If there is one thing constant in Thoroughbred racing, it’s change. The four editions of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) are a testament to that.
While the venue, Gulfstream Park, and the distance, a mile and an eighth, have remained the same, little else has. We’ll admit The Stronach Group’s vision to create a world-class event in late January seemed far-fetched, but it has become entrenched on the racing schedule despite being reinvented each time ’round.
The purse has varied since the inaugural running as have the conditions. The original concept was for a $1 million buy-in per entrant, and this year’s was an invitational that was on the house…but with a couple of catches: a smaller purse and no race day medication.
It worked from our vantage point.
Sure, there were the legion of doom who declared the race “fell apart” with the defections of morning-line favorite Omaha Beach, who was scratched two days before the race due to the detection of the start of a cannon bone fracture, and Spun to Run due to a skin condition. However, it didn’t “fall apart” for the 10 that remained, the fans on hand, and the many more watching on NBC or via a simulcast outlet.
The Pegasus result made a star of winner Mucho Gusto, and the handicap division is in need of star power. Just as the Dubai World Cup got traction early from its first three winners Cigar, Singspiel, and Silver Charm, the Pegasus has benefited from fan favorites as its first two winners: Arrogate and Gun Runner. The Dubai World Cup stretched its legs with Dubai Millennium, Street Cry, and Pleasantly Perfect in subsequent renewals. Will the new $20 million Saudi Cup or Pegasus eventually turn out to be the launch pad for Mucho Gusto? We’ll see.
The story behind the winner definitely lends itself to “World Cup” status. The 4-year-old colt was bred in Kentucky by leading Peruvian horseman Bernardo Alvarez-Calderon and his Teneri Farm and was first raced by Denmark’s Michael Lund Petersen before being sold to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal bin Khaled…that covers three continents right off the bat.
Alvarez-Calderon was on hand at Gulfstream.
“We had a lot of confidence in the horse, but you know, they have to run,” Alvarez-Calderon said the following morning. “We were very impressed and absolutely excited.
“You can’t ask for more than what he’s done. From the very beginning he showed he was a high-quality horse. Right now, you’d have to think he’s one of the best horses, no?”
The breeder was an accomplished show jumper in the early 1970s, good enough to compete in the South American championships.
“Horses have been my life,” he said.
He has also bred Thoroughbreds good enough to compete on the world stage.
His initial purchase in the U.S. was Redwing Blackbird (in foal to Proud Appeal) for $9,600 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky January sale in 1986. The foal, a filly named Proud Emilia, won a couple of races at Suffolk Downs and made her way to New Jersey for the 1990 Garden State Park Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3), where she ran third to Hall of Fame member Safely Kept.
Alvarez-Calderon-bred and -raced runners have twice won “Win and You’re In” races in Peru for the Breeders’ Cup and both made their way to the U.S. Valiant Emilia finished eighth behind Untapable in the 2014 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Santa Anita and Birdie Gold ran behind Wuheida in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) at Del Mar. His Dominguin made his way from Peru to Dubai but was unplaced in the 2006 Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group U.A.E. Derby (G2).
At present, the Teneri broodmare band in Kentucky numbers six, including Mucho Gusto’s dam Itsagiantcauseway. They are kept at Shawhan Place in Bourbon County. In Peru, Alvarez-Calderon has some 40 mares at his 250-acre farm.
There is one constant to this great sport of ours…valued bloodlines. The winner’s third dam is Strike a Balance, a mare bred by Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud. A two-time winner for trainer Angel Penna Jr., she produced a Canadian Horse of the Year in Peaks and Valleys; Countervail, the second dam of Mucho Gusto; and the stakes-winning Alternate, the dam of Pegasus World Cup beaten favorite Higher Power.