American Pharoah would have loved this encore.
That’s the sentiment of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert regarding the $3 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 29 from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.
Baffert, who showcased the Triple Crown winner before a record Monmouth Park crowd of 60,983 for the 2015 Haskell Stakes, later won two Pegasus World Cup races. He is the only trainer to do so.
Had this six-year-old event existed when American Pharoah ran, the nation’s top horse would likely have gained a final curtain call at the Pegasus. American Pharoah instead retired after the 2015 campaign.
Contrast that with Knicks Go, the prolific 2021 Breeders Cup Classic champion. Because the Pegasus World Cup does exist, he gains one final performance in this 1 1–8-mile race, starting around 5:45 p.m.
Breeders Cup champion Knicks Go gets high profile showcase
The Pegasus World Cup creates one more high-profile showcase for the industry via NBC television coverage.
The appearance of the nation’s top thoroughbred also spikes interest for the New Jersey horse betting public. Garden State gamblers can access the action via 4NJBETS powered by TVG not only for the Pegasus but for a card packing $5.2 million of graded stakes action starting around noon ET.
American Pharoah and Knicks Go, stars in the eras just before and after racing and gambling innovations, are thus linked in two “pre” and “post” references.
The racing significance is pre- and post-Pegasus World Cup. The gambling significance is pre-and post PASPA, as legalized NJ sports betting and the launch of mobile app wagering substantially enriched the racing industry.
Because of when these champions performed, their stardom encompassed different dynamics.
American Pharoah electrified Monmouth Park’s live-racing fan base. The Haskell was his next race after being the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. His Monmouth Park appearance was a coronation, an afternoon New Jersey racing fans will never forget.
Knicks Go has attracted additional betting credentials. Besides producing winning tickets for live crowds and gamblers at simulcast facilities, he is one of the first stars of horse racing’s mobile-gambling era.
The Pegasus World Cup lineup
The Pegasus World Cup and legalized wagering form a potent combination. Bettors have several high-level races that will produce big wagering pools and nice potential payouts:
|Pegasus World Cup||1 1-8 miles dirt||$3 million|
|Pegasus World Cup Turf||1 1-8 miles, turf||$1 million|
|Filly and Mare Turf||1 1-6 miles||$500,000|
|Inside Information||7 furlongs||$200,000|
|William McKnight||1 1-2 miles||$200,000|
|La Prevoyante||1 1-2 miles||$150,000|
|Fred Hooper||1 mile, dirt||$150,000|
Clash of the titans
The Pegasus main event features reigning Breeders Cup winners Knicks Go and Life Is Good. The 12-horse field will be rounded out by horses who should not threaten them unless the leaders get hooked up in a speed duel.
Major race questions will concern whether the two front-running horses can stay out of one and if Life Is Good can handle the novel distance of 1 1-8 miles.
The World Cup Turf sees Colonel Liam trying to repeat his victory in the 2021 race.
Pegasus World Cup rounds out horse racing season
The timing of the event is perfect.
There is now a powerful race in every quarter of the season.
The spring Kentucky Derby preps and the May running of the Derby have long been in place.
Monmouth’s Haskell, the Travers Stakes from Saratoga and races from Santa Anita Park mark the summer. The Breeders Cup is a fall magnet for late October or early November. And now the six-year-old Pegasus provides a winter focus.
It also presents an interesting decision for owners. A horse can race in the Pegasus, resume training and travel to Dubai for the $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 26.
Owners also can skip the Pegasus and focus on the Dubai World Cup. That’s the decision reached by owners of Hot Rod Charlie, who crossed the finish line first in the 2021 Haskell Stakes before being disqualified for clipping heels with Midnight Bourbon.
Hot Rod Charlie later finished a good fourth to Knicks Go in the Breeders Cup. Rather than race in the Pegasus, his connections focus on a Feb. 4 prep race at the same Meydan Race Course that will host the Dubai World Cup.
Pegasus tampered ambitions
Being a winter link for the industry was only one goal of Pegasus World Cup organizers.
They launched this event in 2017, aiming to become the world’s richest horse race. With a $12 million purse, they succeeded. Yet with a $16 million purse in 2018, they exceeded logical business sense.
The staggering total was not sustainable.
Officials shifted gears. They have brought the race down to $3 million, still the equivalent of a Kentucky Derby, and adorned the main event with high-quality supporting races.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II