HALLANDALE BEACH, FL –Sometimes, cogent quotes from the Trainer-Speak Media Handbook gets a little old: “We’ve liked him from the start…” “She’s doing very well and we expect her to run big this weekend…” “We’ll let the horse tell us when to run next…”
Well, it wasn’t so much that Mucho Gusto told Bob Baffert to run in the Pegasus World Cup, he yelled, like horses sometimes do, a whinny that could be heard from Arcadia to Hallandale Beach.
And so it came to pass that the newly turned four-year-old drew into the race as the first alternate then blew the 4th Pegasus World Cup Invitational wide open as he made his winning sweep into the Gulfstream Park straight.
Of course, Baffert had lots of help–from competition that never materialized. First, Maximum Security, who held him at bay on a sultry afternoon on the Jersey Shore last summer, opted for a shot at 20 million bloody dollars in the Arabian desert next month.
Then Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun To Run contracted a bad case of the hives, indicating at the very least a high level of stress or other issues, requiring dulling doses of antibiotics–not the way to go into a big race.
That, probably more than anything, was the reason Irad Ortiz Jr. jumped off the Dirt Mile winner weeks in advance in favor of Mucho Gusto. Perhaps Mr. Baffert had his ear very close to the ground, too, possibly both.
Of course, the mucho grande defection was star-crossed Omaha Beach. A filling in his right hind ankle was discovered during the enhanced protocol process and ultimately the decision to scratch, on the advice of Dr. Larry Bramlage, was, as Hall of Famer Richard Mandella said, “a no-brainer.”
Ortiz, who collected a second consecutive Eclipse Award as Outstanding Jockey less than 48 hours earlier, gave a future Hall of Fame ride.
A strong warm-up, a sharp break away from post #8–important going this trip at Gulfstream–Ortiz saved ground thereafter, tipped out at headstretch and his mount drew off with authority.
Probably not since the old D-Wayne-Off-the-Plane days has there been a ship-in trainer as prolific as Bob Baffert. This would be, say, as opposed to John Sadler who, until he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic two years ago, was notoriously unproductive outside the state of California.
Sadler started Higher Power, one of the race’s few Grade 1 winners going into the race. Off favored at 5-2, the Californian was enjoying a perfect stalking trip until nearing the half-mile pole where he began to falter badly. Higher Power finished last of 10.
Mr. Freeze, ridden far too aggressively to reach the front, was pressured on the pace throughout but held very determinedly for place as old pro War Story came flying home late and. while never a win threat, was a terrific third.
Zulu Alpha Trips Out, and Draws Out, to Win Pegasus Turf
Or maybe we should say that Tyler Gaffalione won the Pegasus Turf with an able assist from his gelded seven-year-old partner and prolific grass teacher Mike Maker, ‘Zulu’ earning his first career Grade 1. Geldings are known for getting better with age and this one certainly has.
But this brings us back to Gaffalione who gained national prominence last year winning the Preakness Stakes with War of Will, among other significant victories, then the Davie native returns home the next year to win Gulfstream’s richest non-Breeders’ Cup turf race.
As everyone knows, trips, primarily ground saving trips, win grass races but trip assessment often occur in the eyes of the beholder:
“Just a great horse,” Maker said: “I thought he got unlucky in the Breeders’ Cup or he might have gotten a bigger slice.” Indeed, it’s difficult making up late ground at Santa Anita when six wide at headstretch. “I was hoping [Tyler] would get out. But he saved all the ground and got lucky.”
The young riding star saw it a bit differently: “The speed set up in front of us and I was able to let my horse settle, Gaffalione explained. “They just kept opening up and I didn’t see any reason to go around them so we just stayed on the fence. He really exploded down in there.” He sure did.
Nine Stakes, Six Graded, Produce Near Record Pegasus Day Handle
Handle can be a flawed metric when measuring business success; it’s about net revenue, right? Well, what price is a successful event worth? Getting a young crowd compared to racing’s older demographics, and an attractive well-dressed bunch compared to any non-event racing day. Priceless?
We left the Gulfstream a few minutes after 7 pm and young people were filing into the grounds for the woke entertainment. Anyway, business was brisk. Saturday’s handle of $41.8 million lost by a nose to the $41.9 all-time Pegasus Day record.
Year over year, handle was up $4 million+ from 2019’s rain-soaked program. And dare we say the record would have fallen if the results were a bit more formful, resulting in better churn?
There were four single-digit winners and one favorite on the 12-race card, a Todd Pletcher first-time starter with a big future named Market Analysis. The remaining mutuels were $24.60, 11.80, 13.00, 15.40, 12.60, 74.60, and 25.60.
Pot of Gold Must Be Dispersed Today
After not producing an entire-pool winner for 41 consecutive days, the Rainbow 6, with today’s jackpot carryover of $3.6 million is likely to produce a total Pick 6 pool exceeding $15 million. Multiple winners of Saturday’s sequence each collected a massive $390K.
Saturday, five members in the 10-horse Pegasus would have taken down the pool if True Timber, Higher Power, War Story, Tenfold or Bodexpress had won.
No one in the press box could ever recall when a massive carryover would have gone to a lone winner holding a ticket that including the favorite in the finale.