First held back in 2017 when the previous year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and subsequent Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate triumphed in the mile-and-one-eighth, the 2021 renewal of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational takes place at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
With a role of honour that has since resulted in Gun Runner, City of Light and in 2020 Mucho Gusto registering victories in the race, this year’s has a lot to live up to.
The field is certainly a quality one, with the likes of Knicks Go, Code of Honor and Tax in the field it looks likely to be a cracker with television coverage offered by NBC starting at 4:30pm ET with the big race itself due off at 5:44pm ET.
With seven of the runners heading into the contest on the back of victories (including four in Graded company) the 2021 renewal looks set to be the most competitive yet.
Unbeaten in three starts since joining the Brad Cox barn at the back end of 2019, our main selection Knicks Go delivered a highly impressive seven-and-a-half length triumph in an allowance optional claimer over a mile-and-one-sixteenth at Oaklawn Park when making his debut for the handler 11 months.
An even more impressive victory followed with a ten-and-a-quarter length gap back to the second in a six runner contest over the same distance at Keeneland. That was a race in which a big speed figure saw him attract plenty of attention in the lead up to the Breeders’ Cup meet the following meet.
The result in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was never in too much doubt with Joel Rosario’s mount delivering a maiden Grade 1 victory in scoring by three-and-half lengths having made all the running.
Recent works suggest that the son of Paynter has returned as good as ever in 2020, with a 1:00.60 five-furlong breeze a week ago seeing the grey/roan horse complete his prep for the race.
With a good draw in gate four, he looks likely to prove very hard to beat with the step up in distance unlikely to pose any issues for a horse who’s regularly looked as if a step up in distance would suit.
One of the more interesting runners in the field is the five-year-old Sleepy Eyes Todd with connections employing different tactics in recent starts. That included when the son of Paddy O’Prado raced from off the pace prior to winning the seven-furlong Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland by one-and-a-half lengths in early November.
Miguel Angel Silva’s charge followed up with a half-length triumph in the Grade 3 Mr Prospector Stakes over the same distance here the following month but Jose Ortiz’s horse has demonstrated strong form over further in the past including when taking a Grade 2 over a mile-and-one-sixteenth at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races last August.
In the context of this race it was pleasing to see Sleepy Eyes Todd race behind the pace here on his most recent start and with our chief selection Knicks Go, the fancied Tax, Harpers First Ride and Last Judgement all likely to want to race close to or on the speed the race, at least in terms of the places may be set up for a closer and in that regard, Sleepy Eyes Todd is one of two who look capable of picking up the pieces.
Proven Grade 1 performer Code of Honor is our third selection for the trifecta bet. That’s down to the Noble Mission five-year-old regularly staying on well to claim place prize money at the highest level including when a length second in the Clark Stakes over this distance at Churchill Downs at the end of November.
Trained by Hall of Fame handler Shug McGaughey III Code of Honor has demonstrated good form at this track in the past with his Derby campaign back in 2019 having seen him take the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth prior to a third place finish to subsequent Derby winner Maximum Security in the Florida Derby in March of that year.
Code of Honor is a consistent sort having won or placed in four of his five starts since finishing seventh in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita and he looks up to registering another significant effort at the highest level with Tyler Gaffalione taking the ride for the first time.
Miriam Lee has always been a horse racing fan thanks to trips to the tracks in her home state of Maryland with her father as kid. She owns an OTTB and is an advocate for promoting the sport among her peers. Miriam studies communication arts at Hood College and will receive her master’s degree in 2021, which she plans to use for a career in screenwriting. Her all-time favorite racehorse is Man O War.