Picks for the Pegasus World Cups

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

A giant Saturday of racing is on the agenda at Gulfstream Park. The $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), and the $400,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) highlight an action-packed afternoon featuring seven graded stakes.

As has become tradition on Unlocking Winners, we'll examine both the Pegasus World Cup and the Pegasus World Cup Turf in this week's post:

Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1)

Although an overflow field of 14 horses (including two also-eligibles) has entered the Pegasus World Cup Turf, the 1 1/8-mile race isn't overly stuffed with speed. With a few exceptions, like gate-to-wire Aqueduct allowance winner #3 Atone and Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) third-place finisher #6 Lady Speightspeare, the Pegasus World Cup Turf entrants do their best work from off the pace. Even Atone and Lady Speightspeare settle off the lead more often than not.

The prospect of a modest pace should play to the strengths of #12 City Man, a red-hot New York-bred drawn in post 12. Normally I would be concerned about a wide trip while starting from an outside post, but City Man has tactical speed and shouldn't have much difficulty clearing many of his rivals in the run to the first turn.

City Man has been on fire since rallying to victory in the one-mile Forbidden Apple S. (G3) at Saraotga during the summer. He followed up with a second-place finish in Saratoga's 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch H. (G3), then beat New York-bred rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Ashley T. Cole S. and 1 1/16-mile Mohawk S.

These back-to-back stakes triumphs prepared City Man for a career-best performance in the 1 1/8-mile Ft. Lauderdale S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Racing over the same course and distance as the Pegasus World Cup Turf, City Man tracked a solid pace from third place, waited in traffic around the far turn, and then slipped through along the rail to kick away and prevail by 1 1/2 lengths.

I'm optimistic City Man will successfully employ similar tactics in the Pegasus World Cup Turf. He might not work out a ground-saving trip from post 12, but he figures to track a modest pace and kick on down the homestretch to battle for victory.

For second place, I'll support Lady Speightspeare. She rattled off victories in the Nassau (G2), Trillium (G3), and Seaway (G3) at Woodbine before running at giant race at 32-1 odds in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Lady Speightspeare used pace-tracking speed to battle on and finish third by 1 1/2 lengths against Cazoo Oaks (G1) winner Tuesday and two-time Grade 1 winner In Italian.

Tuesday or In Italian would probably be the favorite if either were starting in the Pegasus World Cup Turf, so I can't dismiss Lady Speightspeare as a live win threat even while squaring off against male rivals.

Nor can I ignore Atone. He ran second behind City Man in the Forbidden Apple and is slated to be ridden on Saturday by jockey Irad Ortiz, who has won three of the first four editions of the Pegasus World Cup Turf. A top-three finish isn't out of the question, especially if Atone participates in a modest early pace.

Pegasus World Cup (G1)

Five of the first six editions of the Pegasus World Cup have been won by established Breeders' Cup winners, namely Arrogate, Gun Runner, City of Light, Knicks Go, and Life Is Good. That's a pretty spectacular roster of winners.

There aren't any Breeders' Cup champs entered in the 2023 Pegasus World Cup, though #10 Cyberknife comes close. Last year's Haskell S. (G1) and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner wrapped up his sophomore campaign with a gallant runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), where he was beaten a head by older rival Cody's Wish.

Cyberknife will make the final start of his career in the Pegasus World Cup, where he looms as the horse to beat for the red-hot team of trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux. According to Brisnet statistics, Cox and Geroux have gone 14-for-36 (39%) together over the last two months. Both have won the Pegasus World Cup in the past; Cox took top honors with Knicks Go in 2021 and Geroux guided Gun Runner to victory from post 10 in 2018.

I should probably just pick Cyberknife to win the Pegasus World Cup and call it a day, but instead, I'm going to think a little outside the box and support #4 White Abarrio.

Here's the thing: White Abarrio is 4-for-5 at Gulfstream Park and 0-for-6 at all other tracks. He was Gulfstream's dominant sophomore during the winter of 2022, smashing future Kentucky Derby (G1) fourth-place finisher Simplification by 4 1/2 lengths in the Holy Bull S. (G3) before adding the Florida Derby (G1) to his resume. White Abarrio's Florida Derby triumph came over the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Pegasus World Cup, and he counted Simplification and future Dwyer S. (G3) winner Charge It among his beaten rivals.

White Abarrio looks like a horse-for-the-course specialist, and to reiterate that point he's been training up a storm at Gulfstream in recent weeks, posting one fast workout after another. Even better, he enters the Pegasus in encouraging form, having finished third by half a length in the Cigar Mile H. (G1) at Aqueduct on Dec. 3. I'm not sure the inside was the best part of the Aqueduct main track that day, but White Abarrio battled gamely up the rail to finish right behind a pair of Grade 1 winners.

If White Abarrio moves forward while returning to Gulfstream, he can spring a mild surprise under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who has gone 4-for-13 (31%) teaming up with trainer Saffie Joseph over the last two months per Brisnet stats.

For multi-race wagers, I would also use #7 Skippylongstocking (5-1). Last year's West Virginia Derby (G3) winner and Belmont S. (G1) third-place finisher wrapped up 2022 on a powerful note, employing pace-tracking tactics to win the 1 1/16-mile Harlan's Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream by two lengths. The Saffie Joseph trainee earned strong Beyer and Brisnet speed figures, so he's progressing in the right direction and can't be dismissed from win consideration.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Pegasus World Cup races?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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