As strange as it is to understand, turf maestro Chad Brown doesn’t have a horse in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf. Meanwhile, his East Coast training rival, Todd Pletcher, is bringing three charges to what is typically the best winter turf route race of the year.
Before we meet Pletcher’s trio, and the rest of a balanced field, we need a Pegasus primer. The Grade 1 Pegasus Turf is the sister event to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup. The two Grade 1s headline a 12-race, seven-stakes Gulfstream Park program offering $4.725 million in purses.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Especially for the winner, who gets a spot in the Feb. 20, $1 million Middle Distance Turf Handicap at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. That’s one of eight stakes on the Saudi Cup undercard.
The Pegasus Turf’s third edition sends its 12-horse field 1-3/16 miles around Gulfstream’s turf course. There isn’t a horse in this year’s field like Brown’s 2019 winner, Bricks & Mortar, or last year’s Zulu Alpha. Bricks & Mortar kicked off his eventual Horse of the Year season with this race. The Mike Maker-trained Zulu Alpha used the Pegasus as the first of his three graded stakes victories in 2020.
Pegasus Turf Field is Respectable, Not Dynamic
That said, even with a B to B-minus field, the Pegasus Turf turns loose 12 stakes winners – 10 of those graded stakes winners. Four horses — Say the Word (6/1), Storm the Court (12/1), Next Shares (20/1), and Aquaphobia (20/1) — own Grade 1 wins.
The two Grade 1 winners in this field are 20/1, with good reason. Next Shares finished last in this event last year. The 8-year-old gelding is 0-for-his-last-8, with his last win coming at Del Mar in November 2019. Aquaphobia, meanwhile, stole the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park last summer. Since then, he’s gone third-seventh-sixth, losing by a combined 18-¾ lengths.
Playing the role of favorite, albeit a tepid one at 7/2, is the first among equals in Pletcher’s three-headed contingent – Colonel Liam. The $1.2 million son of two-time Grade 1 winner Liam’s Map defines “lightly raced.” He’s 3-for-5 in his career – the slimmest resume in the field. That resume got thicker his last time out, when Colonel Liam won the Tropical Park Derby by 3-¼ lengths.
Speed-figure wise, that 103 Equibase effort wasn’t Colonel Liam’s best race. That would be his 106 Equibase fourth in the Saratoga Derby last August.
The ‘Second Pletcher’ May Be the Better Pletcher
Behind Colonel Liam is the “second Pletcher,” Largent (9/2). This 5-year-old Into Mischief gelding also comes in off a stellar race. He transitioned from beating up fellow Virginia-breds at Colonial Downs and Laurel Park to winning the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale at 16/1 last month at Gulfstream. Largent got the perfect trip, saving ground before pouncing in deep stretch and stealing a two-length win.
“That was his breakthrough performance,” Pletcher said about a gelding who owns six wins and three seconds in nine races. “He’s always been very consistent. He’s run against some really nice horses. We took advantage of his Virginia-bred status because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you have those kinds of options. It wasn’t so much that we felt like he didn’t belong at Saratoga or some bigger races. We had the opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it.”
Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational/Gulfstream Park
Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)
- Next Shares, 20/1 (Drayden Van Dyke/Richard Baltas)
- Breaking the Rules, 10/1 (John Velazquez/Shug McGaughey)
- Storm the Court, 12/1 (Julien Leparoux/Peter Eurton)
- North Dakota, 10/1 (Jose Ortiz/Shug McGaughey)
- Colonel Liam, 7/2 (Irad Ortiz Jr./Todd Pletcher)
- Largent, 9/2 (Paco Lopez/Todd Pletcher)
- Aquaphobia, 20/1 (Joe Bravo/Mike Maker)
- Anothertwistafate, 5/1 (Joel Rosario/Peter Miller)
- Cross Border, 15/1 (Tyler Gaffalione/Mike Maker)
- Pixelate, 9/2 (Edgard Zayas/Mike Stidham)
- Say the Word, 6/1 (Flavien Prat/Phil D’Amato)
- Social Paranoia, 8/1 (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher)
The “third Pletcher” is Social Paranoia (8/1). He’s 3-for-4 at Gulfstream and 4-for-his-last-6. But, none of the 5-year-old Street Boss offspring’s wins came above the Grade 3 level.
“Social Paranoia has won as far as a mile and five-sixteenths, and Colonel Liam was a little bit unlucky in the Saratoga Derby at a mile and a quarter,” Pletcher said. “I think (the distance) should work for all three.”
Anothertwistafate Already on the Board in 2021
If you want to beat the Pletchers, where do you look? Start with Anothertwistafate (5/1). You won’t have to look too hard to find this California shipper, because in a race without much front-end speed, Anothertwistafate will provide it.
The 5-year-old Scat Daddy product comes in with the hot tandem of Joel Rosario in the irons and Peter Miller calling the conditioning shots. They brought you his last win, the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 2.
Those with strong memories may remember that Anothertwistafate finished 10th in the 2019 Preakness. The only plot twist concerning Anothertwistafate comes with what happened afterward: a puzzling, 16-month layoff. Yet, he’s rolled up two wins and a fourth since moving to Miller’s barn.
Sleeper North Dakota Could State His Case Here
Two other runners bear attention for your exotics, Say the Word (6/1) and North Dakota (10/1). The Florida-bred Say the Word won the Grade 1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine last October, and finished a good third in the 1-½-mile Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar a month later. The 6-year-old gelding gets standout California turf rider Flavien Prat back, who understands this deep closer needs some pace for his late kick to have some kick.
North Dakota is one of two Shug McGaughey options here. He needed seven tries to break his maiden, but knew what to do once he did. Since then, North Dakota won four of his last six races, including the Grade 3 Red Smith at Aqueduct in November. That Grade 3 race featured a better field than this Pegasus.
“He’s a true distance horse, probably even a little more than a mile and three-sixteenths,” McGaughey said. “The way he’s doing and the way he’s been coming around, all year really (is great), and his races have been spaced. He’s fresh and we’re willing to give it a try.”
The pick: Anothertwistafate. He’s won stakes races on three surfaces: synthetic at Golden Gate Fields, dirt at the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs, and turf at the San Gabriel. His speed numbers, connections, and form should be enough in this field.