Knicks Go and Life Is Good scared off the closest level of competition for their dream matchup in Saturday’s $3 Million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
What remains are horses further down the talent ladder and a projected 12-horse field that became nine in Tuesday’s draw.
Few trainers and owners want to compete against the recent Breeders’ Cup champions, who headline an afternoon-long, graded stakes-packed card New Jersey bettors can access via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG.
The 1 1-8 Pegasus has a 5:45 p.m. post time and will be televised by NBC.
Knicks Go, installed as the 6-5 favorite and breaking from the rail, won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6 and is the likely 2021 Horse of the Year.
Life Is Good, the 7-5 second choice assigned the No. 4 post, captured the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on the same card.
Chess Chief was installed as the third choice for the Pegasus World Cup at 10-1. Former Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston was listed at 12-1.
From the standpoint of credentials, Knicks Go and Life Is Good tower above the field.
The only question now is whether the two front-running horses can avoid compromising one another in a speed duel that would set the stage for a closer.
2022 Pegasus World Cup field and odds
|1||Knicks Go||Joel Rosario||6-5|
|2||Chess Chief||Reylu Gutierrez||10-1|
|3||Stilleto Boy||Kent Desormeaux||20-1|
|4||Life Is Good||Irad Ortiz Jr.||7-5|
|5||Empty Tomb||Paco Lopez||20-1|
|6||Sir Winston||Edwin Gonzalez||12-1|
|7||Title Ready||Tyler Gaffalione||20-1|
Analyzing rest of Pegasus World Cup field
Empty Tomb ran a game second in the recent $125,000 Queens County race at Aqueduct Park. He is a speed factor who may try to go at the leaders early.
Endorsed was second in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector. It was a seven-furlong sprint, so he figures to be near the pace.
Commandeer made a late run from the back of the pack to prevail in allowance optional claiming at Churchill Downs in November, in the slop. Along with Sir Winston, his best chance occurs if the leaders break down.
Chess Chief was fifth in a field of six in the Lukas Classic Stakes won by Knicks Go last year. He gains betting respect because of the class level of that race.
Stilleto Boy was fifth to Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup. He could logically be in a fight to be on the superfecta ticket (top four finishers).
Title Ready finished out of the money in a recent allowance race. He would need a ton of improvement to be in the picture.
Knicks Go and the New Jersey connection
This has been announced as Knicks Go’s last race. He tries to depart as the first repeat winner of the six-year-old Pegasus. In 2021, he prevailed in frontrunning style and won by 2 1-2 lengths under a hand ride by Rosario. He was never threatened.
Some New Jersey horse racing bettors have been enamored with his family connections for many years. The 6-year-old star is the son of Paynter.
Does that name sound familiar?
Paynter won the 2012 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park for Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert. This is one of several connections Monmouth Park routinely gains with multi-million-dollar events.
Baffert, who later trained Triple Crown-winning American Pharoah to a 2015 Haskell Stakes victory, is the only two-time winner of the Pegasus. He once trained Life Is Good and would have been a threat to make it three here.
But the legal battle over where Baffert can enter horses, stemming from Medina Spirit’s positive 2021 post Kentucky Derby drug test, coaxed him to hand Life is Good to Todd Pletcher last June.
Speed to burn
Knicks Go rides a spectacular four-race winning streak in which he has beaten his opponents by a 21 ½ lengths. He wired all four fields. Expect him near the front again.
“We’re not really going to deviate from what we’ve done in the past. [Life Is Good] is a very fast, brilliant horse,” Brad Cox, the trainer of Knicks Go, said Tuesday. “We’re not going to let him have his own way, and I think he’s probably not going to let us have our own way.
The plan includes going to “break running and hopefully get to the lead.”
“…It’s the same approach we took in the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll see how it goes. He’s proven at a mile and an eighth and he does like the surface there. He likes the configuration of the racetrack there at Gulfstream, he proved that last year. We’re just going to come out of there running and see what happens,” Cox added.
And in the first of what should be many upcoming honors, Knicks Go was named the 2021 Longines World’ Best Racehorse. The virtual ceremony took place Tuesday at the National Horse Racing Museum in England.
Pletcher, like Cox, believes each horse will play to his strength rather than change tactics to negate an opponent’s advantage.
“You’ve got two super talented horses with similar running styles, so it makes for a very exciting race. It’s going to be very exciting to see how the pace unfolds,” Pletcher said. “Speed is our horse’s weapon and we’re not looking to take it away from him, and I’m sure the Knicks Go team knows what works for their horse. We’ll just see how it plays out.”
Garden State gamblers have an all-day ticket
The Pegasus World Cup headlines a 12-race card that also feature the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G3), along four other graded stakes.
Programming note: Gulfstream Park has moved the first-race post time is up to 11:30 a.m.
The all-stakes late Pick 5 (Races 8-12) and the late Pick 4 (Races 9-12) will both offer guaranteed gross pools of $750,000. The all-stakes Rainbow 6 will span Races 7-12.
The substantial wagering pools are excellent to wager into. They ensure solid payouts for most of these races.
AP Photo/Gregory Bull