Gulfstream hosts the first Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday, a race that features a rematch between Arrogate and California Chrome, the top two finishers in a thrilling 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. That goes as Race 12 on Saturday, capping a spectacular card that finishes with a difficult Pick-5. We took a look at the races – one maiden race and four stakes races – and put together an investment in the Pick-5.
Race 8 – Maiden Special Weight (3 year olds, 7 furlongs)
This will be the race where we spread the most, though acknowledging that #3 Blind Ambition (7-2), a Todd Pletcher first-time starter, is a likely short-priced winner. His dam, Starfish Bay, was an excellent turf sprinter, though the two full siblings haven’t been much on the track. Still, this is an obvious contender. The best of those that have raced looks to be #8 Lookin for Eight (4-1). He got stuck chasing Battalion Runner, a Pletcher second time starter than ran a 96 Beyer in a New Year’s Eve 8.5 length win at Gulfstream. #11 Commandeering (5-1) is another Pletcher runner, but he has been a beaten favorite in all three starts, including last time going a slow-paced mile at Gulfstream Park West. He was second to Guest Suite, winner of the LeComte (G3) at Fair Ground last weekend, in October at Keeneland. #7 Lunaire (9-2) maybe (probably?) should have won last time but he was on the inside part of the track when all of the other winners on the card made wider runs from off the pace. Note too that Javier Castellano is here and not on Pletcher’s Commandeering.
There are two longshots we want to use at least a little bit. #1 Bursa Vento (15-1) goes out for Nick Zito and cuts back to 7 furlongs after fading against Guest Suite at Keeneland. He got stuck chasing Practical Joke (subsequent Hopeful/Champagne winner) from the inside in his debut and then ran decently in his second start, getting run down late at Saratoga. Nick Zito is 6-29 at the meet, 6-22 with Nik Juarez aboard, and seems to be working pretty well at Palm Meadows. #2 Truly a Moon Shot (15-1) had no chance behind Faja on December 17th as that one crushed a maiden field by 8 ¾ lengths. Last time, he was down inside on a freshly sealed wet-fast track in a race that had an outside flow. We like the turn-back to 7 furlongs and the switch to Paco Lopez.
Strategy – Blind Amibition and Lookin for Eight will be our two “A” horses, but we’ll sprinkle in some others further down the ticket. Truly a Moon Shot and Lunaire are “B” horses. Bursa Vento and Commandeering will be “C” horses.
Race 9 – Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (4/up, 5 furlongs, turf)
I like #1 Rainbow Heir (6-1). His two turf sprints for Jason Servis have produced 100+ Beyer figures and strong performances. Though, granted, he had a good trip last time, he should get another one today saving ground from his inside post behind what should be a fast pace. Jersey-breds have done well in some open company stakes races lately (Green Gratto and Sunny Ridge at Aquedcut and Irish War Cry at Laurel), and maybe Rainbow Heir can win another.
Good luck getting 12-1 on #3 Long on Value. He turns back out of a one-mile race for Bill Mott and should be moving late from off the pace. His summer form was very good. His fall form was not, and I wonder if 5 furlongs will be a little too short for him. That said, he’s too talented and will get enough pace that he should be used defensively.
#11 Power Alert (4-1) is 4-4 at Gulfstream and buried a weaker field at Tampa in his prep for this one. He’s been able to pass horses before and projects to a nice outside stalking trip from his outside post. #5 Divine Warrior (10-1) and #8 Super Spender (10-1) both ran well in the Canterbury (Claiming Crown Day) over this track but both were aided by a supersonic pace in that race. We’ll also oppose #2 Manhattan Dan (9-2) who shows up for Todd Pletcher on a 10 month layoff. He won a few stakes here last year and is very fast early, but the layoff and the jump up in class from straight three-year olds, the other pace (El Deal, Platinum Prince, Pay Any Price, maybe Doctor J Dub), and the fact that he just has to run a lot faster on figures (though obviously he can as a freshly turned 4-year old that hasn’t raced since April and is certainly physically improved since then) and we’ll let him beat us at an underlaid price.
Strategy – Rainbow Heir is our lone “A,” Power Alert is our lone “B” and Long on Value is a “C.”
Race 10 – La Prevoyante Stakes (4/up fillies & mares, 12 furlongs, turf)
We’re going to approach both turf marathons in this sequence the same way, and that’s by generally opposing the horses that came out of the local prep race, in this case the Via Borghese, won by Paige at 22-1. In that race, she had a perfect trip, as did runner-up Desiree Clary and third-place finisher Flipcup. All are taking major steps up in class today.
The likeliest winner is #3 Suffused (3-1), a Mott/Juddmonte 5-year old that won the Glens Falls at Saratoga in September and the Belmont Coronation in June. The layoff (October) and the post are mild concerns but she’s the class of the field. #7 Arles (7-2) makes her third US start for trainer Graham Motion. Suffused beat her by ¾ of a length in the Glens Falls. These are clearly the two to beat.
We’ll use two others. #2 Try Your Luck (10-1) didn’t run especially well in the Tropical Park Oaks on New Years Eve, but that might have been a prep for this stretch-out to 12 furlongs. She buried a stakes field at Kentucky Downs going 1 5/16ths miles in September and maybe she just a turf marathoner with a good post poised for a step forward. #5 Stay the Night (20-1) ran very well in a turf marathon at Aqueduct on November 10th, being stuck behind a dawdling pace (53.43, 1:20.05) and was flying late behind a wire to wire winner. She was not good last time, December 29th at Gulfstream, but that was going 9 furlongs and that might have been a prep for this longer race. She’ll be a huge price.
Strategy – Suffused and Arles will be the two “A” horses. Try Your Luck is a “B” and Stay the Night is a “C.”
Race 11 – McKnight Stakes (4/up, 12 furlongs, turf)
The male counterpart to the La Prevoyante features several that come out of the 2-mile Allen Jerkens and like the last race, this is a tougher field. #1 Taghleeb (6-1) won that race as much the best though he had a perfect inside-out trip under Tyler Gaffalione. #2 Montclair (10-1) was the runner-up in that race and he just stayed back and rode the inside down to the wire without impediment. They face tougher today.
Our top pick is #4 Danish Dynaformer (5-1). I thought he ran huge in the Red Smith at Aqueduct, a race where Bigger Picture had a great inside-out trip after this one had to circle 5-6 wide into the lane. If you flip the trips, you flip the results. Before that he competed in much tougher races, the Grade 1 Canadian International and Grade 1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine.
#6 Charming Kitten (9-2) is a proven stayer who had a disastrous 2016 campaign in Europe. He did win this race last year (December of 2015 to be precise), but he is going to have to come back on his “A” game to win here. Old pro #7 Twilight Eclipse (4-1) seems to still have his good stuff when he gets firm turf (as he should today) and is not running the Breeders Cup. There are no Flintshires or Highland Reels (or for that matter Money Multipliers) in here.
#10 Mr. Maybe (6-1) has some powerful wins over marathon distances for trainer Chad Brown. He was hurt by a slow pace in the United Nations, and then won the John’s Call easily. He ran in the 9-furlong Knickerbocker in yielding turf he may not have liked. He’s a major player.
Finally, #11 Sadler’s Joy (8-1) is a horse we’ve liked since he broke through with a maiden win at Saratoga on August 22nd. He has won two straight allowance races, relishes the long distances, and with only six career starts, has the most room to improve of anyone in the field. I feel he’s talented enough to win a race like this. He may not be ready to do it today, but I have no problem taking a big price on the improving talented up-and-comer. He’s on our tickets.
Strategy – Danish Dynaformer and Mr. Maybe are the two “A” horses, with Sadler’s Joy a “B” and Twilight Eclipse a “C.”
Race 12 – Pegasus World Cup (4/up, 9 furlongs)
There’s not a ton to say here. #1 Arrogate (7-5) and #12 California Chrome (6-5) rematch after a thrilling Breeders Cup Classic. This race has a unique (and somewhat compelling) way of filling the gate (12 owners each put up $1 million to fund the purse), but that’s all done now. At 5:40 on Saturday (NBC) we will be treated to what should be a tremendous race between two great horses.
Arrogate, to us, is the better horse, and he showed that in the Breeders Cup, running down Chrome in the last furlong. He obviously drew better that his key rival. Still, presumably Neolithic and Noble Bird will be forwardly placed, so Arrogate might have to be used a bit, but ultimately, you would much prefer his post to California Chrome, marooned out in post 12.
On the other hand, California Chrome prefers running outside of rivals, and should get his comfortable stalking trip from in the clear. Chrome has been in Florida since the beginning of January after a prep at Los Alamitos. Arrogate, meanwhile, has had some training interrupted and juggled by the rainy winter they’ve had in Southern California. He had to scratch out of his scheduled prep race when the track turned up sloppy on New Year’s Day. Bob Baffert is as good as it gets at getting a horse ready off a layoff to win a big race (American Pharoah and Arrogate won the last two Breeders Cup Classics off two-month layoffs), but this is not going to be easy.
Ultimately, I think Arrogate is better, but we’re not going to split hairs. We’ll hope to get alive, use them both, and enjoy the race.
Strategy – Both Arrogate and California Chrome are our “As” and we’ll be as surprised as everyone else if one of the other 10 wins this race.
The Play – Using DRF’s Ticket Maker, the play lays out as follows:
5 As – $8
4 As / 1 B – $24
3 As / 2 Bs – $26
4 As / 1 C – $24
We will play the “5A” ticket for $1.50 and the 4A / 1B tickets for $1, for a total investment of $122. Good luck!