Pegasus Day Special – 2023

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Cyberknife preps for his final start in Saturday’s Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Lauren King/Gulfstream Park Photo.

The first big racing day of the year comes Saturday in South Florida – Pegasus World Cup Day replete with a stakes-laden card at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational tops the day with a field that lacks a true superstar but features plenty of depth.

Gone are the days of the put up $1 million to race for $12 million, but the Gulfstream racing office did yeoman’s work pulling together a dozen for the headliner plus strong fields for the Pegasus World Cup Turf and Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Christine Lee’s and Ten Palms figure to be packed and rocking.

We brought back The Special for the day, complete with all the usual favorites and the first crack at handicapping from our team at The Saratoga Special.

Here’s the Pegasus Day Special for Saturday, Jan. 28. Good luck.

By the Numbers

20: Entries for trainer Steve Asmussen Saturday

50: Career start for 9-year-old Channel Maker when he lines up in the William L. McKnight at Gulfstream Park Saturday

9: Mounts for jockey Frankie Dettori on the Pegasus card

10: Godolphin-bred entries on the Pegasus card.

239: Horse of the Year votes for Flightline, from a possible 246.

13: Votes that separated Todd Pletcher from Chad Brown for outstanding trainer, the closest race in 2022. Pletcher earned the Eclipse Award with 108 of a possible 246 votes.

2,000: Wins for jockey Florent Geroux after he rode Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Warrant to victory in the fifth race Thursday at Fair Grounds.

Names of the Day

Finest Hour. Uttoxeter. Race 2. Surprisingly, the 5-year-old hurdler is not by Churchill. He’s by Coastal Path. Still a cool moniker.

Guy. Cheltenham. Race 5. The 8-year-old chaser reminds us of the granite-tough claimer who made 161 starts from 1976 to 1984. Traveler? He ran at Erie Downs, Atokad, Fonner Park, Sportsman’s Park, Bowie, Laurel Park, Charles Town, Timonium, Pimlico, Keystone, Delaware Park (we could hear the stretch-long battles with Avalon Beach from our bedroom window), Meadowlands, Penn National and Garden State.

Hearditall. Laurel Park. Race 5. The 3-year-old filly is out of Weallhavechanged.

Now And Later. Tampa Bay Downs. Race 6. The Phipps-bred colt is by Candy Ride out of Vagabond.

Hightailing. Delta Downs. Race 8. The 7-year-old is out of Scampering.

Worth Repeating

“I’m not even going to open the envelope. Let’s all announce it together … One. Two. Three.”
NTRA CEO Tom Rooney before Flightline was officially crowned 2022 Horse of the Year

“Paul, I know you’re up there somewhere and very proud of Regal Glory, and that you bred and raced a champion.”
Owner Peter Brant, accepting the female turf championship for Regal Glory, bred and raced early in her career by the late Paul Pompa Jr.

“All those years being the weird horse girl in school has really paid off.”
Eclipse Awards co-emcee Maggie Wolfendale-Morley

“This is my first Eclipse Award in the last 30 minutes.”
Owner Mike Repole, after Nest was named champion 3-year-old filly for Repole and co-owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House

“You’re the master, you’re a champion and you’re the GOAT.”
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Aron Wellman to Todd Pletcher

“First I have to apologize I’m from North Carolina and I can’t talk as fast as Mike Repole.”
Owner Steve Laymon, part of the First Row Partners that campaigned champion female sprinter Goodnight Olive with Team Hanley

“I wouldn’t wish any pain on Garrett but I sure like being here tonight.”
Juddmonte Farmn Stallion Manager Scott Walker, standing in for Garrett O’Rourke when Elite Power was named champion male sprinter

“If anything Todd deserves an award for having to take Mike’s calls every morning.”
Wolfendale-Morley on the relationship between owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher

“I’ve always said post position can be a touch overrated. I’m more interested in where they finish as opposed to where they begin.”
Brad Cox, trainer of Cyberknife

“That felt like a weight off the shoulders, that’s for sure.”
Trainer Riley Mott after winning his first race at Oaklawn Park

“It’s a big relief to be honest. Especially before this weekend with a big day like the Pegasus and being on the favorite, Cyberknife. I can go there and enjoy every moment.”
Jockey Florent Geroux, with the pressure of his 2,000th win off his shoulders

As for the races…

Cheltenham. Race 1. 6:40 a.m. The best jump racing of the day starts here. The JCB Triumph Trial Hurdle provides another round of clues for the Triumph Hurdle in March. The best of the British juveniles, Scriptwriter, takes on seven rivals, including Irish raider Comfort Zone.

Cheltenham. Race 3. 7:40. Delta Work, the bittersweet vanquisher of Tiger Roll in March, returns for the cross-country chase.

Cheltenham. Race 4. 8:20. The rescheduled and relocated Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase pits nine-time winner Edwardstone against 11-time winner Energumene. We’ve always liked Amarillo Sky, he’s 50-1 against the big guns. Two of the best 2 milers over the best 2 miles.

Doncaster. Race 3. 8:35. Doncaster offers a strong card. The Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase attracts Boothill, undefeated if it weren’t for Jonbon, over fences in his burgeoning career.

Doncaster. Race 4. 9:05. When do you think Epatante will realize that stablemate Constitution Hill isn’t in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle? On the lorry? In the parade ring? At the start? The 11-time winner has chased the Champion Hurdle favorite in her last two. She’s 2-5 without him in the 2 1/8-mile stakes.

Cheltenham. Race 6. 9:25. The gallant Frodon meets Gold Cup contender Protektorat and Grand National winner Noble Yeats in a salty renewal of the Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase.

Cheltenham. Race 7. 10:00. The hits just keep on coming. The Grade 2 Dahlbury Stallions at Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle. The irrepressible, enigmatic Paisley Park seeks win number 12 at the age of 11.

Uttoxeter. Race 6. 10:07. Hey, Tom Law, you on this one? New York-bred Point Him Out makes his third career start over fences in the Paul Wainwright Handicap Chase.

Gulfstream Park. Race 1. 10:50. Word is Tom is in South Florida – still, after winning the Eclipse Award for his coverage of last year’s Preakness – and will be ready for the opener on Pegasus Day. The first of 13 races and one of many with a big field, this 1-mile turf optional could pad the bankroll early.

Gulfstream. Race 2. 11:19. The Hidden Scroll race. Remember him from a few years back? Blitzed field of maidens going 7 furlongs. Nine try to do the same here, including Foxburg for trainer Bill Mott (who trained Hidden Scroll back then) and LRE Racing.

Gulfstream. Race 3. 11:48. Time to stretch out here in 1 3/8-mile turf optional that marks the comeback of Corelli. Winner of the Grade 3 Singspiel in August 2021 at Woodbine and Grade 1 placed, 8-year-old son of Point Of Entry hasn’t been out since the Grade 2 Red Smith in late November 2021.

Gulfstream. Race 4. 12:17. Switch to the synthetic for $100,000 handicap for fillies and mares. We like Cafe Society.

Gulfstream. Race 5. 12:48. The last appetizer before the stakes, 1-mile optional on the grass for 4-year-olds and up looks like another puzzler.

Gulfstream. Race 6. 1:19. The Grade 3 La Prevoyante presented by Don Julio kicks off the stakes. Fillies and mares go 1 1/2 miles here on the grass.

Gulfstream. Race 7. 1:50. Back to the synthetic for another $100,000 handicap, this one for straight 4-year-olds and up.

Gulfstream. Race 8. 2:27. Everyone keeping up? Whew, there’s a lot to process on the card in South Florida in addition to everything else going on around the world. Meanwhile, the Grade 2 Inside Information presented by Brightline features the return of Grade 1 winner Obligatory. She’s 2-for-2 at Gulfstream and comes back from a fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Gulfstream. Race 9. 3:01. Stretch it back out again to 1 1/2 miles for the Grade 3 William L. McKnight Stakes presented by Davidoff Cigars. Abaan won it last year for newly crowned eight-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher and he’s back to take on our old friend Channel Maker, New York-bred millionaire Red Knight, Value Engineering and others.

Oaklawn Park. Race 5. 3:10. The undefeated Olivia Twist seeks her first win away from Remington Park. The daughter Mshawish takes on five rivals in the Martha Washington.

Aqueduct. Race 7. 3:28. Millionaire Drafted goes for his second consecutive win in the Grade 3 Toboggan. The 9-year-old gelding went 4-for-9 last year and is 1-for-1 this year for trainer David Duggan.

Gulfstream. Race 10. 3:34. Hats off to the racing office, which hustled 13 for the Grade 3 Fred Hooper Stakes presented by Whispering Angel. Miles D, third in Essential Quality’s Travers in 2021, makes first start since February 2022 against Picking Up Pennies, Endorsed, Prevalence and others.

Santa Anita. Race 2. 4:00. Faiza goes for her third career victory in the Las Virgenes.

Gulfstream. Race 11. 4:06. Time for the main events, starting with the $500,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational Stakes presented by Pepsi. Whew, that’s a lot of words. Field of 11 includes Dalika, Wakanaka, Queen Goddess, Sweet Enough and Shantisara to name a few.

Gulfstream. Race 12. 4:40. A dozen and two on the AE list for the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes presented by Qatar Racing. Todd Pletcher won the last two editions with Colonel Liam and bids for another with Wit. It won’t be a layup by any means with the likes of Decorated Invader, Ivar, Speaking Scout and City Man in the field.

Oaklawn Park. Race 8. 4:50. Gunite returns in the King Cotton.

Turf Paradise. Race 6. 4:54. Arizona Andrew had his undefeated record snapped in December. The Arizona-bred son of Lotsa Mischief should start another one against seven geldings in the ATBA Sales stakes.

Gulfstream. Race 13. 5:40. The main event, the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes presented by Baccarat. No Arrogate, California Chrome, Knicks Go or City Of Light but still a competitive group with some quality. Cyberknife is the one to beat in his final start, but Proxy, Defunded, Art Collector, White Abarrio, Skippylongstocking and Get Her Number should be tough. Not many throwouts; might be the opportunity to take a stab at a price.

Sam Houston. Race 8. 5:55. Private Creed returns for his 3-year-old debut in the Bob Bork Texas Mile. The son of Jimmy Creed finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint to finish his 2-year-old season.

Oaklawn Park. Race 10. 5:57. The Southwest Stakes. Challenging day for jocks’ agents as stakes abound. Flavien Prat replaces Florent Geroux on Corona Belt. Joe Talamo replaces Geroux on Jace’s Road. Manny Franco replaces Talamo on Hit Show. John Velazquez isn’t going anywhere, riding the Bob Baffert train all the way to May, with Arabian Knight. 

Sam Houston. Race 9. 6:25. Grade 1 winner Pauline’s Pearl makes her 5-year-old debut in the Houston Ladies Classic.

Sam Houston. Race 10. 6:55. A stellar card in Texas continues with the John B. Connally Turf Cup. Spooky Channel rides a three-race win streak (over 16 months) into the 12-furlong stakes.

Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:00. The return flight of Kent Desormeaux could receive an upgrade if Messier wins the San Pasquel.

Golden Gate Fields. Race 8. 7:15. Chancery Way puts her undefeated record on the line in the Moscow Burning. The California-bred daughter of Mr. Big led every step in four wins at Golden Gate (twice), Pleasanton and Sacramento last season.

Turfway Park. Race 6. 8:25. Still going strong? The Wishing Well Stakes highlights the Saturday night card from Florence. Ready To Venture aims at her third straight stakes win for Mike Stidham and Lael Stable.

Handicapper’s Corner

The Saratoga Special handicappers are back, shrugging off two-plus-month hiatus to tackle Saturday’s Pegasus Day card from Gulfstream. We all know who comes out on top at Saratoga – right? – but how about the rest of the winter, spring, summer and fall? Here are the picks from the team.

John Shapazian
1-Breaker Of Chains, Watch It, Siempre Elegante.
2-Perform, Foxburg, Bourbon Resolve.
3-Corelli, Ever Dangerous, Marwad.
4-Kahiko, Keeper Of Time, Cafe Society.
5-Axthelm, Journeyman, Paratus.
6-Adventuring, Personal Best, Transient.
7-King Cause, Skyro, Wolfie’s Dynaghost.
8-Obligatory, R Adios Jersey, Colorful Mischief.
9-Red Knight, Abaan, Temple.
10-Picking Up Pennies, Miles D, Endorsed.
11-Dalika, Queen Goddess, Wakanaka.
12-Wit, City Man, Hurricane Dream.
13-Defunded, Proxy, Art Collector.

Tom Law
1-On Alert, She’s The One, Fast And Flirty.
2-Foxburg, Bourbon Resolve. Summonyourcourage.
3-Ever Dangerous, Corelli, Marwad.
4-Cafe Society, Out Of Sorts, Keeper Of Time.
5-Axthelm, Paratus, Tiz A Prince.
6-Adventuring, Personal Best, Lisheen.
7-Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Into The Sunrise, Smokin’ T.
8-Obligatory, Famed, Maryquitecontrary.
9-Red Knight, Channel Maker, Reigning Spirit.
10-The Reds, Miles D, Prevalance.
11-Queen Goddess, Dalika, Wakanaka.
12-Wit, Ivar, Decorated Invader.
13-Proxy, Cyberknife, Simplification.

Rob Whitlock
1-On Alert, She’s The One, Watch It.
2-Kentucky Joker, Summonyourcourage, Foxburg.
3-Ever Dangerous, Onenightstandards, Sole Volante.
4-Mozay, Illiogami, Cafe Society.
5-Axthelm, Up To The Mark
6-Transient, Adventuring, Personal Best.
7-Skyro, King Cause, Into The Sunrise.
8-Colorful Mischief, Famed, Fired On Time.
9-Pao Alto, Abaan, Agitare.
10-Hoist The Gold, Mish, Endorsed.
11-Queen Goddess, Dalika, Wakanaka.
12-Ivar, City Man, Lady Speightspeare.
13-Skippylongstocking, Cyberknife, Simplification.

Charles Bedard
1-Gunesh, Watch It, Saturday Nite Girl.
2-Perform, Summonyourcourage, Foxburg.
3-Marwad, Red Hornet, Barrage.
4-Love Her Lots, Cafe Society, Mozay.
5-Journeyman, Chasing The Crown, Axthelm.
6-Adventuring, Personal Best, Beside Herself.
7-King Cause, Steady On, Business Model.
8-Obligatory, Mary Quite Contrary, Jag Warrior.
9-Abaan, Red Knight, Value Engineering.
10-Mish, Endorsed, The Reds.
11-Dalika, Wakanaka, Shantisara.
12-Ivar, City Man, Hurricane Dream.
13-Cyberknife, Proxy, Art Collector.

Jessica Paquette
1-On Alert, Breaker Of Chains, Watch It.
2-Foxburg, Perform, Bourbon Resolve.
3-Corelli, Ready For Law, Marwad.
4-Mozay, Keeper Of Time, Out Of Sorts.
5-Winston Blue, Chasing The Crown, Journeyman.
6-Lisheen, Adventuring, Personal Best.
7-Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Summer Assault, Tango Tango Tango.
8-Obligatory, Famed, Colorful Mischief.
9-Red Knight, Pao Alto, Channel Maker.
10-Dean Delivers, Miles D, Picking Up Pennies.
11-Dalika, Shantisara, Wakanaka.
12-Lady Speightspeare, Ivar, Hurricane Dream.
13-White Abarrio, Proxy, Ridin With Biden.