Distance limitations are the Kryptonite for True Timber, who would be a contender at a one-turn mile.
Unfortunately for this sprinter/miler, the $3 million Pegasus World Cup is run around 1 1/8 miles, and True Timber is 0-for-7 going two turns. He’s also 0-for-14 in graded stakes, including a seventh-place finish in last year’s Pegasus World Cup.
True Timber was third in last year’s Cigar Mile (G1) after running second in the 2018 Cigar, but he’s lost his last eight starts. It’s hard to imagine him breaking his three negative streaks in the Pegasus World Cup.
After Tax drew the outside post for the 2019 Travers (G1), trainer Danny Gargan was not happy. He promised Tax would shoot for the lead, set the pace and just keep going.
Tax, who won the Jim Dandy (G2) earlier in the Saratoga meet, stuck with leaders for a while, but wound up seventh.
Gargan is likely much happier Wednesday after his 4-year-old gelding drew the No. 2 post for Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Much easier to make the lead in a field of 12 for the 1 1/8-mile race (1/8-mile shorter than the Travers), something Gargan hopes to do and pull an upset.
Tax, at 12-1, may be overlooked against the 7-5 favorite Omaha Beach and 7-2 second choice Spun to Run, but he’s also a veteran of the 2019 Triple Crown trail. The son of Arch won the Withers (G3), ran second to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial (G2), and then was 15th in the wacky Kentucky Derby (G1) and fourth in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Owner Kin Hui got lucky when Diamond Oops, his homebred son of 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky, didn’t meet his $42,000 reserve price when offered as a weanling at the 2015 Keeneland Breeding Stock sale. So he was kept to race and now, he’s a two-time Grade 3 winner, earner of $646,490 and a 20-1 long shot in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1).
His best races are a mile and shorter, so he’ll be hard-pressed to get the 1 1/8 miles of the World Cup against top class competition. But the 5-year-old gelding has an affinity for Gulfstream Park, where he has won five of seven starts. Both of his graded stakes wins, the Smile Sprint (G3) at 6 furlongs in June and the Mr. Prospector (G3) at 7 furlongs last time out on Dec. 21, landed him in Gulfstream’s winner’s circle.
When taking the Mr. Prospector while coming from off the pace, he defeated the highly regarded Imperial Hint, a finalist for 2019 champion Sprinter, and the ill-fated, Grade 1 winning X Y Jet.
Diamond Oops ran only once in 2018, and when he returned for a full season he 2019 he was impressive on both the main track and the grass course. After winning the Smile, he finished second to Imperial Hint – and ahead of Mitole — in the Vanderbilt (G1) at 6 furlongs, then was nosed out for the win by Bowies Hero in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Before cutting back in distance in the Mr. Prospector on dirt, he was eighth in Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on Nov. 2 after lunging at the start and losing any chance.
The handsome bay horse will be making his third appearance in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), having finished fifth in 2018 and a closing second in the slop to last year’s winner, City of Light. That performance capped an 18-month spell in which Seeking the Soul finished first, second or third in all but two of 11 starts (including the 2018 PWC).
Since then, the now 7-year-old son of Perfect Soul has been off the board more than he’s been on, although over the spring he was third in the Alysheba (G2) and won the Stephen Foster (G2), both at his favorite track, Churchill Downs, at which he is 4-1-4 from 12 starts. (Another pair of career wins came down the road at Keeneland).
A West coast trip to prep for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup netted him little more than a case of the “thumps” as he finished seventh in the Pacific Classic (G1) and fourth in the Awesome Again (G1) before checking in sixth in the Classic (G1). He closed out the year with a sixth in the Clark (G1), his worst performance at Churchill since coming in seventh in an optional claimer on May 4, 2017.
A bruised foot briefly interrupted training about two weeks ago, but Omaha Beach appears in fine form and the likely favorite for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25.
The three-time Grade 1 winner as a 3-year-old — even though he missed the Triple Crown races with a throat issue requiring surgery — has been prepping for the final race of his career in South Florida since arriving from California at the start of the year.
In his most recent work, Omaha Beach went 5 furlongs in 1:00.42 at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 12, the sixth fastest of 27 workers over the same distance.
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said after the work that Omaha Beach’s foot had been examined, the bruise was poulticed, new shoes were put on, and all seems well.
Mandella said last week that Omaha Beach could work again either Sunday or Monday (Jan. 20). “We’ll just see how things go,’’ he said.
Omaha Beach created quite a buzz leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The colt had handled just about everything five-time Derby and two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert threw at him in the preps. He beat Game Winner in the Rebel (G2) and then took care of Improbable in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Hronis Racing owns and John Sadler trains Higher Power, a talented son of Medaglia d’Oro who stepped up to the highest level and won the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar by 5 ¼ lengths for his first graded stakes score. He then finished third after a troubled start in the Awesome Again (G1) before ending 2019 with a strong closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), again after some trouble out of the gate.
Last year, Sadler brought Hronis Racing’s BC Classic winner Accelerate to Gulfstream Park, where he finished third in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) before being retired to stud at Lane’s End Farm.
With another strong contender for big races in southern California moving forward, Sadler decided the place to start the 2020 season for the 5-year-old Higher Power is in South Florida again with a at the $3 million purse in the World Cup.
After a winter freshening, Higher Power has been back on the worktab since late November and represents one of the stronger California-based participants in the 1 1/8-mile race.
The peripatetic gelding, now 8, will be making his third appearance in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), having finished fifth in 2017 and 10th in 2018, two years in which his earnings topped $1 million. Indeed, as he enters his seventh racing season, War Story has bankrolled more than $2.9 million, an impressive number considering he has never won more than two races a year, nor does he have a Grade 1 win on his resume.
What he does have is tenacity and a willingness to roll with the punches. He had eight different trainers for his first 18 races, and finally got some continuity when Jorge Navarro took over in 2017. War Story won but three races under Navarro’s tutelage but earned $2.3 million, beginning with his first appearance in the PWC and concluding with a second in the Greenwood Cup (G3) in October at Parx Racing.
Following that, his owners, Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis, sent to horse to rising young trainer Elizabeth Dobles, for whom he won the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) on Dec. 14. Although he has raced on Lasix for his whole career, his connections opted to accept an invitation to the Pegasus World Cup.
Now about to jump into the deep end against top level competition in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), 5-year-old Mr Freeze returns to action after finishing third, beaten 6 ½ lengths, in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29.
Mr Freeze is one of five 30-1 long shots for Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race, and will be ridden by Luis Saez leaving from post No. 8.
After the son of dual Grade 1 winner To Honor and Serve won the Ack Ack (G3) on Sept. 28 at Churchill Downs, trainer Dale Romans pointed him to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), but instead opted to skip it and keep him in Kentucky to race.
The decision proved to be a wise one as Mr Freeze then contested the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 26 and was the runner-up. His 4-year-old campaign ended with the Clark.
As a 3-year-old, Mr Freeze was kept off the Triple Crown trail and that was also to his benefit. He was one cool customer when using his front-running style to ice the competition in the 2018 West Virginia Derby (G3).
Spun to Run, the second choice on the morning line at odds of 7-2, has been scratched from Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup because of soreness, according to training Juan Carlos Guerrero.
Spun to Run won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in an upset of Omaha Beach, who is now the even-money favorite in the 1 1/8-mile World Cup after the odds were changed on Thursday morning.
“After he came to Palm Meadows (raining Center) we noticed he was a little hot so we clipped his hair,” said Guerrero. “Then two weeks later we noticed some spots, hives on his body. We wanted to run, but he’s a little hot and sore and we always want to do the right thing for the horse. It’s unfortunate, but we want the best for him.”
Spun to Run had come a long way in a short time. He was virtually unknown last spring. He didn’t win until his fifth start and didn’t face top 3-year-olds until he ran a distant third to Maximum Security at odds of 34-1 in the Haskell (G1). Won a weak Grade 3 at Parx before finishing fifth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).
Spun to Run has been surging since. He crushed an ungraded mile stakes at Parx before emerging as a serious horse in the BC Dirt Mile at Santa Anita. The 9-1 shot led throughout and beat odds-on Omaha Beach by 2¾ lengths. He ran big again in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct, pushing Maximum Security hard and finishing second by 3½ lengths.
Is anyone surprised Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert would pass up a chance to compete in a race worth $3 million?
And so it is that Baffert has committed to sending out Mucho Gusto in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. What’s more surprising is that the 4-year-old colt will be ridden for the first time by Irad Ortiz, Jr., who surprisingly took off Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Spun to Run to ride for Baffert. Joe Talamo had previously ridden Mucho Gusto in all his starts.
While Spun To Run trainer Juan Guerrero was understandably upset with the last-minute change, he came up with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano to replace Ortiz.
Mucho Gusto is the third betting choice on the morning line at 9-2 behind Omaha Beach (7-5) and Spun to Run (7-2). Mucho Gusto is a solid runner making his first start in 3½ months (fourth in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby on Sept. 29) after training well in four workouts at his home base in Santa Anita. A sharp 6-furlong breeze in 1:11.60 on Jan. 16 convinced Baffert to go big in Florida instead of small in the $100,000 Fred Hooper (G3) on the Pegasus undercard.
“He worked well,’’ Baffert said. “It’s a mile and an eighth and it’s a $3 million race.”
Despite a five-racing losing streak — not even a finish better than fourth during the past eight months – Tenfold was invited to run in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup.
Even though he is one of the five 30-1 longest shots in the 12-horse field, the connections of the 5-year-old son of champion Curlin figured why not head to Gulfstream Park to take on 7-5 favorite Omaha Beach?
“I don’t want to say he’s an afterthought,’’ David Fiske, racing manager for owner Ron Winchell said, referring to Tenfold. “We were thinking about it earlier last year when he won the Pimlico Special, then he didn’t go on exactly as we’d hoped and we figured he wouldn’t get an invite — and then he did. There was nothing really on his dance card, so why not?”
On May 17, 2019, Tenfold won the Pimlico Special (G3) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, then went on to finish behind the likes of fellow World Cup entires Seeking the Soul, Higher Power and Mr Freeze in the course of his past five starts.
Now that he’s a 4-year-old colt, maybe, just maybe Bodexpress has learned how to behave at the start of a race.
The unpredictable Bodexpress lost his first seven races, then finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) as a maiden. Two weeks later, he unseated Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez as the gates opened for the Preakness (G1) and ran with the field the entire race. Five months later, he broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park West, then set a track record there in winning an allowance race, but in last month’s Harlan’s Holiday (G3), he reared up and broke open the gate, sat down briefly before being backed out and reloaded, and had the lead until fading in the stretch and hanging on for third.
Whoa. Now, he’s hopefully ready to go again, this time in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Bodexpress drew the outside No. 12 post (maybe a good thing), and will be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo for local-based trainer Gustavo Delgado. The colt breezed 5 furlongs in 1:04.20 at Gulfstream Park West on Jan. 21.
|1||True Timber||Joe Bravo||Kiaran McLaughlin||15-1|
|2||Tax||Jose Ortiz||Danny Gargan||8-1|
|3||Diamond Oops||Julien Leparoux||Patrick Biancone||15-1|
|4||Seeking the Soul||John Velazquez||Dallas Stewart||30-1|
|5||Omaha Beach(SCR)||Mike Smith||Richard Mandella||SCR|
|6||Higher Power||Flavien Prat||John Sadler||6-1|
|7||War Story||Joel Rosario||Elizabeth Dobles||30-1|
|8||Mr Freeze||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||20-1|
|9||Spun to Run(SCR)||Javier Castellano||Juan Carlos Guerrero||SCR|
|10||Mucho Gusto||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Bob Baffert||9-2|
|11||Tenfold||Tyler Gaffalione||Steve Asmussen||30-1|
|12||Bodexpress||Emisael Jaramillo||Gustavo Delgado||30-1|
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.