Want your thoroughbred to earn an invitation to the world’s richest horse race? Mucho Gusto found the key. Just win a $3 million race, like he did last Saturday at the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, and the invitation will follow.

Mucho Gusto
After a five-length win at the Pegasus World Cup, Mucho Gusto is taking his act on the road to race in the $20 million Saudi Cup. (Image: AP)

After capturing last Saturday’s race by five lengths, Mucho Gusto quickly received an entry to the $20 million Saudi Cup, held on Feb. 29. The Bob Baffert-trained colt will depart for Saudi Arabia Feb. 18; his plans to run this Saturday’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita have been shelved.

Held at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, the Saudi Cup is a 1 1/8-mile, one-turn race. The winner receives $10 million, with another $10 million split between the next nine horses. The race is invitation-only, and limited to 14 horses.

“I just thought about the Pegasus, and I was watching the race closely. I gave him a good work and I was going to run him next week in the San Pasqual,” Baffert told XBTV. “So I thought, maybe if he runs well, he’ll get an invitation.”

Skillfully piloted for the first time by Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Mucho Gusto ran very well. Ortiz put Mucho Gusto out quickly to catch Gulfstream’s quick first turn, eased him back slightly, and parked him on the outside until just before the top of the stretch. That’s when Mucho Gusto blew past Mr. Freeze and Bodexpress, and romped home by five lengths.

The son of 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Mucho Macho Man, Mucho Gusto was the second favorite (7/2) and paid $8.80, $5 and $3.80.

Mr. Freeze, who went off at 20/1, and War Story (30/1), were second and third. Favored Higher Power (5/2) faded hard in the stretch, and finished last in the 10-horse field.

This was Mucho Gusto’s sixth career win, but his first since June 16, when he captured the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita. Before the Pegasus, he finished third to Code of Honor in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga, and second behind the Three-Year-Old Male Eclipse Champion, Maximum Security, in the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park.

Speaking of Maximum Security, he’ll be waiting for Mucho Gusto in the Saudi Cup gate. So will Baffert’s other older mainstay, McKinzie, most recently seen finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. Other runners will include Midnight Bisou, the Eclipse Champion Older Dirt Female, who won seven of her eight races in 2019, and is in for the toughest race of her career.