Racing fans across the country and throughout the world will be watching with excitement this Saturday when a top-notch group of talented Thoroughbreds face off at Gulfstream Park in the $16 million, Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, the richest horse race in the world.
The race — which will be shown live on NBC Sports during a broadcast starting at 4:30 p.m. ET — features a rematch of the top five finishers from the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic, including the victorious Gun Runner (#10).
Considered a shoo-in to be named Horse of the Year at the Jan. 25 Eclipse Awards, Gun Runner was almost unstoppable in 2017 and posted four straight Grade 1 victories during the second half of his campaign, including a gate-to-wire, 2 ¼-length win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If he runs as expected on Saturday, then his rivals are very likely running for second place.
However, long campaigns competing in elite races can eventually take a toll, and Gun Runner has been traveling the world and competing against tough competition going all the way back to early 2016. Think back to last year, when the veteran California Chrome faded to ninth in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup at the end of a long, busy campaign, similar to Gun Runner’s 2017 season. Obviously, it would be a huge surprise if Gun Runner finished ninth this Saturday (and to be fair, California Chrome emerged from the Pegasus World Cup with a minor injury), but the point is that no horse is unbeatable, and Gun Runner’s short odds and outside post-position draw make me think he’s worth playing against in the final start of his career.
Instead, I’ll focus on West Coast (#2), impressive winner of the Grade 1 Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby last year. Trained by Bob Baffert, West Coast didn’t have the best of trips in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but stayed on gamely in the homestretch to finish third. That was a strong effort from a horse who showed steady improvement throughout 2017, and if jockey Javier Castellano can work out a ground-saving trip from post-position two, I wouldn’t be surprised to see West Coast improve again and turn the tables on Gun Runner.
Since West Coast should offer solid odds, I’ll keep things simple and bet him to win while playing him on top of an exacta with Gun Runner and West Coast’s stablemate Collected (#5), runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and third with a poor trip in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes last time out.
$10 to win on #2 West Coast
$5 exacta: 2 with 5,10 ($10)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!