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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach, FL, January 22, 2021 — There’s plenty of action in the racing world this weekend to please the most inveterate bettor: There’s an all-graded-stakes Rainbow Six at Gulfstream Park, today’s opening of Oaklawn Park, and Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby futures pool should that float your betting boat.

The folks in Hallandale Beach are not letting any of grass grow beneath their automated machines, offering wagering on the entire Pegasus card, 12 races in all, starting today. We’ll take a look at both Pegasus events presently and will update with the remainder of graded races by 9 AM Saturday.

$1-Million Pegasus Invitational Turf, 1-3/16th miles

We love the trip for this event as it ensures a stretch-long run into the first turn, such that the dozen runners can sort themselves out just before making a bend bringing them perilously close to Dade County line.

To say Pegasus V is competitive is to understate the case, but before delving into the contenders, this question: Who does Todd Pletcher think he is, Chad Brown?

Of course, Pletcher need not to play second fiddle to any of his peers, but it’s usually Brown who surrounds Grade 1 turf events with multiple entrants but not so today. Brown has nary a starter; Pletcher has three and two of them, Colonel Liam and Largent, are the top choices on the early line.

While worthy of that distinction, no single horse has a lock on this race. The favorites are coming off excellent efforts on this course and have continued to train very well subsequently. The difference is that this assignment is a lot more difficult; tougher competition and added ground, too.

While the pace dynamics on turf is unpredictable, especially rounding two turns, the tempo doesn’t rate to be especially quick but should be somewhat contested given the presence of several positional types partnered with aggressive riders. We’re taking some value and the best late kick on paper.

Say the Word (6-1), showed improvement last time out in his first start for Phil D’Amato. He came from 10th of 12 going 1-1/2 miles at Del Mar to finish third, beaten one length in 2:26.20, coming his last quarter mile–if you can believe generally unreliable turf splits–in a shade under 23 seconds.

Whatever the Pegasus pace, it rates to be faster than a 12-furlong tempo. Flavien Prat rode him for the first time in the Hollywood Turf Cup and familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. In this sport, quite the opposite.

We’re taking Say the Word to win at his early odds or thereabouts, key-boxing exactas with the two Todd’s above plus Anothertwistafate (5-1). Further, we’re adding Aquaphobia (20-1) and Cross Border (15-1) to a super-exotics mix and likely will use ‘Word’ to get alive in the late double.

$3-Million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, 1-1/8 miles

Either you believe that Knicks Go (5-2) is as good away from Keeneland as he is in Lexington. Either you think that his last two races, especially the BC Dirt Mile, are emblematic of the newly minted four year old’s form, or you don’t. Is he a product of a trainer who routinely moves horses up, or is he the real deal?

My answer? An unequivocal definite-maybe. That’s why it’s called gambling. Truly, does anybody really know anything in this game?

Actually,. there is another question: Never having done so, can he get all nine furlongs of today’s event? I think I have an answer here: A: Speed is always dangerous. B: This is Gulfstream, isn’t it?

There is no question that any winner not named Knicks Go has him, above all others, to beat. Here are some logical suspects to consider:

Is Code of Honor (9-2) capable of delivering on the promise he showed as a three-year-old? He ran well at four, but with the exception of his warm-up act in the Westchester, he failed the rest of the season: I just can’t forgive last year’s Whitney after he killed it in the 2019 Travers.

Code of Honor’s working bullets at Payson Park, not a common occurrence. Shug has been en fuego for a year now and the horse’s late-run style suits what promises to be a lively pace, whether someone entertains the favorite or not. Maybe first-time Tyler is the wake-up call Code of Honor needs.

Tax (5-1) does appear to be a logical upsetter. His connections promised that he was better and stronger at 5, and they told the truth given his comprehensive score in his Harlan’s Holiday prep for this.

Yes, he controlled a moderate tempo over lesser, but showed another gear through the lane for the first time ever. He moved forward, but not so dramatically as to be a precursor to a bounce. Nine furlongs always has been his best go. He needs only to take care that his stalking style won’t fizzle chasing Knicks Go’s sizzle.

We will bet Tax straight at near early line odds and make a three-horse exacta box with ‘Knicks’ and ‘Code’. And we’re adding Jesus’ Team (8-1) and Harpers First Ride (10-1) to the super-exotics mix.

Finally, we have no idea what the hell to do with Last Judgment (20-1). He ran out of his skin to beat Florida-breds only last Saturday, a figure that has bounce written all over it. The problem is that it’s Mike Maker, who is an otherworldly 32% with runners returning on less than 11 days rest.

* * *


MOST LOGICAL: Sweet Bye and Bye (4-1)

MOST VALUABLE: Belle Laura (12-1) to win at 10-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box 1.3.10. Trifecta wheel 1.3.10 // 1.3.10 //


MOST LOGICAL: Always Shopping (3-1)

MOST VALUABLE: Delta’s Kingdom (8-1) to win at 5-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box 1.7.8. Exacta Box 1.8.11. Trifecta Wheel 1.8 // //


MOST LOGICAL: Thisismytime (7-2)

MOST VALUABLE: Cinnabunny (3-1) to win, no price restrictions

EXOTICA: Exacta Box 2.4.7. Exacta Key-Box 2 with 4.5.7. Trifecta Box 2.4.7

G3 McKNIGHT — Race 10

MOST LOGICAL: Sadler’s Joy (3-1)

MOST VALUABLE: Tide of the Sea (10-1) to win at 6-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 5.7.11. Trifecta Wheel: 5.7 // 5.7.11 //

Wager Proportionally: As always, plays are made at suggested minimums; the rest is on you: $2 Win, $1 Exacta, 50-Cent TRI, 10-Cent SUPER

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6 Responses

  1. You think the breeder’s cup was hard ? Welcome to the Pegasus World Cup. Underneath I offer up my 2 cents.

    7th race-Good betting race. I believe the first 2 favorite’s are vulnerable and the probable 3rd choice doesn’t exactly stand out, now if we can get the clouds to align just right, maybe just maybe we can cash a nice one. The favorite(Vigilantes way) is on an 0-2-x pattern with no back figures to support her. Evil Lynn’s pattern giver’s her a 100 percent chance to run an off or X out race. The probable third choice sweet bye and bye gets the 10 hole in a mile on turf off sketchy works. No thanks. The pick here is the (1) Belle Laura and to complete the exacta, tri’s and triples I offer the 3,8,9. If you want to spread I guess the favorite (4) 3rd or 4th won’t hurt.

    8th-Always shopping will take some beating and if she does it might come in the form of Heavenly Curlin. Add the 6,8 to get the exotic cash.

    9th- I think the favorite is fake but it’s Brad Cox who has a history of moving horse’s wayyy up. Please. Although no stand out in a very competitive field I would advise a box of 3,4,7, and using the 1 to complete your super’s and tri’s.

    10th- The 4, Temple has been on my horses to watch list for some time and his stable mate Tide of the sea has a nice pattern and like Temple has good time into this race with excuse’s also. Doswell and the hard hitting 8 year old is faster then these on his best but never seems to find the winner’s circle. Note: Albertrani has been on fire the last 90 day’s, get’s JL Ortiz.

    11th- This is a tough race. The fast one’s have sketchy patterns and may be over the top and the one’s with the good pattern’s are a touch slow. I settled on the (8) Anothertwistofate. 3rd time turf coming off a good one. A repeat puts him right there.2 off a layoff and a double stakes winner coming off a nice turf win. Use with the 6,9,11. Yes I threw out the lightly raced, Pletcher trained Colonel Liam. You don’t have too.Call it a value play.

    12th-3 Million Dollar World Cup Invitational. This race drove me crazy.Since coming to the Cox barn Knicks Go has run 2 straight hole in the winds. Previously he was an average race horse. I would play him to bounce to the sky under usual circumstance’s but that’s not what this is if you know what I mean. Still his pattern is almost an 0-2-X with no previous numbers to go back to and that old saying rings in my ears “Never bet a horse as a favorite who is asked to do something he’s never done before.” Well he’s never been the distance and never raced at Gulfstream Park without even a work there. Harper’s first ride would have been my choice BUT every time he runs outside of his home state he gets killed. 3 straight negative race’s with one work at GP, the slowest of 101 works. Ouch. Other than his last race Tax is slow but has run in top company and Gorgan is hitting 43% winner’s at GP off 28 starts. The trainer/Jockey combination is even better at 48 % winner’s at GP off 29 starts. Whoa Nelly ! You can’t throw him out. Contender. The pick here is a very weak nod to the (1) Sleepy Eyes Todd. (8-1) He’s fast enough, coming off a top, get’s JL Ortiz and if not for his Grade 1 debacle three back where he caught a “dead rail” his pattern is solid. Should save ground. The (5) Jesus Team alway’s seems to get a piece in big race’s so here we go. Key the 1 with the 5,7,8 and spread with the 4 and 10. I wish it were easier. Let’s go get the bad guys and may the god’s give us a little racing luck.

    Vin O’

  2. Jesus Team’s narrow victory in the Claiming Crown Jewel after finishing 2nd to Knicks Go in the BC Dirt Mile didn’t flatter the latter who was Keeneland’s horse for the main course last fall.

    It will be harder to get away with an early lead with both Tax and Sleepy Eyes Tood also capable of fast early fractions.

    Does Velazquez’s switch to Mr. Freeze following his encounter with Honor Code in the Clark reflect his decision or Shug’s? Has the latter multiple G1 winner lost a step or does he need 10 furlongs to do his best?

    The former finished 2nd off Lasix in last years PWC and then won the GP Mile back on it. His post draw hardly enhances his chances, but he has also won two Grade 2 dances at the distance.

    However, the “other Romans,” the improving Coastal Defense, may have been the most impressive in the Clark considering his poor start.

    SPR: 2,10 // 2,10,11 // 2,10,11,4,7 // 2,10,11,4,7

  3. Here are a few thoughts after an exciting weekend of top class racing. Brad Cox and Todd Pletcher will be the top trainers in 2021. Superb performances by Cox’s runners Knicks Go and Caddo Road.

    Pletcher has a turf star in Colonel Liam, easy dominant win. Always Shopping was pretty good too.

    In general, I do not like West coast turf horses coming East for stakes races. They just don’t duplicate their West coast form over the East coast turf courses.

    If there was any doubt where he stands among the best riders in America, add Tyler Gaffalione’s name to the list of the BEST jockeys. He is riding with supreme skill and confidence on both surfaces and all distances.
    Finally, if you did not see Prevalence’s 7 furlong maiden win, you need too. It’s was awesome. The son of Medaglia D’oro is definitely a horse to watch.

  4. Vincent, Indulto,

    Thanks as always for sharing your input, the handicapping process is fluid and often other handicappers note something that you do not. I think it helps everyone enjoy the game more.

    Tony C,

    Agree with virtually all, including West Coast turfers, although some yesterday had shown ability outside of California. What made ‘Liam’ look so good was the speed favoring nature of the course yesterday–don’t like speed-biased turf.

    Glad people are waking up to Tyler, we have been on him for a year and a half and clearly 2020 was his breakout year, leading many race meets throughout Midwest including KY Downs. He is the package; speed and strong finish. And a nice young man and agent Matt Muzicar, too.

  5. JP,
    Not even a cold saver exacta could absorb all the red ink hemorrhaging from my faulty Clark-based analysis exotic plays , but I did have an enjoyable experience handicapping and playing the Pegasus this year because it is so rare that I actually come up with a longshot as my top pick.

    The best thing about Knicks Go’s performance was that he appeared as good if not better off Lasix than on it. Let’s see if he can win the Saudi Cup AND bring home the money. LOL

    1. A little well-placed snark is never a bad idea (smiley face here)! And kudos on going for the gusto.

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