He was the only horse to beat Breeders' Cup Classic winner Accelerate in 2018, and Mr. and Mrs. William Warren's City of Light did it again at the beginning of 2019. The 5-year-old son of Quality Road seemed to relish the sloppy conditions at Gulfstream Park, settling just off the pacesetter and kicking away in the stretch to win the third running of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup by 5 3/4 lengths. Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano as the second choice at 9-5, City of Light covered nine furlongs over the sealed main track in 1:47.71.
The Michael McCarthy trainee won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in November, and will now be sent off to Lane's End to begin his stallion career.
“It's just wonderful,” said McCarthy. “When he broke well and was able to kind of ease out outside of horses coming to the mile pole, I was very, very happy. Turning up the backside, Javier eased him off the fence. It looked like everybody was content with their position up the backside. When Javier started moving at the half-mile pole, it didn't appear that anybody was really pressuring him. He was able to go ahead and hold off his run for a little bit. One he switched leads coming into the lane, you saw what happened. It was over. I'm very happy for the horse. He's an amazing animal, an amazing athlete.”
Dallas Stewart trainee Seeking the Soul got up late at 34-1 to fill out the exacta, while 7-5 favorite Accelerate (also retiring to Lane's End) had to settle for third. Once again, 10-1 chance Bravazo finished well to earn fourth money, and Audible completed the Super Hi-5 at 9-1.
City of Light broke sharply near the inside, but Jose Ortiz aboard Patternrecognition gunned his mount from the outermost post position and took the lead heading into the clubhouse turn. Castellano held City of Light just off that leader through fractions of :23.23 and :46.84, with Bravazo, Accelerate and Tom's d'Etat not far behind.
Castellano let City of Light challenge Patternrecognition at the turn, and found himself alone on the lead at the five-sixteenths pole. Accelerate was in pursuit, but jockey Joel Rosario had a decision to make: whether he would risk the inside path or go around City of Light.
Rosario opted to swing wide, and Accelerate responded a bit over-zealously. It didn't cost him the race, but possibly a length or two as City of Light kicked away to a commanding lead in the lane. City of Light cruised under the wire a dominant 5 3/4-length winner.
“I had a perfect trip,” said Castellano. “That's what I was looking for today. I know Patternrecognition on the outside has speed. I had to use him a little bit early to get the positon I was looking for. Watching all the races, speed was holding pretty good. The track is in good condition. We got a lot of rain, nothing we can do. I think it worked out perfect. I used the horse a little bit to get my spot, and then tried to control the race all the way. This is just amazing. It's what we all want, to be able to win a race like this.”
Seeking the Soul came from well back to earn second over Accelerate, while Bravazo ran gamely as ever to finish fourth. Audible was fifth, and local favorite Gunnevera finished sixth. True Timber, Imperative, Tom's d'Etat, Something Awesome, Kukulkan, and Patternrecognition completed the order of finish.
“This horse you have to ride him the whole time, and he was comfortable. I thought he was fine where he was and turning for home he looked OK, but Javier had so much horse,” Rosario said. “When he turned him loose he just went on. My horse kept trying but the horse in front had a better trip.”
Bred in Kentucky by Ann Marie Farm, City of Light was a $710,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. He debuted in the middle of his 3-year-old season, winning at second asking, and jumped into Grade 1 company at the end of 2017 to win the G1 Malibu Stakes. In 2018 he won the G1 Triple Bend, then stretched out to defeat Accelerate in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. City of Light ran third in the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, then went back to sprinting to finish second in the G1 Forego. He won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in his penultimate start, but proved his routing capability beyond a doubt with his swansong win in the Pegasus World Cup.
City of Light retires with a record of six wins, four seconds and a third from 11 starts, with earnings of over $5.6 million.
— Breeders' Cup (@BreedersCup) January 26, 2019
Additional Quotes from Connections:
Dallas Stewart (Seeking the Soul, 2nd): “He ran great. Nice horse, a great horse that beat us. He said he got stopped on the turn; that might have cost us a little bit. It would have been great to have been first, but our horse ran great. I'm very proud of him.”
John Velazquez (Seeking the Soul, 2nd): “He ran good, I wish I had a better trip going through the three eighths pole. When Jose Ortiz stopped, everybody gathered up at the same time, so I had to steady there, go to the outside, come back to the inside again and he still ran a good race. It's just a shame we didn't have the best trip.”
Charles Fipke (Seeking the Soul, 2nd): “He's a mile and a quarter horse, and he got blocked. He was coming on. But still, a mile and a quarter, he'll have a good chance winning the Dubai World Cup.”
John Sadler (Accelerate, 3rd): “We thought he ran a really good race. It was tough conditions out there today. You saw most of the winners on the dirt all day were in front so he's not really a speed horse per say. The winner ran a beautiful race, you have to give him credit. He was the better horse today. But our horse certainly didn't disgrace himself. We're headed out to dinner with our heads high.”
(On Watching City of Light's trip): “He (City of Light) was outside of a horse who couldn't get the distance. That other speed horse couldn't go that far so he was able to kind of cruise out there. We were kind of down in between some mud and dirt. I think [Accelerate] put in a good effort.”
(On What Accelerate Has Meant to the Barn): “He's been a tremendous horse. He's a champion, an Eclipse Award winner. We're just thrilled with the whole package. Today wasn't our day to get the last one but he ran well and we're really proud of him.”
Joel Rosario (Accelerate, 3rd): “He was traveling really well. He's the kind of horse you have to keep riding and…the winner, he had a lot of horse today. It looked like it was easy for the winner.
“He was (handling the track). He was responding really good. He's a horse you have to ride him a little bit and then he gives it to you. But the winner, after he took off again, he ran a big race. Turning for home he was in hand (City of Light) and I was just riding my horse. He was the best today.”
Todd Pletcher (Audible, 5th): “I thought he handled the surface fine. We didn't get the position we were hoping for in the first turn but I was happy that he kept trying to the wire.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (Gunnevera, 6th): “I don't think I had the right trip. I felt so sorry for him because he wanted to run today. But I didn't really get him in the right place at the right time. I had to check a bit, and I think it cost me a lot. Probably I don't win the race, but I'd have had a better position.”
Kiaran McLaughlin (True Timber, 7th): “We ran wide and outrun. Can't say much else. This was a tough race.”
Joe Bravo (True Timber, 7th): “I'm so proud of the whole Kiaran McLaughlin team. He came over here feeling like a beast. He ran a big race and we'll get them next time.”
Tyler Gaffalione (Imperative, 8th): “I had a good trip, just came from behind – pretty smooth. We were just a notch below these horses today, but he put in a big effort and great job by the team having him ready.”
Shaun Bridgmohan (Tom's d'Etat, 9th): “Thought I had a perfect trip right off the speed, he was laying third. Whenever Tom's d'Etat travels he's always pulling, I think he's spun his wheels a bit.”
Frankie Dettori: (Kukulkan, 11th): “He jumped good, but didn't have the speed to keep up with the pace and we started to get the kick back and it was all over.”
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