Sharp Azteca all but punched his ticket to the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park when he dominated Grade 1 rivals in Saturday's $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.
After watching the 4-year-old son of Freud draw off to a 5 ¼-length triumph, trainer Jorge Navarro was “95 percent” certain that his 2017 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) winner will start next in the richest race in the world.
Sharp Azteca, who fell only a half-length short of winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 4 after setting the pace, had distinguished himself during his very successful as a quality speed horse. Ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano, Sharp Azteca rated kindly for the Hall of Fame jockey before surging to the lead entering the stretch and romping to victory.
“With that, I'm confident that we belong in this race coming up, the Pegasus. Not having to go to the lead, that's perfect,” Navarro said.
Sharp Azteca's willingness to rate in the one-turn Cigar has given his trainer added confidence that he will excel around two turns and the 1 1/8-distance of the Pegasus.
“The night before (the Cigar) I watched the replays when we tried that, he was throwing his head. The first thing I said to Castellano was, ‘I'm not going to get in your way, Castellano. You're one of the best jockeys in the world. Do what you think is right. All I'm going to ask of you is when they open that window to you, just go,'” Navarro said.
When asked for his run, Sharp Azteca offered an explosive kick that surprised even his trainer.
“I never had run him that close to a race. There's always thoughts on your mind –the trip to California, the trip to New York, the weather – but the one thing about him is that he's always showing up,” Navarro said. “You have to give this horse a lot of credit.”
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