree: To Honor and Serve-Heavenly Cat, by Tabasco Cat
Running style: Speed/stalk
Notes: My comment on him before last year’s Pegasus: “Grade B stakes type doesn’t belong in here.” I was right about the Grade B part, but Mr Freeze went off at odds of 7-1 and ran big. He was 30-1 in the morning line, but his chances improved dramatically after 7-5 early favorite Omaha Beach and second choice Spun to Run were scratched.
He has a Grade 1 win on his sheet, but that was notched many moons, and many races, ago when he pulled off a huge upset in the Pennsylvania Derby in September 2019.
Not only is that his only G1 score, it’s the only time he’s visited the winner’s circle in seven tries since. Last time out he didn’t show much in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 12, managing only a mild rally from the back of the pack. On the bright side, his lone G1 win was at the Pegasus distance of 1 1/8 miles and Gulfstream is his home track.
Problem: This seems like an ambitious spot for the now 5-year-old horse to try to recapture the form he showed on his best day in the Pennsylvania Derby. He wasn’t among the original invitees and only moved up off the also-eligible list with the retirement of defending Pegasus champion Mucho Gusto and multiple Grade 1 skipping the race.
Post position: 12
Trainer: Saffie Joseph, Jr.
Jockey: Edgard Zayas
Owners: John Fanelli, Khalid Mishref, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing LLC, Collarmele Vitelli Stables LLC, Ioannis, Zouas, Bassett Stables
Career record: 20 3-3-3
Career earnings: $1,139,440
Top Equibase speed figure: 121
Pedigree: Algorithms- Minister’s Baby, by Deputy Minister
Running style: Closer
Notes: Worked 3 furlongs in 37.11 seconds on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream … Saffie Joseph, Jr., the youngest trainer to win the Triple Crown in his native Barbados, is up-and-coming in the game and he has before worked magic with this horse he claimed for $25,000 in 2019. He keeps knocking on the door with his ever-expanding barn … Majority owner John Fanelli is a former professional poker player from South Philadelphia who started going to the races with his dad when he was 7 … Before the Pennsylvania Derby, he had already sold minor shares to Collarmele Vitelli Stables, Bassett Stables, Ionas Zoumas, and his trainer. “They all are small-time owners who just started with Saffie, bought a little share and took a chance. They’re ecstatic they did,” he said. “Then I sold a piece to Cash is King (Chuck Zacney) and LC Racing (Glenn Bennett). They each bought a small piece …The Cash is King syndicate, part of the ownership group, is no stranger to the big stage. The partnership owned 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex and 2016 Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia … Khalid Mishref is a Saudi Arabian national.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.