2012 has been a year of ups and downs, but then again, I guess they all are. For the sport I passionately watch and write about 365 days of the year, the highs and lows can be magnified intensely. There were many wonderful days at the racetrack this year, spent enjoying the races, and the beautiful athletes that run in them, with good friends and family. For instance, it really doesn’t get much better then when surrounded by friends, I watched my favorite filly, Groupie Doll, as she sprinted away from the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint field, with the majestic San Gabriel Mountains playing backdrop. I’m sure it will be a memory that lasts a lifetime. On the other end of the ecstasy-agony spectrum, I will never forget those heartbreaking moments that haunt the great sport of thoroughbred horse racing. One such afternoon came just three days before this year’s Preakness, when I heard the news that Premier Pegasus had to be euthanized after injuring himself in a gallop at Santa Anita.
A son of Fusaichi Pegasus and the Summer Squall mare, Squall Linda, PrePeg only had the opportunity to run in four stakes in his lifetime. He won three of them, including an overpowering score in Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 12, 2011. Little did any of us know then, that the 7 ¾ length romp in the key Californian Kentucky Derby prep would be his final race.
One of the top horses on my Kentucky Derby lists all winter, the impressive victory elevated PrePeg to the status as the West’s top three-year-old. Set to be a clear cut favorite for the Santa Anita Derby, it was discovered that the Myung Kwon Cho owned, bred, and trained runner had a hairline fracture of a cannon bone. The injury was detected just two days before Midnight Interlude won the PrePeg-less running of the most important three-year-old race in Southern California.
Premier Pegasus would undergo surgery to stabilize the injured leg, and a long road to recovery began. As so often is the case, his was a forgotten name as Animal Kingdom rose to stardom with an upset victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. It remains to this day a race that I truly believe that a healthy PrePeg could have won.
While the Derby winner became a cover boy and a champion. Premier Pegasus recovered. When the news came in last fall that he was doing well, I immediately began to get excited about seeing a powerful, mature PrePeg return in 2012. I even tabbed him as my winterbook choice for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
My high hopes for him in the past two winters seem so unimportant now. After an initial setback that delayed his return a few more months, PrePeg seemed to be doing very well and looking like he would come back strong. It was not to be.
All told, Premier Pegasus won 4 of 5 starts, with one 3rd, and earned $293,400, but of course these numbers full of promise mean nothing. PrePeg was a horse with potential to be great. Maybe he would have been, or maybe not. We will never know. In one day, in one moment, in one split-second, a living, breathing marvel was gone. A shining example of how beautiful a thoroughbred can be, he was taken from this earth. Premier Pegasus is a horse I will never forget.