Expert picks: Pegasus World Cup 2020 predictions, longshots

January 24, 2020 02:50pm
Gone are the heavy hitters Omaha Beach and Spun to Run, out of Saturday's Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup due to physical setbacks. Left is an open field of where favoritism is up for grabs.

With this suddenly an intriguing betting race -- Omaha Beach was the even money favorite before defecting -- we asked Horse Racing Nation staffers to weigh in with their selections. See them below, and check out free past performances ahead of post time at 5:34 p.m. ET.

Jeffrey Byrnes

Winner: #2 Tax

On the board: #10 Mucho Gusto, #7 War Story

Longshot I like: #8 Mr Freeze

Analysis: Tax looks like a horse with a big chance after the scratches. He shows two straight triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures coming in, was second over a speed-favoring track last time and should get a dream trip from this post. He's a Grade 2 winner and has run with the big boys many times. He posted a bullet work two weeks ago and, as a bonus, has won without Lasix before. Mucho Gusto also benefits from the scratches, primarily because he won't have to duel Spun to Run early. Gulfstream is typically a speed-favoring track, and Mucho Gusto has never finished worse than fourth in his career. Workouts coming in are sharp, and Irad Ortiz Jr. hopping aboard is a plus. War Story is still going strong at age 8. He comes in off a win in the local Harlan's Holiday that produced a triple-digit Beyer. There's a class edge to this one. Mr Freeze came into his own last fall, winning Churchill Downs' Ack Ack and placing in two other graded races. Luis Saez jumps aboard for the first time as the right guy in a big spot.

Nick Costa

Winner: #6 Higher Power

On the board: #10 Mucho Gusto, #2 Tax

Longshot I like: #1 True Timber

Analysis: Higher Power was third in his last two races after poor starts, including the Breeders' Cup Classic. He’s the lone Grade 1 winner in this group, scoring a commanding victory in the Pacific Classic in which he defeated a few rivals that oppose him again here. Has the class to topple this field. Mucho Gusto goes first time against older runners after competing well in stakes company against his own age class in 2019. Four workouts in 18 days, three of them bullets, have this colt primed for a top effort off the layoff. Tax also faces older horses after a 3-year old campaign that saw him never finish worse than third in five races at the nine-furlong distance. True Timber looks to erase his dismal showing in this race last year. He stretches back out in distance after exiting a decent third-place finish in the Cigar Mile behind a couple of big-name runners. 

Candice Curtis

Winner: #2 Tax

On the board: #6 Higher Power, #10 Mucho Gusto

Longshot I like: #7 War Story

Analysis: The pace setup here has dramatically changed. However, all of the remaining speed types are still parked in the outside gates. This will still provide swift early stages, but it will be significantly less pressured with Spun to Run and Omaha Beach out of the mix. I think this now sets up for a presser like Tax to jump up for the win. He's also drawn an ideal, inside starting spot. Higher Power will track him mid-pack. With a less pressured pace and fewer frontrunners tiring in the stretch, this gives Higher Power more to do, but he is still the class of the field based on his record. I just think Tax, who is on the upswing in his form progression, will get the jump on the older horse here in this scenario. Mucho Gusto looks like a pace hanger-on, and War Story can grind out a spot on the board.

Ryan Dickey

Winner: #8 Mr Freeze

On the board: #2 Tax, #1 True Timber

Longshot I like: #12 Bodexpress

Analysis: The scratches of Omaha Beach and Spun to Run have changed the entire dynamic of this contest, which I believe, is more intriguing now than it was when they drew the race. As much as I was going to avoid Omaha Beach as a favorite, I'll be willing to bet Mr Freeze even if he becomes the chalk. I've watched him train at Churchill Downs and have felt he's a top-tier horse. Tax should take plenty of money, as nine furlongs suits him well. True Timber could make noise while being forwardly-placed. Bodexpress gets some post-draw relief, which he desperately needed from the outside post.

Jarrod Horak

Winner: #6 Higher Power

On the board: #10 Mucho Gusto, #2 Tax

Longshot I like: #7 War Story

Analysis: Higher Power is capable of securing a forward position if he gets out of the gate this time. After tracking the pace and running away with the Pacific Classic, he stumbled at the start and was up for third in the Awesome Again, and broke slow and rallied for third in the Breeders' Cup Classic, too. He is training well for this; if he breaks, he wins. Mucho Gusto runs well fresh and is firing bullets for this. He is good enough to win, but I am concerned about the nine-furlong distance. He is 5-for-6 up to a mile and a sixteenth, and 0-for-4 at a mile and an eighth or longer. Tax should save ground stalking the pace at his favorite distance. War Story is a versatile veteran exiting a local graded victory. He likes this distance.

Wagers: #6 to win; exacta 6/2-7-10; exacta 2-7-10/6.

Reinier Macatangay

Winner: #2 Tax

On the board: #6 Higher Power, #10 Mucho Gusto

Longshot I like: #3 Diamond Oops

Analysis: Tax owns the high last-race speed figure on the TimeformUS scale and could score with the right trip. But he does not feel reliable alone with seven losses in 10 starts. Mucho Gusto and Diamond Oops will benefit from the defection of Spun to Run. Both could win on the front end, with Higher Power likely to run one-paced late and hit the board underneath. 

Trifecta wheel: 2,3,10 / 6 / 2,3,4,7,8,10,12
Trifecta wheel: 2,3,10 / 2,3,7,8,10 / 6

Olivia Newman

Winner: #7 War Story

On the board: #6 Higher Power, #10 Mucho Gusto

Longshot I like: #2 Tax

Analysis: Veteran War Story goes in the Pegasus for the third time here and comes off a confidence-boosting win at Gulfstream for his new barn. Appearing to sit closer these days, he'll be right there turning for home. Higher Power has been training super, and the race should set up well for his running style. His last three races have come against highly regarded horses. He more than belongs. Mucho Gusto has a number of questions to answer, but Bob Baffert wouldn’t enter him if he didn’t think he had a shot. I think Tax has the potential to do well. Distance is no issue for him. He’s a blue collar horse that needs exactly the right trip, and new rider Jose Ortiz could definitely give it to him. 


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