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Champ Pegasus Tops San Marcos

Grade 1 winner CHAMP PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus), who nearly wired the November 6 Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs last time out, opens his five-year-old campaign over his home turf in Monday's $150,000 San Marcos S. (G2) at Santa Anita. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day feature shapes up as a reunion, for no fewer than five of his rivals chased him home in the October 3 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Championship (G1).

Champ Pegasus was one of the surprise packages of 2010. Brought along patiently by Richard Mandella, the bay didn't even break his maiden until April, but progressed rapidly over the summer. After a useful second to the front-running MARLANG (Langfuhr) in his stakes bow in the Sunset H. (G3), Champ Pegasus rallied to good-looking wins in the Del Mar H. (G2) and the Clement L. Hirsch. In the latter, he defeated WHERE'S THE REMOTE (Unbridled Native), multiple Grade 2 hero BOURBON BAY (Sligo Bay [Ire]), Marlang, UNUSUAL SUSPECT (Unusual Heat) and BUENOS DIAS (Ire) (Peintre Celebre). That form was subsequently flattered in the November 13 Hollywood Turf Cup (G1), when Unusual Suspect came back to win and Buenos Dias checked in third.

Mandella shrewdly called an audible in the paceless Breeders' Cup Turf, advising Joel Rosario to take control early from the inside post if he could, and the tactic almost worked. Champ Pegasus yielded grudgingly late to English shipper Dangerous Midge (Lion Heart), but easily held second from the likes of Behkabad (Fr) (Cape Cross [Ire]) and Winchester (Theatrical [Ire]).

Although there's no one of that stature here, Champ Pegasus was handed the far outside post 11, and must avoid being hung out wide. His impressive closing kick, and his two-for-two mark at this 1 1/4-mile distance, offer encouragement.
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