2021 Pegasus World Cup Cheat Sheet

Racing
Code of Honor, left, and Knicks Go, right, are two of the leading contenders for the 2021 Pegasus World Cup Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The fifth annual Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park is the first marquee race of the 2021 calendar, bringing together 12 veteran horses to compete for a total purse of $3 million. Formerly known as the Donn Handicap, the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup Invitational was rebranded in 2017 and has since been won by a quartet of highly accomplished runners: Arrogate (2017), Gun Runner (2018), City of Light (2019), and Mucho Gusto (2020). 

This year’s renewal anchors a Jan. 23 racecard at Gulfstream stacked with six other graded stakes, including the $1 million, Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes for grass runners.

The Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Turf will be televised on NBC during a broadcast from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET.

Get an Instant $10 and up to $500 Bonus when you sign up and bet the Pegasus World Cup with Xpressbet! Visit 1st.com/bet/cheatsheet and use promo code 500ABR to get started. Once you have signed up, you'll get an instant $10 in your account, free, and you can get an extra $10 for every $100 wagered, up to $500. That way, once you get to know the Pegasus World Cup horses in this handy Cheat Sheet, you can stop by 1st.com/bet/cheatsheet and place your bets on Saturday, Jan. 23. Plus, you can take advantage of 1/ST BET’s other promotions on the Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Turf at 1st.com/bet/promotions. So no matter what horse you pick, your best bet is with 1/ST BET.

Keep reading for the scoop on the 2021 Pegasus World Cup contenders, and check back after the draw on Wednesday, Jan. 20 for an updated Cheat Sheet with horses listed in post-position order and with morning-line odds added.


Coady Photography

1. Sleepy Eyes Todd (8-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Miguel Silva

Owner: Thumbs Up Racing

Career record: 15 starts – 8 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $744,825

Earnings per start: $49,655

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 119

Pedigree: Paddy O’Prado – Pledge Mom, by Wild Rush

Color: Gray or roan

Age: 5

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This underrated racehorse has so far in his career found his ceiling to be at the Grade 2 level, but he comes into Saturday’s Pegasus in fine form. Sleepy Eyes Todd has won three out of his most recent four starts, taking the 1 1/8-mile Charles Town Classic on Aug. 28 (a three-turn race) and also winning the seven-furlong Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland and most recently the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream on Dec. 19. His two most recent wins have come at seven furlongs, and he closed from farther back than usual to get up in time in both of them. If he gets a good break from the rail and reverts to the front-running style he used to win the Charles Town Classic, Sleepy Eyes Todd could provide some pressure to projected leader Knicks Go in the Pegasus. He’ll need a career-best effort to pull the upset, however. Jockey Jose Ortiz finished second aboard Shaman Ghost in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup.


Coady Photography

2. Coastal Defense (15-1)

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owners: Albaugh Family Stables and Helen K. Groves Revocable Trust

Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $155,266

Earnings per start: $17,252

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Curlin – Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Chestnut

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A late addition to the Pegasus field, Coastal Defense did not race until his 4-year-old season in 2020, and gradually made his way through his conditions until fall, when he started in two graded stakes. Coastal Defense finished fourth in both the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (won by stablemate Mr Freeze) and the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare (Code of Honor was second) and remained in contention during the homestretch in both of them. Most of the contenders in Saturday’s Pegasus have already shown just how good they can be as racehorses while building lengthy careers. Coastal Defense still appears to have some upside, which makes him an intriguing contender who should carry good odds come post time. Trainer Dale Romans has started three horses in the Pegasus through its first four years, with Mr Freeze’s second-place finish last year his best achievement.


Adam Coglianese/NYRA

3. Independence Hall (20-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, and Kathleen and Robert Verratti

Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $316,600

Earnings per start: $45,229

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Constitution – Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Through his seven-race career, this son of Constitution has shown stakes-caliber ability but also distance limitations. He won two one-mile stakes early on the road to the 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby – the Nashua Stakes and the Jerome Stakes – but regressed when extended out to two-turn prep races at Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park (in last year’s Xpressbet Florida Derby). He came back strong last fall after a layoff of more than seven months to win a 6 ½-furlong allowance-optional claiming race at Del Mar, but in his most recent start appeared overmatched in the seven-furlong Runhappy Malibu Stakes, won convincingly by Charlatan. His Pegasus win chances are remote, and overall Independence Hall’s best prospects going forward would appear to be in sprint races. Trainer Michael McCarthy won the 2019 Pegasus with City of Light.


Eclipse Sportswire

4. Knicks Go (5-2)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Korea Racing Authority

Career record: 17 starts – 5 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,348,995

Earnings per start: $79,353

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 120

Pedigree: Paynter – Kosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker

Color: Gray or roan

Age: 5

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This horse was flat-out sensational over three starts in 2020, recapturing the form he showed as a 2-year-old in fall 2018 and then some. He’s been perfect since joining trainer Brad Cox’s barn, winning two allowance-optional claiming races at Oaklawn Park in the spring and Keeneland in the fall before romping by 3 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 7. Knicks Go led at every point of call in all three races and is a major threat to take them all the way in the Pegasus as well. Three notes of caution: he’s never raced at 1 1/8 miles before, in some of his 3-year-old starts in 2019 he had trouble finishing after holding an early lead, and his two best efforts in terms of Equibase Speed Figures (116 and 120) both came during Keeneland’s fall 2020 meet when the track was playing very fast. Knicks Go will be making his first career start at Gulfstream Park in the Pegasus. Jockey Joel Rosario won the Donn Handicap in 2014 on Lea and has finished third twice in the Pegasus World Cup (War Story, 2020; Accelerate, 2019).


Lauren King/NYRA

5. Jesus’ Team (8-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Jose D’Angelo

Owner: Grupo 7C Racing Stable

Career record: 13 starts – 3 wins – 4 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $518,540

Earnings per start: $39,888

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 114

Pedigree: Tapiture – Golden Memories, by Suave

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Gulfstream-based Jesus’ Team profiles as an intriguing Pegasus contender who may offer apealing odds come post time. He’s yet to win a stakes race as listed by the official cataloging standards but comes in off a three-quarter-length win in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream, part of the track’s annual Claiming Crown card that holds a series of stakes races restricted to horses who have made at least one start in a claiming race during a specific period of time. Prior to his Claiming Crown Jewel win, he finished second behind runaway winner Knicks Go in the lucrative Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland in November, and he finished third (albeit by 10 lengths) in the Preakness Stakes before that. He’ll have to contend with Knicks Go again in the Pegasus, plus some other top-class opponents, but he’s proven capable of competing in major stakes races and can’t be dismissed based on his 3-for-7 career record at Gulfstream. Reigning Eclipse Award-winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard Jesus' Team for the first time Saturday; he won last year's Pegasus on Mucho Gusto.


BENOIT photo

6. Kiss Today Goodbye (10-1)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: J. Eric Kruljac

Owner: John Sondereker

Career record: 11 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $230,802

Earnings per start: $20,982

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Cairo Prince – Savvy Hester, by Heatseeker

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 4

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After finishing fifth and fourth in two starts in graded stakes races on turf last fall, Kiss Today Goodbye returned to his preferred dirt surface and reeled off two wins to close 2020, most recently an upset score in the San Antonio Stakes on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. He therefore comes into the Pegasus on a roll and should be considered for exacta and trifecta tickets, with an outside chance at winning. This colt by young sire Cairo Prince has faced lesser opponents compared with top Pegasus contenders such as Code of Honor and Knicks Go have, but aside from one start where he was eased last spring he’s been very consistent in his dirt races. Another positive: horses primarily based in California have had recent success in the Pegasus (Arrogate, City of Light, Mucho Gusto). "Big Money" Mike Smith gets the riding assignment Saturday, and that's yet another boost to this horse's chances. Smith won the inaugural Pegasus on Arrogate in 2017. 


Lauren King/NYRA

7. Tax (5-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Owners: R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, and Hugh Lynch

Career record: 13 starts – 4 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $957,060

Earnings per start: $73,620

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 115

Pedigree: Arch – Toll, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 5

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After disappointing efforts in his first two starts of 2020, Tax rebounded with a win in the 1 1/8-mile Harlan’s Holiday Stakes on Dec. 12 at Gulfstream, scoring by 4 ½ lengths and earning a career-best 115 Equibase Speed Figure. He began his 4-year-old campaign in 2020 as one of the favorites in the Pegasus World Cup but stumbled at the start and was never a factor, finishing ninth. On the more positive side, this gelding has shown the ability to compete on a high level at the 1 1/8-mile distance he’ll try again Saturday, including his recent win in the Harlan’s Holiday but also his breakthrough victory in the 2019 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. He prefers to run on or near the lead and controlled the pace in the Harlan’s Holiday, and if he can back that form up, he could be part of an exciting duel-for-the-lead matchup with Knicks Go in the Pegasus. Still, Tax is too inconsistent to peg as a probable winner of this competitive race, and he makes more sense as an exacta and trifecta filler. Jockey Luis Saez finished second in last year's Pegasus on Mr Freeze and third in 2017 on Gunnevera.


Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

8. Harpers First Ride (10-1)

Jockey: Angel Cruz

Trainer: Claudio Gonzalez

Owner: MCA Racing Stable

Career record: 17 starts – 10 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $573,055

Earnings per start: $33,709

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Paynter – Polyester, by Tiz Wonderful

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 5

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Maryland-bred and based Harpers First Ride brings his game to South Florida after a successful 2020 in which he won seven of 11 starts and earned nearly $500,000. He comes in on a two-race winning streak – both route stakes at Laurel Park – and has won four of his past five starts with his only blemish a runner-up effort in the Oct. 24 Maryland Million Classic at Laurel. This Paynter gelding routinely generates Equibase Speed Figures in the 105-110 range, which is a notch below the best Pegasus contenders but definitely gives him an upset chance, and an even better possibility of hitting the board. Look for him to sit in the front tier of horses behind Knicks Go and possibly Tax and Sleepy Eyes Todd through the backstretch before making his move for the lead on the far turn.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

9. Last Judgment (20-1)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owners: Michael Dubb, Steve Hornstock, Bethlehem Stables, and Nice Guys Stables

Career record: 14 starts – 6 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $273,365

Earnings per start: $19,526

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Congrats – Fantasy Forest, by Forestry

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last Judgment joined the Pegasus field on Jan. 20 after recent Cigar Mile winner True Timber was withdrawn. This Congrats gelding arrives off of his career-best race just last weekend, when he romped against Florida-breds in the 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Classic Stakes at Gulfstream by 6 ½ lengths. He wheels back on seven days rest, and will need to improve on his recent effort Saturday to reach the winner’s circle against a far tougher bunch. That said, he’s been a solid racehorse through his career with plenty of experience at Gulfstream and is a threat to fill out the trifecta or superfecta at good odds. It will be interesting to see what tactics his rider uses in the Pegasus, as Last Judgment won the Sunshine Classic on the front end but usually sits in a stalking position and on occasion even comes from farther back.


Eclipse Sportswire

10. Code of Honor (9-2)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Owner: Will Farish

Career record: 15 starts – 6 wins – 4 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $2,644,320

Earnings per start: $176,288

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 115

Pedigree: Noble Mission – Reunited, by Dixie Union

Color: Chestnut

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Code of Honor will be one of the post-time favorites in Saturdays’ race and boasts the most impressive résumé in the field with two Grade 1 wins, five other top-three placings in Grade 1s, and more than $2.6 million in earnings. He enters off of a good second behind Bodexpress in the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare on Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs and has experience at Gulfstream from early in his 3-year-old campaign in 2019, when he won the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes. In a competitive field, Code of Honor is classy and consistent and has a good chance to win Saturday if the pace is honest enough to set up his late kick. Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey won the 2012 Donn Handicap with Hymn Book.


Coady Photography

11. Mr Freeze (15-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owners: Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister

Career record: 18 starts – 6 wins – 4 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,595,600

Earnings per start: $88,644

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 115

Pedigree: To Honor and Serve – Heavenly Cat, by Tabasco Cat

Color: Chestnut

Age: 6

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mr Freeze kicked off a busy 2020 campaign with a runner-up finish in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and he’ll look to take the next step in Saturday’s edition against a field that shapes up to be about equal to last year’s race. After finishing 4 ½ lengths behind Mucho Gusto, he went on to win two of his next seven starts, taking the Gulfstream Park Mile Stakes next out in February and then gamely winning the 1 1/8-mile Hagyard Fayette Stakes by a neck in the fall at Keeneland. Since winning the Fayette, he’s finished sixth in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and then fifth in the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare. His Clark effort was decent as he took a brief lead on the far turn in the 1 1/8-mile race at Churchill Downs and still held it when the field turned for home before faltering late. This veteran runner should have an impact on the Pegasus as a pace-presser at the very least, although he’ll have to contend with Knicks Go early on and his recent form does not match up with that foe. Trainer Dale Romans has started three horses in the Pegasus through its first four years, with Mr Freeze’s second-place finish last year his best achievement. Hall of Famer John Velazquez won the Donn Handicap four times. He finished second in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on Seeking the Soul and third in the inaugural 2017 edition on Neolithic.


Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

12. Math Wizard (20-1)

Jockey: Edgard Zayas

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owners: John Fanelli, Khalid Mishref, Cash Is King, LC Racing, Collarmele Vitelli Stables, Ioannis Zoumas, and Bassett Stables

Career record: 20 starts – 3 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,139,440

Earnings per start: $56,972

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 121

Pedigree: Algorithms – Minister’s Baby, by Deputy Minister

Color: Chestnut

Age: 5

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Since posting a 31.10-1 victory in the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby, Math Wizard has gone winless in seven starts and figures to be one of the longest shots when the gate opens in Saturday’s Pegasus. He’s only hit the board once in that stretch – finishing second to eventual Woodward Stakes winner Global Campaign in last summer’s Monmouth Cup Stakes – and was defeated six lengths by Tax in his most recent start, a fourth-place finish in the Dec. 12 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream. Math Wizard is a grinder who will have no problem handing 1 1/8 miles, and in a best-case scenario could pass some tiring horses in the stretch to fill out the trifecta or superfecta. Anything more than that would be a surprise on the level of his upset win a year and a half ago at Parx Racing.


newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!