Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes, the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes, and other developments on Saturday at Florida’s Gulfstream Park:
WINNING MOVE: The Korea Racing Authority sure made the right move when it transferred Knicks Go to the care of Brad Cox after the Maryland-bred son of Paynter went winless in eight starts in 2019. Knicks Go made it 4 for 4 with his gate-to-wire 2 ¾-length Pegasus triumph, with those four wins coming by a combined 24 ¼ lengths since Cox began calling signals. Asked to run a mile-and-an-eighth for the first time, Knicks Go easily handled that ground in 1:47.89. “He’s one of the top handicap horses in the country now. He’s a top horse,” Cox said. “This is what you get up for every day, seven days a week, long days for moments like this.”
STILL CHASING: Jesus’ Team has had the misfortune of chasing Knicks Go in the two most important starts of his career, the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and now the $3 million Pegasus. Knicks Go set a Keeneland track record in the former; he did not get nearly enough pressure to come back to the pack in the latter. “He didn’t have the luck to win because Knicks Go ran alone again in front,” said Jose D’Angelo, who trains Jesus’ Team. “I am very sure that ‘Jesus’ will be on top in big races. I feel proud of him.”
PROVING HE BELONGS: Independence Hall appeared to be nothing more than an afterthought when he was among the late Pegasus invitees. Some might have wondered what Gulfstream Park officials were thinking since he had finished fifth of six in his previous start, whipped by Charlatan by 9 ¾ lengths, in the Dec. 26 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park. But he showed that he belonged in the Pegasus with a solid third-place effort for jockey Flavien Prat, much to the relief of trainer Michael McCarthy. “It was a huge race. I thought he got a fantastic trip,” McCarthy said. “It looked like he was loaded all the way up the backside. Around the turn, obviously coming off a bad race, I was wondering and hoping he had a little bit left and he was game.”
TERRIFIC TRIO: Trainer Todd Pletcher looked to have a strong hand in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf. No one could have imagined how strong a hand. His Colonel Liam nipped stablemate Largent by a neck in the 1 3/16-mile contest while Social Paranoia ran exceptionally well to be fourth after starting from the farthest post position. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the way they all ran,” Pletcher said. “It was a heck of a race between Largent and Colonel Liam at the end. I thought Social Paranoia put in a huge effort from the 12 post. Just really happy with all three of them.”
AUSPICIOUS DEBUT: Most eyes were on Stage Raider, a debuting half-brother to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, when the starting gate snapped open Saturday for a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Gulfstream. Those fans were watching the wrong horse. Godolphin’s Prevalence, a homebred son of Medaglia d’Oro, stamped himself as a 3-year-old to follow with an authoritative 8 ½-length victory against Stage Raider. No one was more excited than winning trainer Brendan Walsh. “I thought he was a nice colt. He put in some nice work. But, of course, you’re always looking for confirmation. Thankfully, we got it,” Walsh said. With Tyler Gaffalione a motionless passenger, Prevalence completed seven furlongs in 1:23.