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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 25, 2024 – No sense pointing fingers anywhere for the lack of a star attraction for this year’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational. In short, there weren’t any left. The best of them already have gone on to their second lives.

There are no career close-outs in this group. No Horse of the Year swan songs from the likes of a Gun Runner, and a Knicks Go. No champions such as Arrogate and City of Light. Talk about having great second careers …

But what remains is pretty damn good, and promising: The favorite, National Treasure, is a Preakness winner after all, and he came within a nose of beating Cody’s Wish in the BC Dirt Mile. No apologies needed. And First Mission also can have a huge 2024.

     Pegasus early line favorite National Treasure                                                          Photo–Lauren King

What Pegasus VIII –it’s Super Bowl time after all—is is a good betting race. National Treasure is 9-5 but is no layover. First Mission, 7-2 on the early line, seems fair enough. Looking at the dynamics, the question is whether the latter can run down the former in the lane.

Diving a bit deeper, leading trainer Saffie Joseph Jr will saddle a pair of 8-1 chances that are more than capable of winning this: O-Connor, drawn inside with Paco Lopez, could trip out should there be a pace meltdown. Same can be said for Skippylongstocking providing Tyler Gaffalione can make his way forward from post 12.

Todd Pletcher saddles a three-headed monster which on paper are not up to the task, but it is Pletcher at Gulfstream, and it’s horse racing of course, which means no short pants allowed.

Below is HRI’s Tote Busters betting grid. The remainder of the Rainbow Six, Pick 5, and Pick 4 sequences will be posted after the work is completed, throughout the weekend.


PEGASUS WORLD CUP INVITATIONAL                                         Race 13

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: 8-First Mission is not as fast as several on the Thoro-Graph scale, but was toughened up on a hot Clark pace and has worked bullishly since; set for a career run–and he’ll need all of that to win here.

BEST VALUE: 2-O’Conner (8-1), with an inside draw and with Paco riding in outstanding form, can trip out from behind what is expected to be very lively early factions. [Note: Might have taken ‘Skippy’ with a better draw],

EXOTICA: 7-National Treasure, 12-Skippylongstocking (8-1), 6-Senor Buscador (20-1)

G3 W L Mc KNIGHT                                                                                      Race 8

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  1-Francesco Clemente (2-1) showed an excellent turn of foot from last when narrowly beaten in the Hollywood Turf Cup, showing improvement in last two with blinkers and benefits from switch to Irad.

BEST VALUE:  7-Verstappen (9-2) might have moved a tad soon when third in 11F Red Smith, is a tad faster on the Thoro-Graph scale, stretches to winning trip and attracts Frankie.

EXOTICS:  4-Value Engineering (20-1), 3-Stone Age (7-2), 9-Grand Sonata (10-1), 12-Red Run (30-1)

G2 INSIDE INFORMATION                                                                Race 9

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  9-Maryquitecontrary (2-1), the Queen of Gulfstream has won 7 of 9 in Hallandale, with a pair of exactas, and half her eight starts at this trip. Should have the table set and outside post a plus for late rallier.

BEST VALUE:  3-Intrepid Daydream (5-2) stretches out after chasing quality lone speed in the Sugar Swirl; added furlong is the key, Tyler re-rides and gets first run from inside position.

EXOTICA:  1-Bluefield (6-1), 8-Gerrymander (8-1), 10-Olivia Darling (4-1)

G2 PEGASUS F & M TURF                                                                    Race 10

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  4-Star Fortress (5-2) stepped up big time to take the G3 Cardinal over weaker but showed remarkable turn of foot to blow the race open leaving headstretch despite failing to change leads and galloped out strongly. Find out more here but no telling how good.

BEST VALUE: [price and bias dependent] 6-Ruby Nell (8-1) and/or 11-Mission of Joy (10-1).  ‘Ruby’ owns dominating speed if used, picks up Frankie and SA blowout 2nd fastest of 127 peers week of JAN 19. Mission of Joy has developed very nicely with maturity, has been touting her trainer in morning trials, and goes for top ‘fresh’ connections with Johnny on the re-ride.

EXOTICA:  9-Didia (6-1), Fluffy Socks (9-2).

G3 FRED W HOOPER                                                                              Race 11

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  1-Hejazi (9-5) placed gamely after speed duel placing behind Speed Boat Beach in G1 Malibu; strong 5F bullet for this, pedigree wants today’s added trip; Prat a good fit.

BEST VALUE:  11-Tumbarumba (8-1) placed gamely after chasing 1-5 choice in La-bred stakes; turns back to winning trip, reunites with winning partner Saez, working very well, outside post a plus.

EXOTICA:  6-Gilmore (15-1), 3-Steal Sunshine (6-1), 8-Accretive (5-1)

GI PEGASUS WORLD CUP TURF                                                     Race 12

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: 9-Warm Heart (9-5) layover on company lines and Group 1 resume; looking to go home a winner and improve lifetime turf mark to (10) 6-2-1 and over $2M in earnings for O’Brien/Moore team.

BEST VALUE:  3-Integration (3-1) [need early line odds at minimum]. Undefeated in three lifetime runs, including two stakes and two at the trip, has been visually impressive, particularly in G2 Hill Prince; tough spot but McGaughey has very bullish spotting this Quality Road-Scat Daddy boy. Reunites with Tyler and well posted.

EXOTICA:  5-Webslinger (15-1), 12-Catnip (15-1), 11-Main Event (10-1), 6-Kingmax (12-1)

When more than one horse appears in the same category, choices are listed in preferred order

This is a live column and will be updated throughout the weekend

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6 Responses

  1. Hi John
    what do you think of Webslinger `s chances in the Turf ?
    Also as someone who lived in Saratoga for many years and has retired to NC, I am hoping to go back up to be there Belmont Stakes week but have heard the General Admission prices are going to be astronomical (125.00) each day. Say it ain`t so John?

    1. Arthur, still working on the Pegasus undercard. The Turf is wide open and Webslinger is a contender. Will have more as we get closer to Saturday.
      Don’t know anything about Belmont Stakes pricing But with tickets to major sports and entertainment events in three or four figures–in the primary market–I wouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Hi John
    it was announced on yesterdays Paulick Report that the 4 day Belmont Stakes ticket prices would be 90.00 for all 4 days and 50.00 for the Belmont stand alone.
    thanks for getting back to me !
    here are my picks for Race 12 exacta boxes on 3-4-5-9-11 11 seems like the lone speed and loves the track, the filly to me is the one to beat.
    Race 13 exacta boxes 2-7-8-10-11 First Mission looks like the one to beat.
    Thanks and Good Luck

  3. Arthur, mega-boxes just might be the right approach today. The fields are full, loaded wit talent, meaning trips can dominate the results more than usual. And it just might be that chaos rules the day. May the horses be with you, all the HRI Faithful, and may all the horses come home safely …

    1. After what we see race after race day after day and again through three races today, at big prices I think it might be time to start having the Mount Rushmore discussion. He is stupid good

      1. He was absolutely the difference in three of his five winners. He’s been Cordero, Pincay, and Bailey type dominant, remarkable rider.

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