Saturday's racing action will bring the eyes of the entire racing world onto Gulfstream Park, as the world's richest horse race takes flight. The inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup features the rematch of titans California Chrome and Arrogate, though there are other runners with a chance to upset the 12-horse field.
Kicking off the graded stakes action at Gulfstream is the G3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes, for fillies and mares at seven furlongs on the main track. Leading the field is the graded stakes-placed Curlin's Approval, beaten just three-quarters of a length in her last start over a mile. Also prominent is the Todd Pletcher-trained Genre and good Florida-bred sprinter You Bought Her.
Though it did not earn a graded designation, the $400,000 Poseidon Stakes is a strong draw on the World Cup undercard. Under the same conditions as the Pegasus, nine furlongs on the main track, the top contender is the Todd Pletcher-trained Stanford. He was impressive last out to win the G3 Harlan's Holiday off a layoff, and his AE status in the Pegasus itself lends credence to Pletcher's confidence in the horse. Stablemate Madefromlucky is likely to go off as the second choice, and the 7-year-old Imperative may fit well within this group. Cherry Wine, second in the Preakness, also enters the fray after a lengthy layoff.
The next graded stake is the G3 La Prevoyante, for fillies and mares at 12 furlongs on the turf. British-bred Suffused leads the full field of 12, but likely upsetters include Desiree Clary, Arles, and Flipcup.
In the G3 W.L. McKnight Stakes, older horses will contest 12 furlongs on the grass. The race drew a well-matched field of 12 starters, with favoritism likely to vie between Twilight Eclipse, Charming Kitten, Danish Dynaformer, and Mr Maybe. The latter is trained by Chad Brown, and may be a strong play for the day off his last few efforts.
Finally, the culmination of Saturday's Gulfstream card is the Pegasus itself. Of course, Arrogate and California Chrome are the major draw of the race, but after the post positions were announced, the race appeared to open up just a little. With Arrogate down on the rail, he will have to break extremely sharply to not be shut off in the short run to the first turn, and he has a habit of being a touch slow from the gate. California Chrome, conversely, will have to be very quick to not get left extraordinarily wide on that turn. Noble Bird is expected to make the early lead for Mark Casse, as that is his preferred running style, and if the rest of the field sits more than a length off of him early on, he could be ripe to steal the race. Keen Ice may come up a bit short at nine furlongs, but he's got Castellano aboard and may be able to close well if a strong pace deteriorates in the stretch. Another possible upsetter may be Neolithic, who has yet to prove himself at the highest level of competition, but is definitely on the upswing for Pletcher.
Also on Saturday is the Golden State series of California-bred stakes at Santa Anita, highlighted by stars like Enola Gray, Ashleyluvssugar, and California Diamond.
On Sunday, the spotlight focuses on Sam Houston Race Park in Texas. The first graded stake is the 12-furlong turf contest, the G3 John B. Connally Turf Cup. The Mike Maker-trained trio of Oscar Nominated, Bigger Picture, and Greengrassofyoming lead a field of eight in the $200,000 event.
The highlight of Sam Houston's season is the $400,000, G3 Houston Ladies Classic. For fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the race has drawn star quality in the form of I'm A Chatterbox for trainer Larry Jones. She will have to contend with the Wayne Catalano-trained Family Tree, a multiple graded stakes winner, as well as the Todd Pletcher-trained Unbridled Mo, a filly who has won four of her six starts.
Best of luck on all your wagers during this historic weekend of racing!
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