Pegasus World Cup day at Gulfstream Park is one of the winter season’s best days of racing and wagering for horseplayers. The headline race, the Grade 1 $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Baccarat, features many horses that will be the leaders of the handicap division throughout 2023.
The Pegasus World Cup has had a stellar six-year history, including the recent editions of the race run under current conditions with a $3 million purse. The 2021 Pegasus winner, Knicks Go, went on to win the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar and was named Horse of the Year. Last year’s winner, Life Is Good, went on to a successful 2022 campaign that included Grade 1 wins in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga and the Woodward Stakes at Aqueduct. The inaugural running of the Pegasus in 2017 won by Arrogate featured a $12 million purse. The purse of the race topped $16 million when Gun Runner won it in 2018. Before 2017, the race was known as the Donn Handicap and was won by such luminaries as Foolish Pleasure, Cigar, Skip Away, Medaglia d’Oro, Invasor, and Quality Road, just to name a few.
This year, the field for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus will be headlined by Cyberknife, who will be making his final career start. He will face a deep group of challengers that will include Proxy, Art Collector, White Abarrio, Defunded, Skippylongstocking, Get Her Number, and many more.
A loaded supporting undercard adds to the appeal of Pegasus World Cup day for handicappers. The Pegasus is the centerpiece on a program that will include six more graded stakes races worth an additional $2.2 million in purse money.
Let’s take a closer look at the supporting races on this year’s Pegasus card:
This race was conducted as the Pegasus World Cup Turf for the first time in 2019. The first winner, Bricks and Mortar, went on to be named that season’s Horse of the Year. Previously, this race dates back to 1986 when it was the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes. This Grade 1, $1 million race will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the grass and will feature a full field of 12.
The winner of this race the past two years was Colonel Liam, who was recently retired. That leaves his throne there for the taking amongst a stellar 2023 field that will include Speaking Scout, Ivar, City Man, Decorated Invader, Wit, Master Piece, and Atone, plus the 5-year-old mare taking on the males, Lady Speightspeare, and French Invader Hurricane Dream making his first start for Graham Motion in a race that looks like a true handicapper’s delight.
This will be the second running of the Grade 3 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf, which carries a purse of $500,000 and will be run at 1 1/16 miles. Last year’s inaugural running was won by the Chad Brown-trained heavy favorite Regal Glory. Brown will again be represented by one of the favorites this year with Grade 1 winner Shantisara with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard trying to get back on track following a 0-for-2 season in 2022 after scoring multiple stakes wins in 2021.
Two horses exiting the local prep in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Stakes, second- and third-place finishers Lady Rockstar and Bay Storm, will be among the top contenders, as will Dalika, who will be trying to go out a winner in her 32nd and final career start after winning three graded stakes in 2022. They all might need to step up their game, however, if they want to beat California invader Queen Goddess, who went wire-to-wire in the Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita last time out.
This race is also on the grass for fillies and mares but will go at the extended distance of 1 ½ miles, which at Gulfstream Park is a three-turn race. It drew an eight-horse field and will go as the first stakes on the card as Race 6.
The last two winners of this $150,000, Grade 3 race, Always Shopping and Beautiful Lover, were exiting first-place and third-place finishes, respectively, in Gulfstream’s 1 ½-mile $100,000 Via Borghese Stakes. Among this year’s top La Prevoyante contenders will be Via Borghese runner-up Lisheen, trained by Graham Motion who won this race in 2019 and 2020 with Si Que Es Buena and Mean Mary. The horse she will have to beat is Adventuring, a horse with tactical speed who seems like she can also get the distance based on her 2022 win in the Grade 3 AGS Ladies Marathon Stakes at Kentucky Downs.
The colts and geldings counterpart to the La Prevoyante Stakes at 1 ½ miles on the turf is the $200,000, Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Stakes. This race has basically been owned by trainers Todd Pletcher and Mike Maker, who have combined to win seven of the last eight runnings of the race dating to 2014.
Pletcher sends out defending victor Abaan in an attempt to repeat. Maker, meanwhile, clearly has this race circled on his calendar and counters with Temple, Wicked Fast, Value Engineering, and the always dangerous multiple 1 ½-mile turf stakes winner Red Knight. One horse threatening to stand in the way of yet another Maker or Pletcher victory will be 2020 champion turf male Channel Maker, trained by Bill Mott.
This $200,000, Grade 2 seven-furlong dirt sprint is named after the champion older female of 1995 and was formerly known as the Shirley Jones Handicap. Last year’s running was won by the Brad Cox-trained Pennsylvania-bred upstart Just One Time. Cox will saddle one of the horses to beat in this year’s 10-horse field with Famed, the winner of Remington Park’s She’s All In Stakes in her most recent start.
Two other Inside information entrants exiting stakes wins in their previous starts are Maryquitecontrary looking good off her Rampart Stakes win, and R Adios Jersey, coming off a win in the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. They will challenge the probable favorite, 2022 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint fifth-place finisher Obligatory, and the advantage goes to Maryquitecontrary who has won five of her six lifetime starts, all coming at Gulfstream Park.
The Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Stakes is a one-mile race on the main track with a $150,000 purse. The race provides a viable alternative for a couple of horses who may be unable to draw into the field for the Pegasus World Cup, including Endorsed, who finished fourth in last year’s Pegasus, and Hoist the Gold who exits a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Those two are the horses to beat.
More top contenders include Dean Delivers, the second-place finisher from the local prep, the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes; Picking Up Pennies, who will attempt to extend his current Gulfstream one-mile winning streak to four in a row; and the Chad Brown-trained Miles D, who will be very dangerous off a long layoff if he is as good as he was when last seen on the track almost a year ago.