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A BRILLIANT CAREER FINALE

 Edited Gulfstream Staff Release – Globe-trotting filly Warm Heart, already a multiple Group 1 winner last year in Europe, capped her racing career in style with a record-setting performance in Saturday’s $1 million 1/ST BET Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Invitational at Gulfstream Park.

            The sixth running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf and the eighth renewal of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by Baccarat on dirt, both at 1 1/8 miles, and the third edition of the $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G2) headlined a blockbuster Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series program featuring seven graded-stakes worth $5.2 million in purses.

            Based in Ireland with trainer Aidan O’Brien, Warm Heart ($6.80) covered the distance in 1:44.45 over a firm turf course to break the track record of 1:44.51 set by champion English Channel in a Feb. 22, 2007 allowance.

            Given a heady and patient trip from O’Brien’s first-call rider, champion Ryan Moore, the 4-year-old Warm Heart became both the first female and first European-based horse to win a Pegasus race. She retires with six wins and $2.2 million in purse earnings from 11 starts, and is booked to be bred to 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify.

            “We’re absolutely delighted. It’s incredible,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said by phone from Ireland. “Ryan obviously gave her an incredible ride and has done such an incredible job. We’re just so delighted for everyone, and for her to go off now to Justify is so exciting. She’s absolutely made for him.”

            Main Event, front-running winner of Gulfstream’s Pegasus Turf prep, the Dec. 30 Fort Lauderdale (G2), was intent on the lead from Post 11 and got there under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, going the opening quarter-mile 23.47 seconds and a half in 46.86 with Jerry the Nipper pressing on his outside and Moore having settled Warm Heart in third along the rail.

            The order remained unchanged as they rounded the far turn, with Moore biding his time behind Main Event. Once straightened for home, Moore sent Warm Heart through a narrow opening between Main Event and the rail and she sailed through with aplomb, creating enough space from her rivals to hold off a late charge by I’m Very Busy to win by a half-length.

            It was a neck back to the third-place finisher, 45-1 longshot Catnip, who was a length in front of defending Pegasus Turf champion Atone. Integration, Webslinger, Kingmax, Shirl’s Speight, Jerry the Nipper, Adhamo, Main Event and Master Piece completed the order of finish. Also-eligibles Grand Sonata and Anglophile were scratched.

            “The leader, he was always leaning out and he was weakening, and I knew I had plenty of horse, so no problem. I was happy to wait,” Moore said. “She’s always traveling very comfortably. I didn’t want to be there too early, and I didn’t want to be tipping out into the straight, and I thought I’d just wait. Se’s a great filly. She’s had an incredible year. She hasn’t had a bad race.”

            Warm Heart won the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) in England and Prix Vermeille (G1) in France in back-to-back starts last summer and fall, then was beaten a neck when second to champion Inspiral in the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita. From there she went to Hong Kong to face males for the first time in the 1 ½-mile Vase (G1) Dec. 10, finishing third.

            “She’s an incredible filly. Ryan said it just didn’t work out for her the last race,” O’Brien said. “But she’s tactical, she’s tough and she quickens. She doesn’t do an awful lot when she gets there but that’s the way she’s always been. She’s very classy and very hardy, loves the fast ground.

            “We’d love to have her and to be racing her, but the lads’ business is breeding these horses and she’s an absolutely incredible broodmare to be going to Justify,” he added. “It’s so exciting, really.”

            Trainer Chad Brown was thrilled with the effort from I’m Very Busy, who has now run second in three graded-stakes, most recently in the Nov. 18 Hill Prince (G2) to previously undefeated Integration, who suffered his first loss when fifth in the Pegasus Turf.

            “I thought he got a really good trip,” Brown said. “Our goal was to follow one of the live horses. Drawn next to Integration, that was the horse to follow and [jockey] Irad [Ortiz Jr.] executed it perfectly. He had to pause just momentarily in the stretch to wait for a seam and it might have cost him the win there. We’re very proud of him.”

            This was the third Pegasus Turf try for O’Brien, who ran second with filly Magic Wand in 2019 and 2020.

            “We enjoyed watching it. It looked like an incredible day,” he said. “I wish I was there.”

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