Note: Omaha Beach was withdrawn after this article was published. Previous to that, Spun to Run was withdrawn
The fourth running of the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes drew a well matched field of 12, including Omaha Beach, winner of last year's Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Injury forced him to miss the Kentucky Derby and take a break from April until October, returning to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, finish second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile then win the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.
On paper, his biggest opponent might have been Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run, but he was scratched Thursday due to some skin issues. Another contender may be the veteran eight year old War Story, who has earned more than $2.9 million in his career and who most recently won the Grade 3 Harlan's Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Like Omaha Beach, Tax was a top three year old last winter and spring after winning the Grade 3 Withers Stakes and finishing second in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, before winning the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes last summer. He enters the race off a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Discovery Stakes.
Diamond Oops has proven a liking for the Gulfstream Park main track where he has won five of six including the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes in his most recent race. Higher Power won the Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes last summer at Del Mar but has been a non-threatening third in two grade 1 races since. The very speedy Bodexpress is probably best known for leaving the gate in last year's Preakness Stakes without a jockey and completing the entire course. He enters the Pegasus World Cup off a third place finish in the Harlan's Holiday behind Diamond Oops and will very likely be in front in the opening stages of the race at the least.
Mucho Gusto hasn't been seen since the end of September when fourth in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby but was competitive with top three year olds last summer such as when he was second in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and third in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes. Both Tenfold and Mr Freeze won grade three stakes in 2019, the former the Pimlico Special in May and the latter in the Ack Ack Stakes in September, but their combined 2019 record of two for 13 makes it appear they will be a bit overmatched against the best in this field. Veteran Seeking the Soul leads the field with $3.4 million in earnings and won one of eight races in 2019, that being the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes in June, with four poorer efforts since then. True Timber rounds out the field, entering the race off three third place finishes in a row including when two lengths behind runner-up Spun to Run in the Cigar Mile.
There is absolutely no reason Diamond Oops can't win the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in an upset. First, he's only raced 12 times and he's won five of those, including four stakes races, with all five wins coming over the Gulfstream Park main track. His four year old campaign last year was stellar, starting with a win in the Smile Sprint Stakes in June, followed by a bang-up second behind top sprinter Imperial Hint in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga in July, a race in which Diamond Oops earned a career best 117 Equibase Speed Figure. Entered to run in the Phoenix Stakes, a sprint on dirt, on opening weekend at Keeneland last October, trainer Patrick Biancone had also entered Diamond Oops in the tougher Shadwell Turf Mile although the horse had never raced around two turns or on turf.
Choosing the latter race, Diamond Oops nearly pulled off the 12 to 1 upset with a valiant effort, finishing second and beaten under a length. One month later in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, Diamond Oops lunged at the start and broke poorly to be away eighth, the same position he finished in after never showing any spark. Proving that race to be an exception, last month Diamond Oops duplicated his best figure of 117 when winning the Mr. Prospector Stakes back on the surface he loves, rallying from fifth of six in the early stages. With it very likely Bodexpress will go for the lead from the start as he usually insists upon from the extreme outside and with it just as likely Mucho Gusto and Mr Freeze will be in hot pursuit from outside posts, Diamond Oops can bide his time in the early stages. Likely to put in a strong late run as he did last month in the Mr. Prospector, and with three excellent workouts since last start to show he is in excellent physical condition, Diamond Oops could surprise a lot of bettors and racing fans by winning this race.
Omaha Beach, likely to be the prohibitive betting favorite at post time, has no knocks. Never worse than second in nine races since his third place debut, Omaha Beach might be entering the Pegasus World Cup seeking his seventh straight win if not for being defeated by Spun to Run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in November. As a newly turned four year old, Omaha Beach may not have run his best but on the other hand his figures for all three of his two-turn victories have been 112. This was the same figure earned winning the Malibu Stakes at the end of December, although it must be noted he did earn a career-best 116 figure winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in October. Like Diamond Oops, Omaha Beach is stretching out from seven furlongs to one mile and one-eighth, which is of no concern. Mike Smith, who has been in the saddle in the colt's last five races including wins in the Arkansas Derby and Malibu, retains the call and should have Omaha Beach in mid-pack in the early stages as they allow the pacesetters and pressers to tire each other out. As such, Omaha Beach has every right to win.
War Story is a “War Horse,” now with 38 races under his belt and nearly $3 million in earnings including the Monmouth Cup Stakes at the distance of the Pegasus last summer. He enters the race off a win in the Harlan's Holiday Stakes over the track with a 108 figure and he has the right late running style for the likely faster-than-average early pace scenario for this race. When second, beaten a head, in the 2018 Charles Town Classic Stakes at this nine furlong trip, War Story earned a 118 figure and as it appears he hasn't lost a step since then, and with Joel Rosario taking the call for the first time, we could be kicking ourselves after the race for ignoring his chances at likely double digit odds.
The rest of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Field, with their best Equibase figures, are Bodexpress (116), Higher Power (115), Mr Freeze (115), Mucho Gusto (107), Seeking the Soul (111), Tax (110), Tenfold (105) and True Timber (113).
Win contenders (in preference order):
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