The Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which had a purse as high as $16 million in 2018, may no longer be the world's richest race or even America's biggest purse, but the quality of the potential field remains very strong with $3 million on the line once again in 2021.
Connections with multiple Grade 1 winners Tiz the Law and Code of Honor have confirmed that they are targeting the Grade 1 race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 23. They are likely to meet recent Clark Stakes (G1) winner Bodexpress as well as Grade 1 winner Math Wizard and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Jesus' Team, both locally in the Claiming Crown Jewel on Dec. 5.
These five runners lay a great foundation for this race, while the long list of talented possibles give this affair an opportunity to be special in 2021.
Defending Pegasus champion Mucho Gusto has returned to work with the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20 as an ultimate goal. He likely will prep before that, however, and the San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 and the Pegasus would be at the top of the list. He could very well run in both races if trainer Bob Baffert deems he needs more fitness.
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go will run in at least the early portion of 2021, and the Pegasus is reportedly an option for his next start. Although he has blossomed at one mile, he won the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile going 1 1/16 miles as a 2-year-old. His form is even better now under Brad Cox, so the 1 1/8 distance could be within his reach. City of Light won the 2019 Pegasus after taking the Dirt Mile.
Cox also could start Owendale, who recently was third in the Clark, in the Pegasus. The presence of Owendale and Knicks Go make it unlikely that Monomoy Girl would run in the Pegasus, but she remains in training, loves the distance and has nothing left to prove against females, so there is a small glimmer of hope that she could show up here.
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner King Guillermo is first expected in Saturday's Cigar Mile Handicap (G1), making his return to the races for the first time since his runner-up effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1). A strong effort there would set him up for a 2021 campaign that could include the Pegasus.
Performer will look to keep his winning streak alive in the Cigar Mile. He has won five in a row, and a sixth win or a solid showing could tempt Shug McGaughey to step him up to the Pegasus despite the presence of his stablemate Code of Honor.
Undefeated Grade 1 winner Happy Saver skipped the Breeders' Cup to be focused on a 2021 campaign. There would be no better way to start his 4-year-old season than to win the Pegasus. By design he has not worked since Oct. 2, but he would need to return to the tab soon for the Pegasus to remain a possibility.
The connections of Charlatan are taking things one race at a time and have not mentioned any goals beyond the Malibu (G1) on Dec. 26. One would imagine the Pegasus could be on Baffert's radar, especially if Mucho Gusto did not wind up there. Baffert has won the race twice since its inception in 2017. Considering the injury setbacks Charlatan had this year and his tremendous potential value, it seems more likely that he would be targeted for such races as the Pegasus and the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) rather than the Saudi Cup or Dubai World Cup (G1).
Trainer Bill Mott said after the Breeders' Cup Classic that the door remains open for fourth-place finisher Tacitus to remain in training in 2021. No final decision has been made, but he is a horse who dances every dance and picks up checks, so the Pegasus would be a possibility if he returns to training soon.
If only a handful of the possibles mentioned above are added to the strong early probables, then this race could be one of the best of 2021. That would be a pretty amazing feat, considering four of the top five finishers from the 2020 Breeders' Cup Classic have been retired.