Gulfstream Park will provide a fun-filled backdrop for the first major event of the new racing calendar when it hosts the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series on Saturday. The popular South Florida track has carded nine stakes races, six of them graded, worth $5.2 million in purses. The star-studded afternoon will culminate in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and the $3 million Pegasus World Cup.
Tom Pedulla interviewed Dallas Stewart, trainer of Seeking the Soul, runner-up in the Pegasus dirt race last January. The newly-turned 7-year-old son of Perfect Soul, bred and owned by Charles Fipke, has earned more than $3.4 million while winning seven of 31 starts with six second-place finishes and seven runner-up efforts. He ran a lackluster sixth in the Clark Stakes presented by Norton Healthcare in his last start and finished sixth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic prior to that.
In his final major tune-up for the Pegasus, Seeking the Soul drilled five furlongs in 1:00 on Jan. 17 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He was the fastest of 27 horses to work the distance there that day, suggesting Stewart may be ready to add to his reputation of having horses outperform their odds in major races.
Tom Pedulla interviewed Stewart about Seeking the Soul in behalf of America’s Best Racing:
PEDULLA: Did you seriously consider retiring Seeking the Soul after the Breeders’ Cup?
STEWART: It was up to Mr. Fipke. We felt after the Breeders’ Cup he had some traffic problems and we maybe could have been third. Maybe he just wasn’t done yet. There are still a lot of good races. Mr. Fipke is a breeder, but he never talked to me much about retiring him. He said, ‘Just keep training him, and we’ll figure it out.’ That’s the way he rolls.
PEDULLA: The fact that he ran well in the Pegasus last year, did that encourage you to take another shot?
STEWART: Absolutely. He seems to like the track. It’s a big purse. It’s not as big as it was last year, but it’s still big. It’s a big race. Hopefully, it will lead us to another bigger race.
PEDULLA: If he runs well, would you look to go to the Dubai World Cup?
STEWART: He went there last year and did just okay (eighth). I don’t know if he wouldn’t look at the Saudi race and the Dubai World Cup or we might just keep him over here and look at the bigger races over here. We’ll have to sit down and get a plan.
PEDULLA: How do you feel about the medication-free policy at the Pegasus?
STEWART: He ran in Dubai medication free. We’ve always run on Lasix here. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody really knows.
PEDULLA: What has allowed Seeking the Soul to enjoy so much success?
STEWART: Man, he’s just a real strong horse. He’s got a strong, strong will. You come see him in the stall and he’s kind of a wide-awake horse all the time.
PEDULLA: He’s 7 now. Do you see him falling off at all? It seems his results since last year’s Pegasus haven’t been so good.
STEWART: Well, now wait a minute. He did win a Grade 2. He won the Stephen Foster (at Churchill Downs). He came out of Dubai really well, so we ran in the Alysheba and he ran third and he ran pretty good and I didn’t train him that hard for the race and then he won the Stephen Foster. He ran pretty good in the Breeders’ Cup. It wasn’t his best race, but I thought he had some traffic trouble. The last month, he’s been training terrifically at the Fair Grounds.
PEDULLA: Will this be Seeking the Soul’s last season? Have you and Mr. Fipke had that discussion?
STEWART: You never know. I had a horse that won a stake at 10 years old. These special horses, some of them can keep going for a long time for some reason.
PEDULLA: Does Seeking the Soul show that he is 7 years old in some ways?
STEWART: No. He’s like a monster all the time, bucking and kicking.
PEDULLA: You don’t see any dropoff then?
STEWART: No, not that I can see. He’s a rare type horse. He feels good all the time.
PEDULLA: Who do you see as the horse to beat in the Pegasus?
STEWART: There are some really good horses in there, Grade 1 winners. You’ve got (John) Sadler’s horse, Higher Power, he’s a Grade 1 winner. He ran well in the Breeders’ Cup. Of course, Omaha Beach is a terrific horse. There are some really good horses in there. It’s going to be a great race.
PEDULLA: Will early position be key?
STEWART: It was really muddy last time and he came from far back to be second, so we’ll see what happens.