2023 Pegasus World Cup Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Racing
Graded stakes winners Proxy, Cyberknife, and Defunded (left to right) are three top contenders in a contentious running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The first marquee race of the 2023 North American racing calendar is coming up this weekend, as Gulfstream Park hosts the seventh edition of the $3 million, Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Baccarat.

The Pegasus brings together some of the best horses in training ages 4 and older to compete at 1 1/8 miles on Gulfstream’s main dirt track.

The Pegasus has been one of the most talked about races since it launched in 2017. Gulfstream renamed an already-prestigious race, the Donn Handicap, and boosted the purse to $12 million. The premiere edition saw 2016 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate win in dominant fashion against a field that included two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, and since then the Pegasus has kept its status as a target destination for the sport’s major leaguers even as the purse has risen and fallen over the years. (For a look back at all six prior winners, check out this article.)

The Pegasus is also the anchor race of a card that features seven other stakes races including the $1 million, Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes Presented by Qatar Racing and the $500,000, Grade 3 TAA Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf Invitational Stakes Presented by Pepsi.

And the races are only part of the event, as fans annually pack Gulfstream Park and its plaza of restaurants and shops for a daylong celebration including fine dining and concerts. (For more on entertainment during Pegasus day, view ABR’s guide.)

This year’s race drew a competitive field headlined by two-time Grade 1 winner Cyberknife, who will be making his final career start Saturday afternoon. The Pegasus will be broadcast live on NBC and Peacock during a show from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

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Read on for information on all of the Pegasus contenders:


Eclipse Sportswire

1. Proxy (9-2)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Mike Stidham

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 13 starts – 4 wins – 5 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $971,220

Earnings per start: $74,709

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Pedigree: Tapit – Panty Raid, by Include

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Always highly regarded, this well-bred Tapit horse finally broke through with a Grade 1 win in his most recent start, outfinishing West Will Power to win the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs. That was actually Proxy’s first career stakes win and followed four straight efforts in stakes races where he ran well but settled for second (twice) or third (twice). His Equibase Speed Figures have reached triple digits over his last five starts and have plateaued in the 110-116 range, so if he can keep that consistency he’ll have a good shot to at least finish in the top three in Saturday’s Pegasus. Look for jockey Joel Rosario, who was aboard Proxy in the Clark, to save ground after breaking from the inside post and perhaps have his mount more forwardly placed than usual through the backstretch. Proxy doesn’t have a blazing turn of foot, but he is a grinder who should be making up ground in the homestretch and 1 1/8 miles is right up his alley. Rosario won the 2021 Pegasus on Knicks Go, finished second last year on the same horse, and has also finished third twice.


Nicole Thomas/Coglianese Photo

2. Simplification (15-1)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Owner: Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric

Career record: 13 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $794,500

Earnings per start: $61,115

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Pedigree: Not This Time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride

Age: 4

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Simplification was one of the better 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve trail last spring and validated his status with a good fourth-place finish in the run for the roses at 35.30-1 odds. Since then, however, his form has tailed off, with two third-place finishes his best efforts in five starts. One of those came in his last outing, when he stalked the pace and made a bid at the top of the stretch in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park only to settle for third, 2 ¼ lengths behind Skippylongstocking. Simplification does his best running by far at this track – he’s 3-1-3 in seven starts – and as such is a good candidate to use in trifectas and superfectas, especially at 15-1 odds or higher. But his overall subpar form makes him a deserved longshot as a win candidate, especially against horses such as Skippylongstocking and Cyberknife who have defeated him multiple times in recent races. Trainer Antonio Sano is based at Gulfstream Park, and he finished third in the 2018 Pegasus with $5.5 million earner Gunnevera.


Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO

3. Ridin With Biden (20-1)

Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo

Trainer: Robert Reid Jr.

Owners: Cash is King and LC Racing

Career record: 20 starts – 7 wins – 5 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $475,000

Earnings per start: $23,750

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Constitution – Allemande, by Medaglia d’Oro

Age: 5

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Mid-Atlantic-based runner heads south for a big class test in the Pegasus. He won three stakes races last year – including the first of his career – at Parx Racing and Laurel Park, and got 2023 off to a good start with a game nose victory in the Kris Kringle Stakes at Parx Jan. 4. One of his stakes wins last year came in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at Parx, held at 1 ½ miles, and another came in a 1 1/8-mile listed event. This gelding has been competitive in past races when getting out of his comfort zone and shipping to other tracks, but he’s come up short against tougher opponents in graded stakes races aside from the Greenwood. He should be forwardly placed in the Pegasus with local rider Emisael Jaramillo aboard for the first time; Jaramillo is a good speed rider and will be aggressive in getting him out of the gate quickly and in a good position heading into the first turn. Ridin With Biden’s overall speed figures are a cut below what will be needed to win the Pegasus, however, and it would be a surprise to see him still contending in the homestretch.


Eclipse Sportswire

4. White Abarrio (10-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owners: C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable

Career record: 10 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,062,550

Earnings per start: $106,255

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Race Day – Catching Diamonds, by Into Mischief

Age: 4

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: White Abarrio will put his perfect 4-for-4 record at Gulfstream Park on the line in a tough assignment Saturday. He emerged as a viable Kentucky Derby winner at this track almost a year ago with open-length wins in the Holy Bull Stakes and Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa. Since then, he has gone winless through five starts, including a disappointing 16th in the Kentucky Derby. Two of those more recent efforts have been quite good, however; he came up a length short to Tawny Port last summer in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby, and in his most recent start kept on well in the Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets to finish third by a half-length behind Mind Control and Get Her Number. White Abarrio will face Get Her Number again Saturday – and more importantly, he’ll also meet Cyberknife again. That Pegasus favorite finished ahead of White Abarrio in both the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (first versus seventh) and the Pennsylvania Derby (third versus fifth). Still, if White Abarrio can bump up his 109 Equibase Speed Figure from the Cigar Mile a few points Saturday while racing once again on his favorite surface, he could hit the board in the Pegasus. Getting Tyler Gaffalione back in the irons is a plus, as he rode White Abarrio in both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby.


BENOIT photo

5. Defunded (6-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman

Career record: 13 starts – 5 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $608,100

Earnings per start: $46,777

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Dialed In – Wind Caper, by Touch Gold

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Twice in the Pegasus’ six prior editions, Bob Baffert brought a horse to the unfamiliar confines of South Florida and left with a trophy and a lot of money – Arrogate in 2017 and Mucho Gusto in 2020. Can he do it again? Defunded has amassed a solid career racing in California over the past three years, and his two most recent efforts have been his best: a win in the Awesome Again Stakes back in October followed by a rout in the Native Diver Stakes Nov. 27. He matched his career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 107 in both of those victories – and they also came at 1 1/8 miles. Defunded also ran a good second in the Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes last May at 1 ¼ miles. This gelding does his best work going two turns and he should take to Gulfstream’s speed-favoring track in his first career start on it Saturday. On the other hand, the level of competition he’s faced in Southern California is less formidable than going up against the likes of Cyberknife and Art Collector in the Pegasus, and it’s worth noting that fellow SoCal shipper Stilleto Boy finished two lengths ahead of Defunded in the San Diego Handicap last July. Defunded may not win the Pegasus, but he should have a say in the outcome as a pace factor, and if he keeps up his current form he’s a good candidate to hit the board. Baffert also finished second in the 2018 Pegasus with West Coast. Irad Ortiz Jr. won this race for Baffert aboard Mucho Gusto and piloted Life Is Good to a dominant victory last year. He also finished second in the 2021 Pegasus.


Eclipse Sportswire

6. Art Collector (10-1)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: Bruce Lunsford

Career record: 20 starts – 10 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $2,332,490

Earnings per start: $116,625

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 121

Pedigree: Bernardini – Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor

Age: 6

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Art Collector figures to be one of the top three or four win candidates in the 2023 Pegasus and he is a good bet to set the early pace under Junior Alvarado. He enters off of a disappointing fifth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Lukas Classic Stakes back in October at Churchill Downs, where he jumped out to the lead, directed the field through the backstretch and far turn, and then fought gamely before tiring against tough group that included race winner Hot Rod Charlie and runner-up Rich Strike. Prior to the Lukas Classic, the son of Bernardini captured his second consecutive Charles Town Classic Stakes, a lucrative 1 1/8-mile race held around three turns. He’s also won five more stakes races at the distance, highlighted by the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at age 3 and the Woodward Stakes at age 4. Art Collector has the best career Equibase Speed Figure in this field at 121 (earned in his first Charles Town Classic win). On the other hand, he’s never raced at Gulfstream before and will probably be pressured early by his chief rival, Cyberknife. At his best, Art Collector can earn his eighth career stakes win in the Pegasus and give Hall of Famer Bill Mott his first Pegasus victory in his first appearance. Mott won the Donn Handicap three times, including in back-to-back years with the legendary Cigar (1995 and ’96).


Nicole Thomas/Coglianese Photo

7. Skippylongstocking (5-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owner: Daniel Alonso

Career record: 14 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $777,810

Earnings per start: $55,558

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Exaggerator – Twinkling, by War Chant

Age: 4

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Skippylongstocking enters the Pegasus off of a win in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes Dec. 31, which is the local prep for the Pegasus. He made a bid for the lead on the far turn of that 1 1/16-mile race and was kept to task in the stretch, defeating Pioneer of Medina by two lengths with Simplification another neck back in third. Prior to the Harlan’s Holiday, this Exaggerator colt had finished a desultory ninth of 11 in the Pennsylvania Derby, which came as somewhat of a surprise considering he had won the West Virginia Derby and checked in a good third in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets in his two prior starts. Skippylongstocking has a record of 3-1-1 in eight overall starts at Gulfstream and is 2-for-2 at distances 1 1/16 miles or longer. He’s favored on the morning line over local trainer Saffie Joseph’s other two Pegasus contenders (White Abarrio and O’Connor), and is a must-use horse in exacta and trifecta bets. His overall Equibase Speed Figures place him in the second tier of Pegasus contenders, however, and it’s notable that Irad Ortiz Jr., who was aboard Skippylongstocking in the Harlan’s Holiday, will ride California shipper Defunded Saturday. Brother Jose Ortiz is, of course, a great replacement; he finished second in the inaugural 2017 Pegasus and third last year.


Coady Photography

8. Get Her Number (15-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Peter Miller

Owner: Gary Barber

Career record: 15 starts – 5 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $700,661

Earnings per start: $46,711

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Dialed In – Fancier, by Bernstein

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A Grade 1 winner at age 2, Get Her Number arguably reached career-best form in 2022 as a 4-year-old, when he won three of eight starts and finished second in two more Grade 1 races. He enters the Pegasus off of a near-miss in one of those top-level races, coming up a head short to Mind Control in the Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets Dec. 3. That race was held around one turn, and looking back on his career, it’s evident that Get Her Number prefers that configuration. In fact, his only victory around two turns was in the aforementioned Grade 1 score back in 2020, the 1 1/16-mile American Pharoah Stakes. He ships in from California for a first start at Gulfstream, but handled long-distance travel well in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and he also shipped in to win a seven-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs last June. Get Her Number is a longshot as a win candidate based on his clear preference for races held at a mile or less, and the best strategy for his connections might be to lay back and hope a swift early pace develops that he can then close into and fill out the trifecta or superfecta. Jockey Luis Saez has finished second in the Pegasus once and third once.


Coady Photography

9. Last Samurai (20-1)

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: Willis Horton Racing

Career record: 21 starts – 4 wins – 4 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $1,101,039

Earnings per start: $52,430

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Malibu Moon – Lady Samuri, by First Samurai

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last Samurai has earned more than $1 million in a 21-start career, one of five seven-figure horses in the Pegasus field. He has a good chance to carry the highest odds among those horses as he’s gone winless in six starts since posting a 12.90-1 upset in the Oaklawn Handicap last April, where he earned over half of his career bankroll ($600,000). Overall, Last Samurai profiles as a trifecta or superfecta filler in the Pegasus – on the positive side, he’s certainly proved capable of competing at 1 1/8 miles, and he enters off of a very good effort in the Tinsel Stakes at that distance, where he lost by a neck to Bal Harbour on Dec. 17. On the negative side, in his three recent races against the level of company he’ll face Saturday, he was well-beaten, checking in last of seven in the Stephen Foster Stakes (Proxy was third), fifth by a dozen lengths in the Charles Town Classic Stakes (won by Art Collector), and then a fading fourth in the Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare (won by Proxy). Most of his best races have come at Oaklawn Park, and it’s questionable as to how he’ll handle Gulfstream’s speed-tilting track in a first start that matches him up against several horses that have proved consistently better. Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas makes his first start in the Pegasus this year and will get the services of international star jockey Frankie Dettori aboard Last Samurai. Dettori arrives from California to ride Gulfstream’s stacked Saturday card as he enjoys the early months of what is announced to be his final year of riding in the U.S. and Europe.


Eclipse Sportswire

10. Cyberknife (5-2)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Gold Square

Career record: 12 starts – 5 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $2,087,520

Earnings per start: $173,960

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley

Age: 4

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This consistent, classy runner will bid farewell to the sport in Saturday’s Pegasus before heading to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., to begin his stud career. Cyberknife won four of nine starts last year at age 3 and finished in the top three in seven of those races. Both of his best efforts came at 1 1/8 miles – Grade 1 victories in the Arkansas Derby and TVG.com Haskell Stakes. In the latter race, he grittily held off a challenge from multiple Grade 1 winner Taiba to win by a nose. Cyberknife also finished a good second behind probable champion 3-year-old male Epicenter in the 2022 Runhappy Travers Stakes, held at 1 ¼ miles, and in his most recent start he fought hard yet again before yielding to the older Cody’s Wish in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, held around two turns. This son of 2018 Pegasus winner and successful sire Gun Runner has never raced at Gulfstream before but should be able to excel on a track that often favors speed horses. Look for him to be among the top two or three early leaders Saturday, racing in touch of Art Collector, Ridin With Biden and possibly Defunded. His best Equibase Speed Figures to date top out in the 104-108 range, but he appears primed to unleash a career-best effort in his finale, and if he does he’s got a great shot to win. Brad Cox won the 2020 Pegasus with eventual Horse of the Year Knicks Go, who closed out his career with a runner-up effort in the 2021 Pegasus. Florent Geroux rode Gun Runner to Pegasus glory in 2018.


Eclipse Sportswire

11. Stilleto Boy (30-1)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Ed Moger Jr.

Owner: Steve Moger

Career record: 19 starts – 3 wins – 4 seconds – 7 thirds

Career earnings: $1,131,675

Earnings per start: $59,562

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117

Pedigree: Shackleford – Rosie’s Ransom, by Marquetry

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Stilleto Boy ships in from California for his 11th consecutive start in a graded stakes race. The gelding is listed as a 30-1 longshot to win, and that’s based on the fact that he only won once in those previous 10 starts against top competition. However, he also finished second twice and third four times in that 10-race span, and that makes him an intriguing horse to use in exacta and especially trifecta and superfecta bets. One of those third-place finishes for trainer Ed Moger came in last year’s Pegasus, where he was no threat whatsoever to winner Life Is Good but still churned on through the stretch and finished a length behind runner-up Knicks Go at odds of 26.50-1. Truth be told, Stilleto Boy’s only two outright terrible efforts in this 10-race sample came in the 2021 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (fifth behind runaway pacesetter Knicks Go) and in last year’s TVG Pacific Classic (sixth by more than 36 lengths to Flightline, whose win will be talked about for decades). To sum up, it would be very surprising indeed to see Stilleto Boy parading in the winner’s circle Saturday evening at Gulfstream, but not surprising at all to see him grind up, get third and boost the trifecta payout at hefty odds. Mike Smith, who was aboard Stilleto Boy for his most recent race, a runner-up finish in the San Antonio Stakes behind Country Grammer, ships in with the horse for the Pegasus. “Big Money” Mike won the inaugural Pegasus aboard the great Arrogate.


Lauren King/Coglianese Photo

12. O’Connor (10-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owners: Fernando Vine Ode, Michael Iavarone and Jules Iavarone

Career record: 20 starts – 10 wins – 5 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $225,544

Earnings per start: $11,277

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Boboman – Torrente de Agua, by Touch Gold

Age: 6

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: O’Connor is a wild card in this year’s Pegasus as a South American invader who has competed well in his two starts at Gulfstream Park since traveling north. He won nine of 18 starts racing in his native Chile, including an impressive six stakes races. One of those was the Group 1 Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano back in April of last year, held on dirt at about 1 ¼ miles. O’Connor won by 7 ¾ lengths and followed that with a good runner-up effort in another Group 1 race held at 1 5/16 miles. He then shipped to Gulfstream and debuted for locally based trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. on Oct. 16 in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race against six opponents. With Edgard Zayas aboard, O’Connor took command on the final turn and pulled away for an impressive six-length win. Based on that, he was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Harlan’s Holiday Stakes Dec. 31 at Gulfstream, but O’Connor finished a nonthreatening fourth in the 1 1/16-mile race, defeated by 4 ¼ lengths. Both winner Skippylongstocking and third-place Simplification are entered in the Pegasus World Cup along with some other formidable opponents, which makes O’Connor a longshot win candidate. If he gets a hot pace to run into and a good trip, he has enough stamina to juice up the trifecta and/or superfecta payouts with rallying finish under Javier Castellano. That Hall of Fame rider gets aboard O’Connor for the first time Saturday; he won the 2019 Pegasus aboard City of Light and finished second in 2018.


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13. Hoist the Gold (also-eligible)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Dream Team One Racing Stable

Career record: 16 starts – 2 wins – 4 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $307,352

Earnings per start: $19,210

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Mineshaft – Tacit Approval, by Tapit

Age: 4

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hoist the Gold will draw into the Pegasus field if one of the original 12 entrants is scratched. If he gets in, he’s a good bet to carry the longest odds in the race by a considerable margin. He’s only raced at the mile distance once in 16 career starts, and that came back in October 2021, when he finished ninth going one turn at Churchill Downs. In terms of speed figures, Hoist the Gold has been fairly consistent over the past year, reaching triple digits five times, but he did not win any of those races. His pedigree is solid for stretching out, but the competition in this race is simply too tough for him to be a factor if he draws in. Trainer Dallas Stewart finished second in the 2019 Pegasus with longshot Seeking the Soul.


14. Endorsed (also-eligible)

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owner: Mark Breen

Career record: 32 wins – 5 wins – 8 seconds – 5 thirds

Career earnings: $751,103

Earnings per start: $23,472

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Dance Card, by Tapit

Age: 7

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Endorsed needs some help to get into the Pegasus field, but if he does he should have a better chance at hitting the board than fellow also-eligible Hoist the Gold, and arguably one or two of the original starters. This is a solid allowance-level horse that has yet to win a stakes race but he’s finished second in five of them and third in one other, and managed to bankroll more than $750,000 in the process. Endorsed turned in one of his best career efforts in his most recent race, taking a seven-furlong allowance at Gulfstream by 1 ½ lengths Dec. 22 and earning a 109 Equibase Speed Figure. He also started in last year’s Pegasus, and managed to finish fourth at 85.50-1 odds while nine lengths behind winner Life Is Good. A repeat of that effort is not out of the question should he draw in for Saturday’s edition, but it is very unlikely.

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