Accelerate, the Breeders’ Cup Classic hero and possible 2018 Horse of the Year, is set to enter the starting gate for the final time Jan. 26 in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. Then, it’s off to the breeding shed, win or lose. At stake is significant prestige in the form of a higher stud fee and the winner’s share of the $9 million purse.

Win or lose, Accelerate is off to the breeding shed after Pegasus World Cup. (Image: AP)

Eleven other sets of owners, trainers and their horses will have plenty to say about the outcome in what is expected to be the most competitive field yet in the unique event for older runners.

Pay and You’re In

Rather than any qualification process on the racetrack, the Pegasus World Cup starting gate stalls are purchased by horse owners with legitimate contenders and even speculators who this year are putting up $500,000 to enter the race. These speculators, sometimes breeders trying to up the stud price for their stallion, then seek out horse owners willing to make a deal to get their horse a place in the gate vying for the richest thoroughbred purse in North America.

The 12th and last spot in the starting gate is now available with the defection of Leofric. Gulfstream Park officials are reportedly in discussions with Bob Baffert about McKinzie taking his place in the Jan. 26 race. Mckinzie was a 4 3/4-length winner of the Malibu at seven furlongs on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Trainer Bob Baffert has expressed interest in running McKinzie in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus.

Can Mckinzie rebound from a sub-par effort in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 3? That remains the key question.

Leofric, winner of the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in his most recent start, will not run because of a nagging hoof problem, says trainer Brad Cox.

Gulfstream retains a current list of 11 likely candidates for the Pegasus, not including McKinzie.

14-0 Mexican Superstar Confirmed

Additional spice to the Pegasus World Cup has been added in the presence of undefeated Mexican bred and owned superstar Kukulkan, a perfect 14-0 after winning the Caribbean Classic at Gulfstream. Kukulkan journeyed home to train for the race and returns to South Florida on January 17. His connections have further added to the Pegasus betting puzzle and international appeal by naming European-based, world champion jockey Frankie Dettori to be aboard their Mexican champion.

In the race’s previous two editions, the betting hype failed to live up to reality. That’s because the odds on favorites, Arrogate (9-10) in 2017 took home most of the $12 million purse and last year, Gun Runner (11-10) grabbed the majority of the whopping $16 million pot before heading to the breeding shed.

The 11 currently confirmed for the third Pegasus, listed alphabetically:

  • Accelerate
  • Audible
  • Bravazo
  • City of Light
  • Gunnevera
  • Kukulkan
  • Patternrecognition
  • Seeking the Soul
  • Something Awesome
  • Tom’s d’Etat
  • True Timber

If needed, an also-eligibles list beyond the 12-horse limit will be used.

$7 million Turf Event Added

This year also marks the inaugural running of the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf. Yoshida, a top class winner on both turf and dirt, is among the leading candidates for the 1 3/16-mile the race. Yoshida, most recently, was fourth behind Accelerate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Additionally, Gulfstream has put up a $1 million bonus to an owner that can win both Pegasus races.

Who’s in and who’s out for both Pegasus events will be officially decided when final entries are taken on Jan. 22.

Gulfstream Park,