What we learned: Mucho Gusto confirms his Grade 1 quality

January 26, 2020 05:45pm
Mucho Gusto's form heading into the Pegasus World Cup (g1) at Gulfstream Park failed to excite people in the same way as top morning line choices Omaha Beach or Spun to Run, but there were signs of class. Remember, this colt pushed Maximum Security to the limit in last summer's Haskell (G1) before settling for second.

After regressing in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) with a fourth-place finish against weaker horses, Mucho Gusto suddenly looked average again. But in the Pegasus World Cup, he seemed to find his best form after a freshening.

Mucho Gusto broke sharp from Post 8 and momentarily secured the lead on the first turn as Bodexpress followed. 
From the far outside, though, Mr Freeze wanted the lead and passed them, while Bodexpress ran along in second and a hard-ridden Higher Power chased in third. 

Mucho Gusto saved ground and settled for the pocket until the far turn. Mr Freeze tried to separate from the field, but Bodexpress made a brief move alongside him. Mucho Gusto passed a folding Higher Power to tip outside of Mr Freeze and Bodexpress. 

Under heavy urging, Mucho Gusto began to draw clear in the stretch and finally put it all together to earn the biggest victory of his career. Mr Freeze held second-place, while War Story turned in a late rally for third.

Mucho Gusto earned a 129 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the Pegasus win, slower than numbers registered by City of Light, Gun Runner and Arrogate in past editions of this race. The part to nitpick is the heavy urging in the stretch, as it is not a great sign to see the whip out with the $20 million Saudi Cup coming up on Feb. 29.

Granted, Mucho Gusto is a young horse with upside. He owns great tactical speed, which helped him capture the Pegasus and will continue to help in future Grade 1 races. His 4 ½-length margin prevented the Pegasus from looking like a slug-fest, as strung out fields indicate quality.

Despite its $3 million purse, the Pegasus sized up like a “normal” Grade 1, while the Saudi Cup feels like a "super" Grade 1. In terms of the Saudi Cup, though, he will need to face Maximum Security, Midnight Bisou, Tacitus, McKinzie, Gift Box and more. As far as other numbers, Maximum Security posted a 131 most recently when winning the Cigar Mile (G1) under might lighter urging.

Mucho Gusto bettered his career-best 127 TimeformUS figure earned in the Haskell. He then received a 124 for a third in the Travers (G1) before a 122 in the Oklahoma Derby.

While the next task is daunting for Mucho Gusto, he did prove Saturday he can excel without Lasix, as will be required again next month. He looks like the type of colt who could win another Grade 1 on U.S. soil and certainly fits in the Saudi Cup. But he'll need to progress once more to take down the world's richest race.

Market Analysis breaks maiden

In terms of the Kentucky Derby trail, the two interesting races on the Saturday undercard at Gulfstream Park were the second and fourth, with Market Analysis making his debut in the latter.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has not been as sharp lately with first-time starters. You'll find handicappers speculate that he is changing his style with an eye toward the long-term.

Regardless, Market Analysis trained like a possible monster leading up to his debut, and therefore it seemed possible to watch a blowout victory.

Market Analysis won, but he worked for it.

After breaking slowly, John Velazquez urged Market Analysis towards the front, and he pressed the pace outside of Express Pharoah and Sea Trident.

On the turn, Market Analysis did move alongside Express Pharoah with no urging, which is a great sign. The race began to resemble his workouts.

With Precise Dancer coming into the picture, though and Attachment Rate moving late on the outside, Velazquez began to ask Market Analysis by shaking the reins and bringing out the whip in mid-stretch. He stalled.

Market Analysis got the job done anyway by ¾ of a length over the 50-1 Attachment Rate with Precise Dancer two lengths back.

Market Analysis' third dam is Queen Randi, which means he comes from the family of Fly Down, the 2010 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes runner-up. This long-winded and well-bred colt might need a two-turn route in order to show off his talents.

Market Analysis is one to watch on the Derby trail. But it will not come as a surprise if he develops into a better Belmont Stakes candidate.

Gold Street wins Smarty Jones and Three Technique shines

To also address last Friday's Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Gold Street won the race by 2 ¾ lengths, but the runner-up Three Technique is the one to watch given the factors of the race.

Gold Street received a picture-perfect trip over wet dirt, his favorite surface. At the start, he broke well and secured the lead through a 24.08 opening quarter.

Lynn's Map gave Gold Street some nominal pressure on the outside, while Shoplifted took the pocket position and Three Technique followed.

After Gold Street led through a half in 48.96, the field approached the far turn and Lynn's Map began to struggle. Shoplifted and Three Technique moved closer to Gold Street and came within range at the top of the stretch. 

But Gold Street found another gear and kept going. 

Gold Street won under a drive, as Three Technique kept trying late in second. In the long run, Three Technique is the one to watch for the Kentucky Derby. Considering the unfavorable pace scenario and wet track, he gave a great effort to rally for second while chasing the slop-loving Gold Street.

On the Derby trail, it is not always about favoring the winning horse. Who remembers Gray Attempt, Uncontested or Discreetness? They faded into obscurity after their Smarty Jones wins, with that race run with a short stretch/first finish line configuration.

Gold Street remains in the Derby picture and owns more talent than those three names, but Three Technique feels more reliable as distances lengthen in Arkansas.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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