Making his graded-stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher, favored Colonel Liam found racing room at the top of the stretch and uncorked a furious rally under Irad Ortiz Jr. to win the Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Four-year-old Colonel Liam, who was exiting a win in the Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park, led a Pletcher exacta as Largent mounted his own rally on the inside for second. Cross Border checked in third with Social Paranoia – also from the Pletcher barn – completing the superfecta.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way they all ran," Pletcher said. "It was a heck of a race between Largent and Colonel Liam at the end. I thought Social Paranoia put in a huge effort from the 12 post. Just really, really happy with all three of them.”
With a 12-horse field lined up for the 1 3/16-miles turf test, Southern California shipper Storm the Court set the pace through solid fractions of 23.59, 48.69 and 1:12.85 for six furlongs with Colonel Liam racing in mid-pack along the rail. As the field turned for home, Colonel Liam remained bottled up while a mad scramble commenced up front for the lead. But once Ortiz got Colonel Liam angled out for racing room, the son of Liam's Map kicked into high gear and surged to the front to best Largent by a head on the wire.
Colonel Liam wins the Pegasus World Cup Turf! ?? pic.twitter.com/tgjdNXNfbr— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) January 23, 2021
Colonel Liam completed the trip on firm turf in 1:53.09 and paid $7.00 for his first graded stakes victory. A $1.2 million auction purchase for Robert and Lawana Low, the colt improves to 6: 4-0-1.
“We really were (confident)," Pletcher said. "He showed us a lot of ability in his couple of starts on the grass. We felt like he was getting better and better. We loved the way he handled the turf in the Tropical Derby and he had trained great. We were very optimistic, He’s a little less experienced than some of the other horses but I think this proves his quality.”
Colonel Liam kicked off his career last spring with two starts on dirt at Gulfstream Park, which included a debut win via DQ in his bow. Switched to turf, Colonel Liam won an entry-level allowance race at Saratoga. He was then sent straight into the deep waters of the Saratoga Derby, where he was beaten just three-quarters of a length by Domestic Spending. Given a four-plus month freshening, Colonel Liam came back to win the 1 1/16-miles Tropical Park Derby going away by 3 1/4 lengths.