Pegasus begins a winter wonderland for older horses
It may sound strange to say, but not so long ago winter felt like a desert for older horses.
After the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), December, January and February offered none of the seven-figure Grade 1 stakes that the sport’s brightest stars covet, prompting many of them to give up and send their precious runners to stud.
The Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes presented by 1/ST BET (G1) at Gulfstream Park changed all that when it launched in 2017. With a $12 million purse funded by the owners of the starters, this potential for a huge final payday convinced owners of California Chrome run one last time before his stud life begins. It didn’t work out for him, as he finished ninth behind Arrogate, but the precedent was set.
Gun Runner captures the 2018 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park
One year later, Horse of the Year gun runner extended his career by one race to race in the Pegasus for a $16.3 million pot. Even though the Pegasus has been reduced to a $3 million purse, the emergence in 2020 of the $20 million Saudi Cup in late February has turned winter and early spring into the richest time in the world. year for older horses with a trio of options that includes the Pegasus on January 29, the Saudi Cup on February 26 (G1) and the Dubai World Cup on March 26 sponsored by Emirates Airlines (G1) for 12 million of dollars.
Even without a calculator, riders can see that $35 million is now up for grabs during winter wonderland for them and it’s no surprise to see more and more big stars staying in training for one more race. or an additional racing season. , even with the high cost of insuring valuable racehorses.
“These winter races are a game-changer because they allow you to keep a horse in training and justify the expense of insurance and the risk you’re taking to the horse’s reputation,” said Elliott Walden, President and CEO. and races. manager of WinStar Farm. “I think the fans don’t quite understand the financial commitment it takes to keep a horse in training. When you’re talking about a $15-20 million horse, the insurance premium, that’s It’s like you have to win a million dollar race. It’s a $600,000 to a million dollar bounty. That’s why the Pegasus and the races in the Middle East have really changed the landscape of the ability to keep a horse in training.
In Saturday’s Pegasus at Gulfstream Park, The Knicks will will become the last star to take a last winter bow before becoming a stallion. Owned by the Korea Racing Authority, its relations were quick to aim for a farewell race in the Pegasus, as they said immediately after the son of Payer won the Classic to seal Horse of the Year honors that he would stay in training for a chance at back-to-back wins in the Pegasus.
“We can’t wait to see the Knicks Go race one last time in the Pegasus,” said Jun Park, director of racing for the KRA. “It will be an honor to race in the Pegasus again.”
It will indeed be an honor and it could also be financially rewarding for the 6-year-old trained by Brad Cox with a winner’s purse of around $1.7 million at stake.
Fans will be rewarded with a blockbuster game to start the 2022 racing season in the Pegasus clash between Knicks Go and Big Ass Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Life is Beautiful .
“I’ve been in the game for a long time and I’m really excited,” said Mike Lakow, vice president of race operations at Gulfstream Park. “With line of flight not exceeding seven furlongs, Knicks Go and Life Is Good are the top two horses in the country. I think Knicks Go will be horse of the year (when announced Feb 10) and Life Is Good has a legitimate shot at being the best 3-year-old. I can’t wait to be in the race and see them race.”
When the Pegasus concept was first announced in 2016 by Belinda and Frank Stronach, the idea was indeed to give top horses a reason to keep racing. Meanwhile, Gulfstream spread the wealth by launching the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes presented by Baccarat (G1T) in 2019 and adding the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational Stakes presented by PEPSI (G3T) this year.
Colonel Liam wins the 2021 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes
Lakow said adding a turf race for fillies and mares as opposed to a dirt race for this division came down to the prospect of a much larger field on turf than dirt.
“The Pegasus Turf has 12 horses and is a spectacular race. The Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf has 11 very good entrants in its first year,” Lakow said. “It’s a lot of work, but when you get horses like this, it’s worth it. The idea came from (President, CEO and President of 1/ST and Stronach Group) Belinda Stronach and she been well supported.”
Besides these three Pegasus races, which includes Colonel Liam looking for an extra win in the Pegasus Turf, the brilliant brilliance of having so many well-known Grade 1 winners has allowed Gulfstream Park to assemble an outstanding 12-race card with seven graded stakes.
“I can’t wait for that race day,” Lakow said.
While change has come this year in the form of the Filly & Mare turf race, it will be interesting to see what happens in the future with the spacing of the Pegasus and the two international stakes.
At the moment, four weeks separate the Pegasus on January 29 and the Saudi Cup on February 26, which doesn’t leave much time for a horse to race in the Pegasus and travel to Saudi Arabia. that’s why Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloon in particular, jumped the Pegasus to race in the Saudi Cup.
Four weeks after the Saudi Cup, the Dubai World Cup follows on March 26, which in our times is a relatively short gap.
“Going forward, I would like to see more time between races so you can make it a series,” Walden said. “With travel from America it would be difficult to race in both and the Pegasus. I think they see that and you see the races change over time. The Arkansas Derby (G1) is now five weeks before the Kentucky Derby (G1) instead of the traditional three weeks. Hopefully you will see more spacing between the three races in the future.”
Different spacing and dates would help create a series since a horse racing in the Saudi Cup would miss most if not all of this year’s breeding season due to quarantine issues and will typically race for the rest of the year. year.
However, the lengthening of the three races is problematic since each track offers its race on a date that has worked well for it. At Gulfstream, in particular, the date is around five weeks after the traditional December 26 opening day at its sister runway, Santa Anita Parkwhich has potential Pegasus preparations that day in the Runhappy Malibu Stakes (G1) and San Antonio Stakes (G2).
“We try to use the Santa Anita races as preparations for our races, which leads us to be four or five weeks away from them and then we are four weeks ahead of the Saudi Cup. If we let’s move our race to create more time for the Saudi Cup, it wouldn’t work for California horses and we certainly owe them a place to race their best horses,” Lakow said. “Maybe it makes the Saudi Cup too close for some riders, but they can use the Pegasus as a nice preparation for the Dubai World Cup.”
Past experience and current plans indicate how nice the Pegasus-Dubai path can be as Arrogate won both races in 2017 and Life Is Good should target the Dubai race if all goes well on Saturday and it thrives in the new winter wonderland for older horses. .