The sixth annual Pegasus Cup World Championships at Gulfstream Park showed why the biggest races on the calendar are often formful. The event rightfully could have been named the “Todd Pletcher Invitational” after the Hall of Fame trainer picked up three wins overall.
Pegasus day dominated by favorites
The six graded-stakes races were all won by favorites, including Life Is Good spoiling the farewell race for presumed 2021 Horse of the Year, Knicks Go, in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
Knicks Go ran a good race, although not his best. Even at his best, he would have had an uphill battle with Life Is Good, who broke sharply, got clear and maintained a solid lead. Life Is Good received an overnight Beyer Speed Figure of 110 on the ride by Irad Ortiz Jr.
Knicks Go rallied in the stretch to take second, but the outcome was hardly in doubt, with Ortiz even stroking his horse’s mane before reaching the finish line before winning by 3¼ lengths.
What’s next for Life Is Good?
Life Is Good now holds a record of 6-1-0 after seven starts. Many consider him the best racehorse running today after the win. His next race has not been announced, but there’s talk that it could be at the $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 26 or the Met Mile at Belmont Park in early June. Racing fans are awaiting WinStar Farms’ decision.
“Right now, we’re not committed to anything. We’ll see how he bounces out,” Pletcher said of Life Is Good after his horses completed their morning training at Palm Beach Downs on Sunday, as reported by HorseRacingNation.
“We’re obviously looking at the entire year,” he said. “There’s always a risk in going to Dubai. You kind of give up a little time when you come back. We’ll let everybody get settled after the weekend and look it over and come up with a game plan.”
Knicks Go retires as presumed recipient of 2021 Horse of the Year
Knicks Go finished with an overall mark of 10 wins, four seconds and one third in 25 starts. He had nearly $10 million in earnings and won twice at the Breeders Cup Championships, one Pegasus Cup race and Grade 1 The Whitney at Saratoga.
“Life Is Good is kryptonite for Knicks Go,” said NYRA racing analyst Andy Serling. “He’s a fast horse with stamina. Knicks Go has a ton of speed, but Saturday, he met a faster horse.”
“I didn’t think Life Is Good’s first step was great. If you look at the pan shot, he actually came away fourth,” Pletcher noted in published reports. “But the second, third and fourth jumps really got him going, and he was able to clear off, and that made a big difference.”
Serling said that Pletcher regularly does well at Gulfstream “because he’s one of a few trainers who really gets ready for the Gulfstream meet. He points to it, and you could see that [Saturday] with three wins.”
A rundown of the earlier Pegasus Races
R11 Grade 1 World Cup Turf Invitational
Defending champion Colonel Liam, who hadn’t run since Belmont Day, shrugged off the long layoff to give Pletcher the win and the exacta (for the second straight year) along with Never Surprised, who looked good on the lead. Still, Colonel Liam collared him at the furlong pole and won impressively.
Ortiz Jr. recently got back after recovering from a knee injury at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 7. He was initially ruled out for Pegasus Day, but a second doctor’s opinion cleared him to return. He showed why he has a reputation as the game’s top rider, earning a 102 Beyer.
R10 Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Stakes
Speakers Corner gave one of the most impressive efforts of the day to score as the favorite for Bill Mott and jockey Junior Alvarado. Speakers Corner impressively survived a blistering pace (45.9 seconds for a half-mile) in this 1-mile race to earn a 102 Beyer. Fearless had a nice trip stalking and looked ready to pounce at the top of the stretch. But Speaker’s Corner turned him away as much the best in this race. Note: This horse thrives in one-turn affairs.
R9 Grade 3 World Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Trainer Chad Brown’s Regal Glory won with Jose Ortiz on board. He guided Regal Glory from six-wide entering the stretch and simply ran the field down to earn a 100 Beyer.
R8 Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes
Just One Time got the victory in his first race for Brad Cox, improving his overall mark to five wins in six starts. The mount was also the first on Just One Time for Joel Rosario, who was able to take this former Penn National starter from off the pace to win. Among the defeated was the race’s defending champion, Pacific Gale.
R7 Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Stakes
Abaan won his third straight victory and fourth in his past five tries as the favorite. He had run a 2-mile prep race on Dec. 24 at Gulfstream Park with improving speed since getting on the grass. While many had thought he’d need the lead to win, he didn’t — jockey Luis Saez got the job done.