Not only is The Pegasus World Cup, with a purse of $12 million, going to be the world’s richest horse race, the format of it will be different than anything we have ever seen before, at least in the recent history of the Sport of Kings.
A $12 million horse race shouldn’t need much hype and, typically, would lure the best of the best (and it looks like the inaugural Pegasus will), but this appears to be more luck than format.
The race is cutting edge in the ingenuity of it all. Frank Stronach and his team, led by Tim Ritvo and PJ Campo at Gulfstream Park, have done a lot to improve the game and bring more excitement to it. Gulfstream, while small, is a gorgeous, clean, top-shelf venue and there is not a bad seat in the house.
The Rainbow-6 has been contributory in changing the landscape of even the conventional pick-6 and has become a major attraction and source of handle on both large carry-over days and mandatory payout days. One would be hard-pressed to argue it has not built excitement and helped the game — or change a few lives along the way. The precise intention of it.
The structure and dynamics of the Pegasus are unique and innovative. First and foremost, it is exciting for any resident of the US or any fan of US racing to have the world’s richest horserace right here in our backyard. It will be run at one mile and an eighth, a classic distance, but not a distance that any true router finds out of range as can happen at a mile and a quarter. Whether that was by design or because the race largely replaces the historic Donn Handicap — also at a mile and an eighth — doesn’t matter. It’s the perfect distance for a very competitive battle.
The next difference is the manner in which horses get to compete, and the way the money is handled. It is unconventional to say the least, and creates some interesting opportunities to add to the back stories of this historic event.
To get a handle on this, first we must understand the rules and how the game will be played. There are 12 spots in the Pegasus gate. How you get one is interesting.
Regardless of whether you have a horse under consideration, or any horse at all for that matter, spots in the race were put up for purchase at $1 million apiece. Although the concept was met with some initial skepticism, especially regarding 12 spots being sold at that price, that fear was put to bed quickly. The spots all sold quickly. Having a spot affords you the option of running a horse if you have one, or selling or even leasing your spot. That price and the side deals that can grow out of it, like retaining a percentage of the purse or a breeding right should the horse win, are all subject to whatever the market will bear.
It’s a fascinating concept and I tip my hat to Mr. Stronach and company for thinking outside the box. The investment looked sound at first, with the possibility of even doubling one’s money realistic, considering how fast all the spots sold and how quickly top older and even top three-year-old horses retire. All the spots were sold in about a day.
The purse distribution is as follows: $7 million to the winner, $1.75 million for second, $1 million for third and $250K for fourth through twelfth. Owners also share equally in 100 percent of the net income from pari-mutuel wagering, sponsorship from Pegasus World Cup and media rights.
Initially the spots went to the following; California Chrome LLC, Coolmore, Jerry and Ronald Frankel, Sol Kumin and James Covello, Jim McIngvale, Paul Reddam, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Ruis Racing, Daniel Schafer, Starlight Pegasus Partners, Stronach Group, and Jeff Weiss/Rosedown Racing Stables.
It’s no secret who California Chrome LLC bought the spot for. Jim McIngvale likely bought his for Runhappy and maybe got the distance wrong or thought the Gulfstream speed bias was a tad stronger than it is. Paul Reddam was likely thinking Nyquist, a winner over the track in a Grade 1, and I’d bet Starlight/Pegasus partners have some Todd Pletcher horse already in mind or, perhaps, a player to be named later. Deals, intrigue, big money, egos, and a $12-million-dollar horse race. I guess the lull in enthusiasm after The Breeders’ Cup does not apply this year.
Well, the stock on the starting spots and the deal-making opportunity took a late-season hit. The Breeders’ Cup Classic shaped up to be a two-horse race on paper and on the racetrack. Both the winner, Arrogate, and second-place finisher, California Chrome, are likely for the race. It will be California Chrome’s last dance before the breeding shed and Arrogate’s four-year-old debut. With Chrome trying to go out a winner, and leaving no gas in the tank, and Arrogate possibly the best horse to come along in a long, long, time, the outlook on anyone else winning is a little dampened.
The chances of California Chrome turning the tables on Arrogate aren’t exactly enticing either, but they have to take their shot. As for anyone else, they are going to be up against it, which is going to impact the art of the deal as the race approaches.
There will be a lot to watch and let’s stay cognizant of how fast and how much things can change in this great game. Still, the prospect of 12 in the gate for a $12 million pot, led by Arrogate and California Chrome, does keep the blood pumping a bit in what normally would be a quiet time of year.
We’ll be covering all the goings on right up until and after the big race. Inaugural runners are given preference in the next one so that may be an incentive to take a shot for some. You can rest assured Arrogate is making plans which likely include contingents to be in the gate come January.
Racing isn’t dead, not by a long shot!