By Richard Rosenblatt
The invites are official, but the field for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup is a long way from being determined, with top contenders such as Maximum Security and McKinzie doubtful starters.
The Stronach Group sent out a list of 17 invitees Sunday for the fourth running of the 1 1/8-mile race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25, which has a maximum field of 12. Five horses are on a reserve invitees list. The post-position draw is Jan. 22.
Omaha Beach, winner of the Malibu Stakes (G1) is his last start, arrived in South Florida from California on Dec. 31 to train up to the Pegasus Cup, and will likely be the favorite. The 4-year-old colt has come on strong after missing the Triple Crown races with a throat ailment, winning two Grade 1’s and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
The connections of Maximum Security and McKinzie have given every indication they plan to bypass the Pegasus Cup in favor of the new $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29.
Maximum Security, undefeated in four starts at Gulfstream, finished first in the Kentucky Derby (G1) but was DQ’d to 17th for interference. Upon his return after missing the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), the colt ran second on the Pegasus, then won the Haskell Invitational (G1), the Bold Ruler (G3) and the Cigar Mile (G1). The day it was announced the purse of the Pegasus was being reduced to $3 million from $9 million, owner Gary West said Maximum Security was unlikely to run, and would be looking to the Saudi Cup.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert also said both McKinzie – winner of the Whitney (G1) — and Mucho Gusto would likely bypass the Pegasus Cup.
Magic Wand was invited to both the World Cup and $1 million World Cup Turf Invitational. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Magic Wand was second in the inaugural World Cup Turf and comes to Florida off a second-place finish in the Hong Kong Cup (G1).
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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.