Paolucci's Imperative fills final Pegasus World Cup slot

The 12th and final slot of the Grade 1, $9 million Pegasus World Cup has been filled by Loooch Racing’s and Imaginary Stable's Grade 2 winner Imperative, owner Ron Paolucci announced on his Twitter account. The 9-year-old gelding is seeking his first win since the 2017 Charles Town Classic (G2). The Pegasus runs Saturday Gulfstream Park. 

Imperative last ran ninth in an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park Dec. 7. The race was won by Breaking Lucky, and Paolucci said Sunday he was "bewildered" by the result and had Imperative scoped after the race.

"He was full of mucus, like five out of five, which kind of explained it, because we were all baffled that he didn’t just blow by that field," Paolucci said. "Since then we’ve cleared him and he’s breezed exceptional."

Imperative ran on the undercard of the first Pegasus World Cup in 2017, beating favorite Stanford by a head in the Poseidon Handicap.


The Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee was the first to report, sharing Paolucci purchased the slot with co-owner Imaginary Stables and that Imperative will by ridden by jockey Tyler Gaffalione.



Loooch Racing and Imaginary Stables entered War Story together in the first two editions of the Pegasus World Cup. The gelding ran fifth in 2017 and 10th a year ago.

"Getting my butt kicked last year, I said I didn’t really want to be in again unless I felt my horse was doing exceptional," Paolucci said. "You can’t really worry about what other horses are doing, you can only worry about what your horse is doing."

After considering running Imperative in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup, a recent purchase at the time, over War Story, Imperative will get his chance this year against respective Breeders' Cup Classic and Dirt Mile winners Accelerate and City of Light.

Since the mucus cleared from Imperative's system, Paolucci said the gelding has been working strong at Gulfstream Park.

"The works speak for themselves. If you go back and look at his work history, he’s never been a horse that works any kind of flashy times," he said. "His work two back, I think it was the best out of 84. What happened was two stakes horses were working in front of him. They broke off about six lengths in front of him and he just went after him."

Imperative completed that bullet half-mile breeze in 46.92 Jan. 5. He followed that work with with a five-furlong drill Jan. 18 and was clocked in 1:01.57.

Paolucci said connections had considered Imperative for this year's Pegasus World Cup before all the slots were originally taken. With the one spot back open, he called The Stronach Group's COO Tim Ritvo and said he would pay the $500,000 entry fee.

Gulfstream Park officials had been in discussion with the connections of recent Malibu (G1) winner McKinzie after Clark Handicap (G1) winner Leofric was pulled out. McKinzie will instead points to San Pasqual Stakes (G2) on Feb. 2 as a Santa Anita Handicap (G1) prep.

Imperative holds a record of 6-8-4 from 44 starts and has nearly $3 million in earnings. The second half of last season, he finished 14th in Saratoga’s Woodward (G1) and 13th in Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) before improving to third in allowance optional claiming at Laurel Park Nov. 11. He was beaten 1 3/4-lengths in that effort before his last race at Gulfstream Park.

"He’s doing better now than he ever has for me since I’ve had him." Paolucci said. "Hopefully that’s good enough to at least get me my money back. And if God willing, he somehow finds a way to recapture that Charles Town form and Gulfstream form, he wins it."

 

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