2021's first big racing event takes place Saturday in sunny South Florida.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero Knicks Go headlines the fifth edition of the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. He and 11 other 4-and-up runners will go 1 1/8 miles over Gulfstream Park’s main track at 5:44 p.m. EST.
Knicks Go, a Grade 1 winner in 2018 at 2, has taken his game to a new level under trainer Brad Cox. The son of Paynter blazed his way to a track record in October at Keeneland, won the Dirt Mile with ease over the same course a month later and is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Pegasus.
How will Knicks Go handle an extra furlong of distance? Jockey Joel Rosario will be tasked with keeping enough left in the 5-year-old's proverbial tank for a stretch run.
Code of Honor, the 9-2 second choice, is no stranger to battling top-flight competition. The Shug McGaughey trainee won the Travers Stakes (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in 2019 and also scored a local win that season in Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
The only other Grade 1 winner in the 2021 Pegasus field is long shot Math Wizard (20-1), who upset the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby. A quartet of Pegasus runners – Tax (5-1), Jesus’ Team (8-1), Sleepy Eyes Todd (8-1) and Last Judgment (20-1) – all already own stakes scores during the current Gulfstream meet. And another Gulfstream stakes winner, Mr Freeze (15-1), finished second in this event one year ago.
Here is a look at the 2021 Pegasus World Cup Invitational field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Sleepy Eyes Todd (Miguel Silva, Jose Ortiz), 8-1
2. Coastal Defense (Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie), 15-1
3. Independence Hall (Michael McCarthy, Flavien Prat), 20-1
4. Knicks Go (Brad Cox, Joel Rosario), 5-2
5. Jesus’ Team (Jose D’Angelo, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 8-1
6. Kiss Today Goodbye (Eric Kruljac, Mike Smith), 10-1
7. Tax (Danny Gargan, Luis Saez), 5-1
8. Harpers First Ride (Claudio Gonzalez, Angel Cruz), 10-1
9. Last Judgment (Mike Maker, Paco Lopez), 20-1
10. Code of Honor (Shug McGaughey, Tyler Gaffalione), 9-2
11. Mr Freeze (Dale Romans, John Velazquez), 15-1
12. Math Wizard (Saffie Joseph Jr., Edgard Zayas), 20-1
TimeformUS’ pace projections show Knicks Go shooting out to the lead under Rosario, with Sleepy Eyes Todd and Independence Hall giving chase.
For more information on the Pegasus’ 12 runners, visit HRN’s free past performances page.
Pegasus on TV
NBC will once again air both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational during its 4:30-6 p.m. broadcast.
TVG will carry the first 10 races of the Gulfstream card, including five graded stakes events. Gabby Gaudet, Joaquin Jaime and Todd Schrupp will broadcast on-site from South Florida.
TVG has several features planned throughout Saturday, including a retrospective on the evolution of the Pegasus World Cup since the inaugural running in 2017, a feature on Knicks Go and a profile on private investigator turned horse trainer Eric Kruljac, who will be saddling Kiss Today Goodbye in the feature race.
Racing fans on Saturday can also catch stakes action from Aqueduct, Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita on TVG.
Who do Horse Racing Nation staffers think will win the Pegasus World Cup? Code of Honor is a popular pick among our writers and bloggers.
Padraic Manocchio digs into the Brisnet PPs which, to no surprise, show speedster Knicks Go with a commanding edge in the Early Pace Last Race category. But if the favorite fades, Manocchio says there are a couple of long-shot closers who could take advantage.
Reinier Macatangay says that when playing Saturday’s late Pick 4, using three horses in the Pegasus provides a compromise between having options in that race and saving money for the rest of the sequence. See the two runners he pairs with his top choice, Tax.
Horse Racing Nation’s Super Screener analysis recommends two alternatives to Knicks Go. Find out where you can find some value on the board.
This week on HorseCenter, hosts Matt Shifman and Brian Zipse offer full-field analysis and top picks for both the dirt and turf editions of the Pegasus.
Trainer Shug McGaughey is putting his trust in jockey Tyler Gaffalione to navigate Code of Honor out of the break from an outside post. Carolyn Greer reports the instructions that McGaughey will give the rider of his two-time Grade 1 hero.
Tax’s ownership group has supported the Pegasus program since its inception but has yet to find the winner’s circle. Owner Dean Reeves tells Jennie Rees, writing for Gulfstream Park, that the gelding is “as good as anybody in the race.”
Trainer Jose D’Angelo put thousands of miles on his truck last year shuttling Jesus’ Team to stakes races across the Eastern United States. Gulfstream Park’s communications team wrote about D’Angelo, who is happy to be on home turf for the Pegasus.
Harpers First Ride jockey Angel Cruz says the Pegasus will mark the biggest race of his career. Laurel Park’s communications team asked Cruz about his Maryland-bred mount.
While the Pegasus headlines Saturday’s racing action, the Pegasus Turf carries Grade 1 status and a $1 million purse in its own right. Jarrod Horak introduces us to the 12 runners who will go 1 3/16 miles over the Gulfstream lawn.
First post Saturday is 11:40 a.m. EST, with full Gulfstream Park entries available via HRN. The Pegasus is the last of 12 races carded at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., oval.
Here is a look at the other stakes on offer Saturday at Gulfstream.
1:05 p.m. EST – Race 4, $125,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3), 4-and-up, 1 mile, dirt
Hours before trainer Shug McGaughey saddles Code of Honor in the Pegasus, he will send out fellow 5-year-old Performer to headline the Fred W. Hooper. The son of Speightstown, a Grade 3 winner in 2019, was third last month at Aqueduct in the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1). Jockey Joel Rosario will pilot the 7-5 morning-line favorite. The 7-2 second choice is Phat Man, who won this race last year for trainer Kent Sweezey.
2:38 p.m. EST – Race 7, $125,000 Marshua’s River Stakes (G3), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 mile, turf
McGaughey saddles another morning-line favorite, Vigilantes Way (7-2), in the Marshua’s River. The Medaglia d’Oro filly ended her 3-year-old season last month with a local stakes win in the Tropical Park Oaks, and now seeks her first graded triumph. Jockey Julien Leparoux gets the call. Next on the morning line at 4-1 is Saffie Joseph Jr. trainee Sweet Bye and Bye, a Parx Racing stakes winner who was fourth in this event last season.
3:09 p.m. EST – Race 8, $125,000 La Prevoyante Stakes (G3), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1½ miles, turf
Always Shopping, a Gulfstream stakes winner in two of her last three starts, looks for the second graded triumph of her career as 3-1 morning-line favorite in the La Prevoyante. The Todd Pletcher trainee won the local Via Borghese Stakes last month by three lengths. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. stays aboard the Grade 2 winner, a 5-year-old Awesome Again mare. Christophe Clement trains 4-1 second choice Traipsing, an allowance winner who was fourth in the Via Borghese.
3:40 p.m. EST – Race 9, $200,000 Inside Information Stakes (G2), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 7 furlongs, dirt
Cinnabunny, who makes her second start Saturday for trainer Brad Cox, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Inside Information. The 4-year-old Golden Lad filly was an allowance winner for former conditioner Kathleen Demasi, then debuted for Cox with a third-place showing last month at Gulfstream in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3). Ortiz Jr. gets the call on Cinnabunny. Next on the morning line at 7-2 is Thissmytime, a Gulfstream Park West stakes heroine for trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
4:13 p.m. EST – Race 10, $150,000 W. L. McKnight Stakes (G3), 4-and-up, 1½ miles, turf
Sadler’s Joy, an 8-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, makes career start No. 35 in the W. L. McKnight, a race in which he was runner-up back in 2017. The Thomas Albertrani trainee ran in the Pegasus Turf on this card a year ago but finished sixth and gets an added 2½ furlongs of distance here. Jockey Jose Ortiz will pilot the 3-1 morning-line favorite, who is a Grade 1 winner. The 7-2 second choice is Doswell, who was second last month in the local Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G2) for trainer Barclay Tagg.
4:59 p.m. EST – Race 11, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), 4-and-up, 1 3/16 miles, turf
Colonel Liam aims for a Grade 1 win in his first graded stakes start for Pletcher. The 4-year-old Liam’s Map colt is a 7-2 morning-line favorite off the strength of a comfortable victory last month at Gulfstream in the Tropical Park Derby. Ortiz Jr. stays aboard for the Pegasus Turf. Next on the morning line at 9-2 is another Pletcher trainee, Fort Lauderdale stakes victor Largent.
From Gulfstream Park’s communications team:
Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go is scheduled to seek the biggest payday of his career in Saturday’s Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational at Gulfstream Park while also pursuing lucrative future considerations.
“It’s a very prestigious race. It hasn’t been around that long, but with the likes of Gun Runner, Arrogate and City of Light, there are champions that have won this race. It means a whole lot. It’s a race that can make a stallion, and we’re still trying to do that with Knicks Go,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He’ll be a stallion at some point. This would mean a lot and do a lot for his value as a stallion. Not only is it a great purse, but it’s going to add a lot of value if he’s able to win the race.”
The Pegasus, which will be contested at 1 1/8 miles for the richest purse for older horses in North America not associated with the Breeders’ Cup, and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), a 1 3/16-mile turf feature for older horses, will co-headline a 12-race program that will also offer the $200,000 Inside Information (G2), $125.000 Fred W. Hooper (G3), $125,000 William. L. McKnight (G3), $125,000 La Prevoyante (G3) and the $125,000 Marsha’s River (G3). First-race post time is set for 11:40 a.m. EST. The late Pick 4 and Late Pick 5 pools will both be guaranteed at $750,000.
Knicks Go will enter the fifth running of the Pegasus off three straight victories in as many starts in 2020, including a track record-breaking triumph under Joel Rosario in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 after drawing post No. 4 on Wednesday, Knicks Go will have to prove himself by trying to carry his abundant speed beyond 1 1/16 miles, the longest distance he has run during his 17-race career.
“I haven’t raced a lot at Gulfstream, but I think speed is always a good thing there. I’m a big believer that speed is good at a mile and an eighth and beyond – obviously it depends on how much other speed is in the race. But I think he can get it. I think he’s a horse that once he gets free and loose, he runs with a lot of confidence,” Cox said.
“I’m excited. I really do think he’ll handle a mile and an eighth. In his three races with us last year, there was horse left,” he added. “In the Breeders’ Cup, Joel reached up and grabbed him four or five jumps from the wire, so he was still going.”
Knicks Go is in the middle of a career resurgence since joining Cox’s stable in 2020. The Maryland-bred son of Paynter was a top 2-year-old in 2018, capturing the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland by 5½ lengths and finishing second behind Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. However, he went winless in 10 starts after his Breeders’ Futurity score.
Knicks Go registered a front-running 7½-length victory for Cox in a Feb. 22 optional claiming allowance at Oaklawn Park before heading to the sidelines for seven months. He returned to action with a sensational 10¼-length romp in an Oct. 4 optional claiming allowance at Keeneland, encouraging his connections to give the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile a try. Knicks Go came through with a spectacular 3½-length, front-running victory in the track-record time of 1:33.85.
Rosario has been awarded the return call aboard Knicks Go.
W. S. Farish’s Code of Honor, a graded-stakes winner over the Gulfstream Park track, was rated second in the morning-line at 9-2 after drawing post No. 10. The Shug McGaughey-trained 5-year-old captured the 2019 Fountain of Youth (G2) before finishing third behind Maximum Security in the both the Florida Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby. He went on to win the Travers (G1) at Saratoga and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) via the disqualification of Vino Rosso at Belmont Park.
After winning the June 6 Westchester (G3) at Belmont to open his 2021 campaign, Code of Honor has been winless in four starts that include a third-place finish in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont, a troubled fourth in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, a runner-up finish in the Kelso (G2) at Belmont and a second-place finish in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs.
“In the Clark, he was bottled up there. By the time he got loose, the race was pretty much over. Before that, going a mile, Chad’s horse (Complexity) kind of controlled what was going on. I think Javier (Castellano) knew he had to be closer and move a little sooner,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “The Whitney was a throw out. His first race was good. I probably shouldn’t have run him in the Metropolitan Mile. He was wide and Vekoma got the trip. He’s a nice horse. Maybe this will be his day”
Tyler Gaffalione is scheduled to ride Code of Honor for the first time Saturday.
“Obviously, he rides this racetrack very well and he’s very familiar with it,” McGaughey said. “He’s a very patient rider and that’s what Code of Honor wants, so I’m pleased to have him.”
Randy Hill, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Hugh Lynch’s Tax is set to make his second straight start in the Pegasus, in which he finished off the board after stumbling at the start last year. The 5-year-old son of Arch, one of two returning Pegasus entrants, is coming off a dominating 4½-length victory in the Dec. 12 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream.
“He’s better now than he’s ever been. We always knew he was a really good horse. He’s grown and developed into a better horse than he was last year. I think with age he’s getting better and getting stronger, healthier,” Gargan said. “He has a few little issues we had to work through, and he’s gotten through them. I’m expecting a big performance.”
Luis Saez has the return mount aboard Tax, who drew post No. 7 and was rated third at 5-1.
Jim Bakke and Jerry Isbister’s Mr Freeze will seek to improve on a second-place finish behind Mucho Gusto in last year’s Pegasus. The Dale Romans-trained 6-year-old came right back from his big run in the Pegasus with a three-length victory in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). The son of To Honor and Serve has won one of six subsequent graded-stakes starts, capturing the 1 1/8-mile Fayette (G2) on Oct. 10 at Keeneland before finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and fifth in the Clark.
Mr Freeze was rated at 15-1 after drawing the post No. 11.
“Mr Freeze has plenty of gas, so he can get out and settle where he needs to be. It’s a pretty fair race going a mile and an eighth here no matter where you draw,” said Romans, who named John Velazquez to ride Mr Freeze. “He loves this racetrack.”
Romans is also scheduled to saddle Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Helen K. Groves Revocable Trust’s Coastal Defense for the Pegasus. The 5-year-old son of Curlin finished fourth in both the Fayette and Clark in his last two starts and is also rated at 15-1. Corey Lanerie has the mount.
He is a grinder, so hopefully he can drop over before the first turn, Romans added.
Thumbs Up Racing LLC’s Sleepy Eyes Todd, who is rated at 8-1 in the morning line, enters the Pegasus off a half-length victory in the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector on Dec. 19 at Gulfstream, but the 5-year-old son of Paddy O’Prado was a front-running winner in the 1 1/8-mile Charles Town Classic (G2) in August.
“I love the mile and an eighth,” trainer Miguel Silva said. “He already won at that distance and he performed really good at that distance. We’re just hoping that we have a different kind of trip. We don’t want to be on the lead and hopefully we can pick up horses at the end.”
Jose Ortiz is scheduled to ride Sleepy Eyes Todd for the first time.
Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Jesus’ Team is rated at 10-1 in the morning-line for the Pegasus on the strength of a pair of Grade 1 placings last year. After winning a $32,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream last March, the son of Tapiture went on the road to finish third in the Preakness and second behind Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The 4-year-old over-achiever returned to Gulfstream to prepare for a start in the Pegasus with a victory in the Claiming Crown Jewel on Dec. 5.
Jesus’ Team is trained by Jose D’Angelo, a former leading trainer in Venezuela before venturing to South Florida in 2019.
“It’s very exciting. It is the most important race of our calendar in South Florida at Gulfstream Park,” D’Angelo said. “I think it’s a big test for both me and Jesus.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Mucho Gusto to victory last year, is scheduled to ride Jesus’ Team for the first time Saturday.
Trainer Michael McCarthy, who saddled City of Light for a 5¾-length romp in the 2019 Pegasus, is scheduled to saddle Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creek Racing Stables LLC, Robert and Kathleen Verratti’s Independence Hall. The 4-year-old son of Constitution, who finished fifth in last year’s Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream, came off a seven-month layoff to win a Nov. 8 allowance at Del Mar before finishing fifth in the seven-furlong Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita last time out.
“There are a lot of unknowns with the horse. Can he handle a mile and an eighth? His one race at Gulfstream was just OK,” McCarthy said. “So, there are a lot of unknowns going into this.”
Flavien Prat has the call.
John Sondereker’s Kiss Today Goodbye enters the Pegasus after winning his first stakes in the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita. The Eric Kruljac-trained 4-year-old son of Cairo Prince is rated at 12-1. Mike Smith, who rode Arrogate to victory in the 2018 Pegasus, has the call on Kiss Today Goodbye.
Harpers First Ride, who has been privately purchased since his last start by GMP Stables LLC, Cypress Creek Equine and Arnold Bennewith, will seek his fifth stakes victory in six starts Saturday. The Claudio Gonzalez-trained 5-year-old son of Paynter will be ridden by regular jockey Angel Cruz.
John Fanelli and partners’ Math Wizard will seek his first victory since capturing the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) in the Pegasus. The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained 5-year-old son of Algorithms will be ridden by Edgard Zayas.
Michael Dubb, Steve Hornstock, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Nice Guys Racing’s Last Judgment, who captured the Jan. 16 Sunshine Classic by 6½ lengths at Gulfstream Park, drew into the field upon the withdrawal of True Timber. The Michael Maker trainee will be ridden by Paco Lopez.