By Margaret Ransom
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.”
Though Mucho Gusto didn’t make it to the Kentucky Derby (G1) in 2019, he won the Laz Barrerra (G3) and the Affirmed (G3) before finishing second to Maximum Security – a Horse of the Year finalist — in the Haskell Invitational (G1) on a sweltering day at Monmouth Park. He also ran third in the Travers (G1). Now that Baffert’s in, Mucho Gusto has to be considered a contender.
Post position: No. 10
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Michael Lund Petersen
Career record: 10-5-2-2
Career earnings: $779,800
Pedigree: Mucho Macho Man-Itsagiantcauseway, by Giant’s Causeway
Running style: Mid-pack
“Second to Maximum Security in Haskell but best at Grade 3; best result third or fourth.” – Ed McNamara
“Twice Grade 1-placed multiple Grade 3 winner is fresh off a layoff for 4-year-old debut .. Difficult to discount Baffert trainee in a race like this, at least when rounding out your exotics tickets.’ – Noel Michaels
Notes: Baffert won the first Pegasus World Cup in 2017 with Arrogate … Owner Michael Lund Petersen founded the popular fine jewelry line Pandora and got into racing with his first runner in 2014 … Mucho Gusto is Petersen’s second graded winner as he also owned 2017 Met Mile (G1) winner Mor Spirit … Colt was offered at public auction four times: sold for the first time for $14,000 as a Keeneland January yearling, again for $95,000 through the same ring that September, was an RNA at $55,000 at OBS in March of 2018 before Petersen signed the $625,000 sales slip at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale that May … After the World Cup, Baffert said Mucho Gusto would be pointed to the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29 … Mucho Gusto has three Grade 3 wins to go with two seconds and a third in three Grade 1’s.
|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|
|5||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|
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.