Pegasus First Shot Fired

And they’re off, and it’s Mattress Mac first out of the gate in the inaugural Pegasus Preliminary Probe, Pursuit, and Purchase. Yes, Jim McIngvale, who had been under the false impression he could get sprint champion Runhappy to fill his $1 million spot in the new 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup Invitational January 28, has ventured down below the equator to find his replacement in Argentina.

The thinking is sound in that it would appear the best way to go about upsetting both California Chrome and Arrogate (if the latter runs) is to attempt it with an unknown commodity no one knows anything about. Chrome and Arrogate have shown on more than one occasion that there does not appear to be a U.S.-trained horse capable of beating one of them, never mind both.

So, rather than join in the feeding frenzy of obtaining, partnering, or leasing horses like Gun Runner, Connect, Midnight Storm, Keen Ice, and Stanford, you might as well drift away from the crowd and see if you can strike the mother lode and find a South American gem like an Invasor, Candy Ride, Gentlemen, Siphon, Bayakoa or Paseana. It is unlikely, but for a million-buck investment you at least want to go into the race with some hope of winning, as slim as it may be.

Speaking of South America, there’s more where that came from. Three others who might be available are group I winners Big Daddy, from Chile, and Hi Happy and group I-placed Romano, both from Argentina. Remember, the South American horses are in summer form right now.

As of now, the owners of Hi Happy, winner of the 2015 Carlos Pellegrini and three other group I stakes, have no interest in selling outright, but Big Daddy, a winner of three group I’s in Chile including the recent St. Leger, still might be in play.

The most intriguing is Romano, a son of Roman Ruler, out of a Roy mare, who is coming off a good second in a group I stakes at La Plata and is scheduled to run Dec. 29 in a group II stakes. His owners reportedly are asking for $350,000, but it is believed a deal could be reached within the $275,000 and $300,000 range. Let’s see how he runs next week before attempting to establish a price…that is if any of the slot owners are interested in a horse with North American breeding who has not been off the board in nine career starts and who carried 131 and 132 pounds, finishing first and second, respectively, in his last two starts.

If McIngvale proves to be the only one interested in looking to South America for his Pegasus horse, then let the fun begin trying to snatch up the potential U.S. runners and then hoping they can pull off a major form reversal against Chrome and Arrogate.

Let’s also wait and see if Arrogate runs in the January 1 San Pasqual Stakes, how he performs, and whether Juddmonte Farms is interested in working out a deal with the lucky slot owner of their choice. Let’s be honest, you don’t want to lose out on Arrogate and an excellent chance at a big fat $12 million pay day and then have to settle for one of the horses he’s already annihilated. 

Such is the perplexing nature of this first Pegasus World Cup. Who will wind up raking in the mega bucks? Which owners have found themselves with a one-million dollar investment now just hoping to break even or minimize their losses, not realizing at its inception that the race could be pretty much a rematch between California Chrome and a then unknown Arrogate? How much groveling will there be at the feet of Juddmonte Farms and what kind of arrangement would they be interested in?

That is why the South American angle seems appealing. If you’re backing someone in a gunfight against Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickock, do you want someone you’ve seen draw before, knowing it would take something freakish to happen to outdraw both of them, or do you want someone you’ve never seen draw before, knowing there is always the outside chance he’s faster than everyone thinks. The same applies to Coolmore's possible entry, Highland Reel, who showed uncharacteristic speed winning the Breeders' Cup Turf and who has never raced on dirt.

Eragon has won 10 of his 20 career starts, all but four of those starts on turf. He is known more as a miler, and McIngvale obviously is banking on him stretching out his speed to 1 1/8 miles.

Big Daddy has won eight of 13 career starts and in his last two dirt starts, he won group I stakes by 8 1/4 and 6 1/4 lengths. And he’ll run all day. A son of the Johannesburg stallion Grand Daddy, he is inbred three times to Mr. Prospector and inbred to Nijinsky II.

Hi Happy is by the Storm Cat stallion Pure Prize, out of a French Deputy mare. He was undefeated in his first six starts in Argentina before coming to the States, where he finished seventh in the Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar on grass, beaten 4 3/4 lengths. What kind of effort he’s capable of going back to dirt we can only guess.

So, with McIngvale taking the first step, it is nearly time for the remaining slot holders who do not have a horse to run to begin getting serious if they haven’t already. Before you know it it will be commitment time, whether staying in the U.S. or looking to South America.

Everyone for now is waiting to see what Arrogate does on January 1. Many slot holders, whether they admit it or not, would prefer he gets beats, or at least is unimpressive, and proves himself mortal, rather than have to fight for him, knowing the odds are against getting him. That would make the others available more enticing and would certainly level the playing field.

The piggy banks have all been broken. Let the wheeling and dealing begin.

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