Excitement is growing involving the second edition of the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the world’s richest horse race. The 1 1/8-mile contest, headed by expected Horse of the Year Gun Runner, will be run on Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Tom Pedulla spoke to owner Gary West about the prospects of West Coast, a newly-turned 4-year-old viewed as one of the top threats to upset Gun Runner.
PEDULLA: Do you expect West Coast to be honored as the leading 3-year-old male when the Eclipse Awards are held on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park?
WEST: I’m pretty biased as all owners are about their horses. I personally believe he has the best resume of the 3-year-olds. But, of course, that is up to the voters. Sometimes they disagree with owners.
PEDULLA: Any regrets that West Coast could not make the Triple Crown races?
WEST: I would love to win the Kentucky Derby more than almost anything, to be honest with you. But I’ve learned if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. You can’t push a horse to make it happen.
PEDULLA: West Coast just wasn’t ready in time?
WEST: Had we pushed this horse early to get him into the Kentucky Derby or the Triple Crown races, I don’t think he’d be up for an Eclipse Award. I think it probably would have been a terrible, terrible disservice to the horse. It took him the amount of time we gave him to come into his own and to mature and develop.
PEDULLA: You and your wife, Mary, have been in the game for many years. Is West Coast the best horse you have owned?
WEST: He is the most accomplished horse we’ve had. We’ve had what I thought were some really, really good horses whose careers were cut short by an injury of some kind and had to be retired prematurely.
PEDULLA: What did you think of West Coast’s third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Gun Runner and Collected (both scheduled Pegasus starters)?
WEST: I was very pleased with his performance in the Classic. The only two horses that beat him were the number one and number two rated dirt horses (currently in training) in the entire world.
PEDULLA: How is West Coast training?
WEST: He could not be training any better. If he gets beat, there will be no excuses other than he just got outrun by a better horse.
PEDULLA: Any sense of how West Coast is making the transition from 3 to 4?
WEST: He was born late (May foal). He looks bigger and stronger and more mature now than he did for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He’s a picture of health. I’m not predicting we’ll beat Gun Runner or anything like that, but I think he’ll give a good account of himself.
PEDULLA: How important is it that you have Bob Baffert, a Hall of Fame trainer, preparing your horse for the Pegasus?
WEST: If you look at Bob’s resume in terms of winning big, important races with the number of horses he has, I don’t think there is anybody any better than what Bob is at getting a horse ready. I couldn’t be any happier with the horse being in Bob’s hands.
PEDULLA: Can West Coast defeat Gun Runner?
WEST: If we didn’t think we had some shot to win the race, we wouldn’t go, even for that much money. Gun Runner will probably be 2-5 in the race, to be honest with you, provided he draws an inside post.
PEDULLA: Assuming he stays healthy, are you committed to running West Coast throughout the year?
WEST: Our intentions are to race him the entire year. We are not going to retire the horse this year.
PEDULLA: Is that more of an emotional decision than a business decision?
WEST: I say this with no arrogance at all. Like everybody else, we would like to make money in the game, but we really enjoy the sport of horse racing and competing. This is the first horse we’ve ever had that we thought was capable of being a top older handicap horse. Part of it is our own selfishness of wanting to watch our horse run. But if more people would run older horses instead of retiring them to the breeding shed, it would be better for the game.