Advance Wagering on Pegasus World Cup Card Available Friday

GULFSTREAM PARK, FLORIDA

Saturday’s Late Pick 4 and Pick 5 Pools Guaranteed at $750,000
Cobbs Relishes Underdog Role with Sleepy Eyes Todd in Pegasus
Mandatory Rainbow 6 Payout Set for Sunday’s Program

 HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Advance wagering on the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1 and all other races on Saturday’s 12-race program will be available to bettors on Friday.

The Pegasus Day program will feature graded stakes in the last six races on Saturday’s program. The Late Pick 4 (Races 9-12) and Late Pick 5 (Races 8-12) will both have guaranteed pools of $750,000

The Pegasus Turf (Race 11) and the Pegasus (Race 12) will anchor the sequences for the Saturday’s Late Pick 4 and Pick 5, as well as the Rainbow 6 (Races 7-12).

Cobbs Relishes Underdog Role with Sleepy Eyes Todd in Pegasus

A racing fan since his youth and after seven years as a Thoroughbred owner, David Cobb has a firm grasp of the significance of having Sleepy Eyes Todd in the field for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Sleepy Eyes Todd is a quintessential blue-collar hero. He was purchased for $9,000 as a weanling in 2016, has won eight of 15 races with trainer Miguel Silva and earned $744,825. The two-time graded stakes winner has competed at 11 tracks in nine states for Cobb’s fledgling Thumbs Up Racing operation. Though success has made his post-time odds are much lower these days, he won his debut at Remington Park in Oklahoma in 2018 at 29-1 and was second in the 2019 Oklahoma Derby (G3) at 40-1.

“He’s never had the respect, but I’ll tell you something: We relish being the underdogs,” Cobb said. “We’ve been there the whole time. Miguel has been an underdog his whole life. I’m a small guy with all the big guys. I’ve got to tell you that it’s very rewarding to finally be recognized and to be invited to such a prestigious event as the Pegasus.”

A half-length victory in the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream on Dec. 19 was the final stepping stone to the grand stage.

The Cobbs live in Pleasanton, California and are building a home in Crescent, Texas near Houston so they can be closer to the home base of their racing and breeding business. Cobb, 59, said he made his first visit to a racetrack, the now-closed Bay Meadows in his hometown of San Mateo, Calif., as a 4-year-old with his great-grandmother, grandparents and mother.

“Back then, in the mid-60s, there were crowds of 10,000 people,” he said. “I was a little kid and had never seen anything like it, except at the Disneyland. Pretty neat stuff.”

A few years later, Cobb’s uncle began teaching him about handicapping and took him with along to Bay Meadows. The hook had been set.

“By the time nine or 10 years old, I could read a Racing Form as well as anybody could,” Cobb said. “I’m kind of a numbers guy and it was always fascinating to me.”

Cobb is now retired from a career in which he was a truck driver, business owner and real estate investor.

Cobb stepped into horse racing ownership in 2014 in some small partnerships and in 2015, he claimed the Cal-bred Spot Special for $12,500. He ran in his own name for five seasons, but renamed his growing operation Thumbs Up Racing last year. With Sleepy Eyes Todd leading the way, Cobb had his best year in racing with 13 wins and $688,215 in earnings.

In November 2016, with trainer Jonathan Wong as his advisor and agent and some friends with a lot of experience with horses, Cobb purchased a total of six moderately priced horses at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock.

That Cobb sextet included the young son of Paddy O’Prado, who Cobb later named Sleepy Eyes Todd. A bargain-basement purchase, he has become the first graded stakes winner for Silva and Cobb and could become their first millionaire.

“I study breeding, but there are things I cannot do, that real horsemen can see,” Cobb said. “It was a team effort.”

Two years later, Sleepy Eyes Todd was ready for his racing debut in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight race at Remington Park. Cobb said he will never forget that experience.

“Miguel is telling me ‘hey, you really have something here,’” Cobb said. “We were standing out there watching the race around the finish line. The horses break from the gate and at the four-furlong mark he’s probably nine and a half lengths behind. I go, ‘Miguel, are you serious?’ He goes, ‘Relax.’ I don’t relax that easily and said ‘OK.’ Sure as could be, he blew by everybody and won the race by a half-length. He could have won by five if they went another six strides. Just an amazing horse.”

After a brief try to see if he might be good enough to compete on the Triple Crown trail, Cobb and Silva settled on a more conventional path with their young colt. He missed some time with an injury, returned to win two races at Canterbury Park in Minnesota during the summer then ran second to Owendale in the Oklahoma Derby (G3).

After another stakes win at Remington Park, his connections thought he ought to be considered for the 2020 Pegasus World Cup. He didn’t have the credentials to warrant an invite and headed off to a campaign of eight races at eight tracks with eight different jockeys. The first victory of the season came at, Fonner Park in Nebraska, a track that rarely hosts Grade 1-caliber horses, in the Bosselman Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes. Wins at the Charles Town Classic (G2) in August, the Lafayette at Keeneland in November and the Mr. Prospector earned him a berth in the Pegasus.

“Thank God, this horse is a freak,” Cobb said. “He ships so well and can adapt to where ever he goes. He likes to be there a few weeks ahead of time and get a couple of works under his belt. He never gets sick, nothing, knock on wood.

Cobb said that his stable has grown to the point where he has about 20 horses in training at a time. He also has a group of broodmares and moved into breeding. Sleepy Eyes Todd is the star of the show and has taken the Cobbs and Silva for a ride into the racing’s major league.

“It’s overwhelming to us, yes. It could be life-changing, too,” Cobb said.  “We have been invited to the Saudi Cup, so between these two we’re kind of in la-la land right now.

“I’m a pretty humble, modest guy so I keep it in perspective. These next two months could really change things for us. It won’t change how we live, but it’s exciting nonetheless.”

Friday’s Rainbow 6 Jackpot Pool Guaranteed at $200,000

The 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot pool will be guaranteed for $200,000 Friday at Gulfstream Park.

The popular multi-race wager went unsolved Thursday, one day after a lucky bettor broke the jackpot for $636,311 on Wednesday. Multiple winning tickets Thursday returned $1,719.90.

The jackpot pool is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.

Friday’s Rainbow 6 sequence will span Races 5-10, including the much-anticipated return of Todd Pletcher-trained Arham in the featured Race 9, a first-level optional claiming allowance for 4-year-olds and up at six furlongs. Shadwell Farm’s 4-year-old son of Union Rags debuted impressively at Gulfstream Dec. 17, overcoming bumping at the start to draw off to a seven-length victory. Arham ran six-furlongs in 1:10 under Luis Saez, who has the call Friday.

WHO’S HOT: Jockey Junior Alvarado continued his winning ways with three wins. Alvarado won aboard Palace Coup ($13.80) in the sixth, Miss Italy ($8) in the eighth and Mira Mission ($6) in the ninth…Jockey Luis Saez rode three winners on Thursday’s program, scorning aboard Queens Embrace ($2.80) in Race 1, Valletta $5.40 in Race 3 and Shakem ($6.60) in Race 4.

Reeves and Hill Try Again in Pegasus with Tax

Aftercare Supporters One of the Favorites in $3 Million World Cup (G1)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – No owners have supported Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational program more than Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and R.A. Hill Stable.

With Tax in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) for the second straight year, Dean and Patti Reeves and Randy Hill will have competed in the headliner four of the five years since the stakes was transformed from the Donn Handicap into one of the world’s most lucrative races for older horses. The only year the partners weren’t in the Pegasus, they were represented in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) with Channel Maker.

Now, they just need to hit the board for the first time in a Pegasus event. Tax finished ninth last year after stumbling badly at the start of the 2020 edition. He’s raced only twice since, finishing fifth in the May 2 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and returning from a 7 1/2-month hiatus for a dominating front-running 4 1 /2-length victory in Gulfstream Park’s Harlan’s Holiday (G3) Dec. 12. Luis Saez has the return mount for the Pegasus.

“I think he’s as good as anybody in the race, and I think we’ll be very competitive,” said Dean Reeves, who campaigns his large stable with wife, Patti. “I think this is the best shot for Randy and I, hopefully, to get some of our money back that we put into the Pegasus. Because we’ve had a horse in it every year since they started it, and maybe perseverance will pay off for us.”

Trainer Danny Gargan claimed Tax out of a $50,000 maiden claiming race in his second career start with owner Hugh Lynch. Gargan offered part of the horse to Reeves and Hill, but they decided they had enough horses and weren’t interested. After Tax finished third in Aqueduct’s 2018 Remsen Stakes (G2), “We called Danny up and said, ‘We just became interested,’” Dean Reeves recalled with a laugh.

The gelded son of the late Claiborne Farm stallion Arch has been a terrific acquisition, including winning Aqueduct’s Withers (G3) in his next start for his new owners and taking second in the 2019 Wood Memorial (G2) to land in the Kentucky Derby (G1). While he languished home 15th in a quagmire that day, Tax rebounded to be a close fourth in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and went on to capture Saratoga’s Jim Dandy (G2). If he finishes in the top seven in the Pegasus, he’ll become a millionaire.

After the Oaklawn fifth place performance that Gargan says was deceptively good, Tax was given time off with the goal of pointing to the Breeders’ Cup. A particularly untimely temperature kept him out of a Breeders’ Cup prep race, with the Pegasus then becoming the objective.

“It seems like the best thing we did was giving him some time over the summer,” Dean Reeves said. “He ran as good as we’ve ever seen him run in the Harlan’s Holiday.”

Gargan, who could win his first Grade 1 race in the Pegasus, agrees.

“He’s doing tremendous,” he said. “The time off helped him grow up. He’s a better horse than he used to be. I think this year is going to be the best of his career. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s doing better, eats better. He looks phenomenal. When he was a young horse, he had some issues, little things that plagued him through his 3-year-old year that have gone away with time and the layoff.”

The Reeveses were fairly new to horse racing, and definitely new to the sport’s top echelon, when they bought into a 2-year-old named Mucho Macho Man, whose eventual nine victories and $5.6 million in earnings included the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. He also finished third in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

If the Reeveses quickly were at the top of the sport, they subsequently learned how difficult that is to achieve.

“I want to say it was five years before I won a graded stakes again,” Dean Reeves said. “I thought you just go down there and buy you another one, and they’re going to be like Mucho Macho Man. It really showed me what a great accomplishment that horse had in his career, what he was able to accomplish with [trainer] Kathy (Ritvo) and the work everybody did. I realized five years later, when Classic Rock won a Grade 3, just how difficult it was. Looking back, it’s tough to win a Grade 1. Those are few and far between.”

Mucho Macho Man got better with age, and Dean Reeves believes the same is true for Tax.

“I understand how everybody has to look at it financially,” he said of deals with stud farms. “But we’re retiring some of these horses well in advance of them reaching their full potential. I think I saw that in Mucho Macho Man. He ran well as a 4-year-old, finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup,  but then won it as a 5-year-old.

“I see a lot of similarities between Mucho Macho Man and Channel Maker, how as they’ve gotten older how they’ve gotten so much better,” he added. “And I think they become so mentally tough. I just think Tax is going to have a tremendous year, and I hope we run well in the Pegasus.”

Reeves and Hill finished eighth in the 2017 Pegasus with Breaking Lucky and 12th in 2018 with Toast of New York, while Channel Maker was fifth in the 2019 Pegasus Turf, sparking Reeves to quip, “I’d have loved to have had Mucho Macho Man run in it.”

Mucho Macho Man was sent to stud at age 7 in 2015, his subsequent progeny including 2020 Pegasus World Cup winner Mucho Gusto. With both Tax and the 7-year-old gelding Channel Maker, a leading contender to be voted 2020’s male turf champion, Reeves doesn’t have to worry about a stallion career.

“Let me tell you: I used to go, ‘Oh, it’s a gelding. I don’t want him,’” Reeves said. “Now, to have a gelding that can run and win money for you for four or five years is great. For Tax, we may run in the Pegasus three times with him or three more times. We may go to Dubai or Saudi Arabia with him. A lot of his competition is retired, so having a good gelding is not a bad deal.

“Channel Maker’s another gelding. Look, it isn’t all about being a stallion. I mean, we’re in it for the races. Hey, if we can win it, they still pay you,” he added.

While Mucho Macho Man retired from the track to a palatial stud home, first at Adena Springs and now at Hill ’n’ Dale Farms, most horses don’t have such post-racing guarantees. The Reeves’ are big supporters of the nonprofit Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which accredits, inspects and awards grants to its approved aftercare organizations to retrain, retire and adopt out horses using industry-wide funding.

“It’s important to make sure retired horses get a good home,” Dean Reeves said. “When you buy them, you think they’re all going to be superstars. Some obviously have more talent than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying. They become like family. When they do leave the nest, so to speak, you want to make sure who they’re going to, keeping the (registration) papers so they don’t race anymore, just doing your due diligence.

“We’ve gotten as much satisfaction seeing some of our horses come back as great dressage horses or eventing horses, where people send us pictures of them when they’ve won ribbons and awards. We just love that. We take a lot of pride in seeing them where they access in a second career,” he added.

The Reeveses also are supporters of accredited TAA facilities such as New Vocations in Lexington, Ky., and South Carolina’s Equine Rescue of Aiken and other organizations. They are among the horse owners committing a percentage of any Breeders’ Cup earnings, such as Channel Maker’s third in the $4 million Longines Turf, to the TAA.

“Patti and Dean Reeves have been very successful in Thoroughbred racing, and they really do care about their horses long term,” said TAA operations consultant Stacie Clark Rogers. “Their stable has been very supportive of the TAA and of our TAA accredited organizations.”

Florida consultant Jay Stone and trainer Kathy Ritvo are instrumental in helping the Reeveses find new homes for their equine retirees. Patti Reeves says she works to spread their horses around and find the best match, including what its new career might be.

She points to Mac Daddy Mac as a prime example. The Reeveses purchased the colt after he won his debut at Santa Anita at 40-1 odds, finishing second in a Grade 3 stakes in his next start. A throat issue compromised his ability, and Mac Daddy Mac was ultimately retired after three more races spread over his 3- and 4-year-old seasons. Now he’s finding success in the show world, with equestrian Ashley Keller retraining Mac Daddy Mac into an eventing horse at Chattahoochee Hills Eventing near Atlanta, where the Reeveses live.

“He was a great horse, just loved his job, had great personality,” Patti Reeves said. “We found a new home for him in the Atlanta area at Chattahoochee Hills Eventing. (Keller) taught him dressage, jumping, eventing. What she has done with this horse is amazing. He’s just a great example of a horse that just because he couldn’t race, he wasn’t done. You’re involved in racing, but that’s just a short part of their life. We care about the entire program for the horse. We don’t want to just be good to the horse while they’re racing. We want to make sure they end up in good places and are treated well.”

Story: Jennie Rees

Gulfstream Park Daily Results and Activity

Results

Thursday, January 21
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Starter Allowance – $16,000 $31,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Claiming – $6,250 $17,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Starter Allowance – $50,000 $38,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Maiden Claiming – $12,500 $19,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Maiden Special Weight $47,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Claiming – $35,000 $31,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Starter Optional Claiming – $40,000 $37,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 8 Claiming – $12,500 $22,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 9 Starter Optional Claiming – $50,000 $38,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 10 Claiming – $35,000 $31,000 Overnight Overnight



Early Entries

Sunday, January 24 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $25,000
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $25,000 $29,000
Race 3 Claiming – $20,000 $27,000
Race 4 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 5 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 6 Claiming – $20,000 $24,000
Race 7 Claiming – $6,250 $19,000
Race 8 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 9 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $47,000
Race 10 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $51,000
Race 11 Claiming – $20,000 $24,000

Final Entries

Saturday, January 23
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $51,000
Race 2 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 3 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $51,000
Race 4 Fred W. Hooper S. $125,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $52,000
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 7 Marshua’s River S. $125,000
Race 8 La Prevoyante S. $125,000
Race 9 Inside Information S. $200,000
Race 10 W. L. McKnight S. $150,000
Race 11 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational S. $1,000,000
Race 12 Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. $3,000,000

Improving Colonel Liam Gets Favorite’s Role in G1 Pegasus Turf

Heads Talented Pletcher-Trained Trio in $1 Million Grass Event
Among Seven Graded-Stakes Worth $4.725 Million Jan. 23

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam, making just his sixth career start and first in graded company, figures to garner plenty of support in the richest grass stakes of the winter season, Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

The third running of the 1 3/16-mile Pegasus Turf and the fifth renewal of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on dirt comprise the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series, headlining a blockbuster 12-race program featuring seven graded-stakes worth $4.725 million in purses.

First race post time is 11:40 a.m. EST. The Pegasus Turf will be part of NBC’s live national telecast from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

This year, the Pegasus Turf will serve as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for the $1 million Middle Distance Turf Handicap Feb. 20 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In addition, the Pegasus World Cup is a ‘Win and In’ race for the $20 million Saudi Cup.

During Wednesday’s post-position draw inside Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Theatre, Colonel Liam was made the narrow 7-2 program favorite over stablemate Largent (9-2) in a field of a dozen stakes winners, 10 of them graded, including Grade 1 winners Aquaphobia, Next Shares, Say the Word and Storm the Court, the 2-year-old male champion of 2019.

Colonel Liam and Largent are part of trainer Todd Pletcher’s triple threat that includes Social Paranoia (8-1), also among the five horses listed at less than double-digit odds. The others are Anothertwistafate (5-1) and Say the Word (6-1).

“The mile and three-sixteenths is a little different distance for Largent. He’s never been quite that far but the way he ran in the Fort Lauderdale going a mile and an eighth certainly gives you confidence he’ll handle it,” Pletcher said.

“Social Paranoia has won as far as a mile and five-sixteenths, and Colonel Liam was a little bit unlucky in the Saratoga Derby at a mile and a quarter. I think [the distance] should work for all three of them,” he added.

Colonel Liam, a 4-year-old son of Liam’s Map, is the least experienced runner in the Pegasus Turf.  Liam’s Map was a two-time Grade 1 winner on dirt for Pletcher, taking the 2015 Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“It’s always fun when you’re training the offspring of a horse that you’ve trained,” Pletcher said. “It’s great to see Liam’s Map doing well as a stallion and showing his versatility of getting dirt horses and turf horses and good 2-year-olds, and showing that he’s capable of siring just about any type of horse.”

A $1.2 million purchase as a 2-year-old in training in April 2019, Colonel Liam went unraced as a juvenile before debuting against older horses going a mile on dirt last April at Gulfstream, where he was placed first after finishing a troubled second. Moved to the grass for the first time in his third start, he beat his elders again in an open allowance at Saratoga, then encountered trouble again while running fourth, beaten less than a length, in the Saratoga Derby.

Colonel Liam turned in his best performance to date last time out, rating in mid-pack off a moderate pace before coming with a four-wide move to take the lead and widen his advantage through the stretch to win the 1 1/16-mile Tropical Park Derby by 3 ¼ lengths Dec. 26 at Gulfstream.

“Very impressed,” Pletcher said. “I loved the way he pulled away at the end. We’ve always had high hopes for him, so it’s nice to see him living up to those.”

Irad Ortiz Jr., up in the Tropical Park Derby, rides back from Post 5.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Largent also had a career-best effort in his most recent start, saving ground inside before forging a short lead at the top of the stretch and drawing clear to a two-length triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 12. The 5-year-old Into Mischief gelding, never worse than second in nine starts with six wins, beat Virginia-breds in turf stakes at Laurel Park and Colonial Downs last summer.

“That was his breakthrough performance,” Pletcher said. “He’s always been very consistent. He’s run against some really nice horses. We took advantage of his Virginia-bred status because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you have those kinds of options. It wasn’t so much that we felt like he didn’t belong at Saratoga or some bigger races; we had the opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it.”

Paco Lopez gets the return call on Largent from Post 6.

Winner of the one-mile Poker (G3) in July, The Elkstone Group’s Social Paranoia, 5, went unraced until capturing a 7 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance Dec. 16 on the Gulfstream turf. The son of Street Boss owns three wins in four tries on the local surface including the one-mile Appleton (G3) last winter. He won the Dueling Grounds Derby going 1 5/16 miles at Kentucky Downs in 2019.

“He’s consistent and likes this course, and he’s proven at the distance,” Pletcher said. “The key, for him and Colonial Liam both, was we needed a race under their belt to kind of set them up for this. They were both coming off short layoffs so a prep race was important for both of them.”

Luis Saez, whose previous trip aboard Social Paranoia came in his March 2019 maiden triumph at Gulfstream, has the assignment from outside Post 12.

Peter Redekop

Peter Redekop’s Anothertwistafate, based in California with trainer Peter Miller, is a stakes winner on three surfaces. He won the El Camino Real on Golden Gate’s all-weather track and was second by a neck in the Sunland Derby (G3) on dirt, both going 1 1/8 miles, while on the 2019 Triple Crown trail.

The 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy won the Longacres Mile (G3) going a mile at Emerald Downs last September in one of only two 2020 starts, and in just his second race for Miller captured the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel (G2) on the Santa Anita turf Jan. 2. Joel Rosario rides for the third straight race from Post 8.

“I don’t think [distance] will be an issue,” Miller said. “He’s the type of horse that doesn’t seem to get tired. He’s got a lot of stamina and is built like a horse that can get a mile and a half.”

A win by homebred Say the Word would be a fitting sendoff for Sam-Son Farm, the legendary owner and breeder of 84 Sovereign Award winners and four Eclipse Award winners, which is undergoing a complete dispersal of its racing and breeding stock. The 6-year-old gelding became a Grade 1 winner in the 1 ½-mile Northern Dancer (G1) last October on the Woodbine turf and exits a third, beaten one length, in the 1 ½-mile Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) Nov. 27 at Del Mar.

Flavien Prat, up in the Turf Cup, rides Say the Word (6-1) from Post 11.

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will send out a pair of contenders in North Dakota (10-1) and Breaking the Rules (20-1). Allen Stable Inc. homebred North Dakota, a 5-year-old half-brother to Grade 2 winner and influential sire War Front, needed seven tries to break his maiden but has won four of his last six races. The most recent came in the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith (G3) Nov. 21 at Aqueduct.

“He’s been kind of a late bloomer but he’s been doing well. His races, really all [last] year, have been good so we’re looking forward to running him here,” McGaughey said. “He’s a true distance horse, probably even a little more than a mile and three-sixteenths. The way he’s doing and the way he’s been coming around, all year really, [is great], and his races have been spaced and he’s fresh and we’re ready to give it a try.”

Another homebred, Phipps Stable’s Breaking the Rules is a 6-year-old son of War Front that has three career races over the Gulfstream turf, winning the Tropical Park Derby and finishing second by a head in the Canadian Turf (G3) during the 2018-2019 Championship Meet. He went two-for-five in 2020, running fourth in the Lure and Knickerbocker (G2) in New York and third by two lengths in the Fort Lauderdale under jockey Edgard Zayas after being bumped at the start.

“I think he’s had a pretty good year. I was disappointed in his race at Saratoga in the Lure. Then he came back and I thought he ran fine on a track he doesn’t prefer. He wants it hard and it had more give to it than I thought,” McGaughey said. “I thought his race here in the Fort Lauderdale was pretty good. I think that Edgard was not familiar with him and he told me he thought he was too far back and I think he moved a little bit soon on him. He got caught up on the outside and didn’t get beat far. It was a fast race, so I’m looking forward to getting him stretched out.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez is named on Breaking the Rules from Post 2, while Jose Ortiz has the call on North Dakota from Post 4.

Exline-Border Racing, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson and Dan Hudock’s Storm the Court (12-1) went winless in eight 2020 starts, including a sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), after clinching his Eclipse Award with a front-running head triumph in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He has raced three times on the turf for trainer Peter Eurton, running second in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla (G3) last summer at Del Mar as well as the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Julien Leparoux gets the assignment from Post 3.

Trainer Mike Maker upset the 2020 Pegasus Turf with Zulu Alpha, and while that horse continues to recover from an injury that knocked him out of the Breeders’ Cup last fall, Maker will be represented by the pair of Cross Border (15-1) and Aquaphobia (20-1).

“It was cool to win it last year, it’d be cooler to win this year and even cooler than that to win it again next year,” Maker said.

Three Diamonds Farm’s Cross Border owns nine wins from 30 lifetime starts and became a graded winner when elevated to first in the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green (G2) last summer at Saratoga following the disqualification of Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy, who edged Cross Border by a neck. Last time out, the gelded 7-year-old son of turf champion English Channel was beaten a head when second in the 1 1/16-mile Buddy Diliberto Memorial Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds.

“I like his chances. He’s doing great and shipped over well. We’re looking forward to running him,” Maker said. “He’s been a very solid horse. We’ve had luck with him from 6 ½ furlongs to a mile and a half. He just loves his job and he’s easy to train.”

Paradise Farms Corp., David Staudacher, Hooties Racing and Skychai Racing’s Aquaphobia is the most experienced runner in the Pegasus Turf with 39 career starts, nine of them wins, none bigger than his one-length triumph in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations (G1) last July at Monmouth Park. The 8-year-old Giant’s Causeway horse has raced exclusive in stakes since being claimed by Maker for $62,500 last winter at Gulfstream, most recently running sixth by two lengths behind North Dakota in the Red Smith.

“He’s a horse we were trying to get for quite some time and we were fortunate to get him,” Maker said. “We gave him some freshening. He just got outrun last time and he’s doing super now. He’ll get a firmer course here which he likes and I think the distance is favorable for him.”

Tyler Gaffalione will ride Cross Border from Post 9. Joe Bravo, aboard in the United Nations, returns from Post 7.

Godolphin’s well-traveled homebred Pixelate (15-1) was a popular head winner of the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby (G2) last September, and is coming off a half-length victory in the one-mile Woodchopper Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds. The 4-year-old City Zip colt will be making his Gulfstream debut in his 15th career start, having raced at nine different tracks in seven states. Edgard Zayas gets the assignment from Post 10.

Co-owned by a partnership that includes trainer Richard Baltas and his wife, Debby, Next Shares (20-1) is the richest horse in the Pegasus Turf with a $1.85 million bankroll and one of two millionaires in the field, along with Storm the Court. The 8-year-old Archarcharch gelding and 2018 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) victor is winless since his triumph in the November 2019 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2).

Next Shares will be making his third straight appearance in the Pegasus Turf, having finished seventh in 2019 and 12th in 2020. Drayden Van Dyke has the call from Post 1.

‘Knicks’ Set to ‘Go’ in Saturday’s 3 Million Dollar Pegasus World Cup

Pegasus, $1 Million Pegasus Turf Co-Headline 12-Race Card
Grade 1 Stakes Will be Supported by Five Other Graded Stakes
Advance Wagering on Pegasus Card Available on Friday
Late Pick 4 and Pick 5 Pools Guaranteed at $750,000

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go is scheduled to seek the biggest payday of his career in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park while also pursuing lucrative future considerations.

“It’s a very prestigious race. It hasn’t been around that long, but with the likes of Gun Runner, Arrogate and City of Light, there are champions that have won this race. It means a whole lot. It’s a race that can make a stallion, and we’re still trying to do that with Knicks Go,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He’ll be a stallion at some point. This would mean a lot and do a lot for his value as a stallion. Not only is it a great purse, but it’s going to add a lot of value if he’s able to win the race.”

The Pegasus, which will be contested at 1 1/8 miles for the richest purse for older horses in North America not associated with the Breeders’ Cup, and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), a 1 3/16-mile turf feature for older horses, will co-headline a 12-race program that will also offer the $200,000 Inside Information (G2), $125.000 Fred W. Hooper (G3), $125,000 William. L. McKnight (G3), $125,000 La Prevoyante (G3) and the $125,000 Marsha’s River (G3). First-race post time is set for 11:40 a.m. Advance wagering on the Pegasus program will be available on Friday. The late Pick 4 and Late Pick 5 pools will both be guaranteed at $750,000.

Knicks Go will enter the fifth running of the Pegasus off three straight victories in as many starts in 2020, including a track record-breaking triumph under Joel Rosario in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt (G2) at Keeneland. Installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 after drawing Post. No. 4 Wednesday, Knicks Go will have to prove himself by trying to carry his abundant speed beyond 1 1/16-miles, the longest distance he has run during his 17-race career.

“I haven’t raced a lot at Gulfstream, but I think speed is always a good thing there. I’m a big believer that speed is good at a mile and an eighth and beyond – obviously it depends on how much other speed is in the race. But I think he can get it. I think he’s a horse that once he gets free and loose, he runs with a lot of confidence,” Cox said.

“I’m excited. I really do think he’ll handle a mile and an eighth. In his three races with us last year, there was horse left,” he added. “In the Breeders’ Cup, Joel reached up and grabbed him four or five jumps from the wire, so he was still going.”

Knicks Go is in the middle of a career resurgence since joining Cox’s stable in 2020. The Maryland-bred son of Paynter was a top 2-year-old in 2018, capturing the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland by 5 ½ lengths and finishing second behind Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs. However, he went winless in 10 starts after his Breeders’ Futurity score.

Knicks Go registered a front-running 7 ½-length victory for Cox in a Feb. 22 optional claiming allowance at Oaklawn Park before heading to the sidelines for seven months. He returned to action with a sensational 10 ¼-length romp in a Oct. 4 optional claiming allowance at Keeneland, encouraging his connections to give the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile a try. Knicks Go came through with a spectacular 3 ½-length, front-running victory in the track-record time of 1:33.85.

Rosario has been awarded the return call aboard Knicks Go.

W. S. Farish’s Code of Honor, a graded-stakes winner over the Gulfstream Park track, was rated second in the morning-line at 9-2 after drawing Post. No. 10. The Shug McGaughey-trained 5-year-old captured the 2019 Fountain of Youth (G2) before finishing third behind Maximum Security in the both the Florida Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby (G1). He went on to win the Travers (G1) at Saratoga and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) via the disqualification of Vino Rossi at Belmont Park.

After winning the June 6 Westchester at Belmont to open his 2021 campaign, Code of Honor has been winless in four starts that include a third-place finish in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont, a troubled fourth in the Whitney (G1) at Keeneland, a runner-up finish in the Kelso at Belmont, and a second-place finish in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs.

“In the Clark, he was bottled up there. By the time he got loose, the race was pretty much over. Before that, going a mile, Chad’s horse [Complexity] kind of controlled what was going on. I think Javier [Castellano] knew he had to be closer and move a little sooner,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “The Whitney was a throw out. His first race was good. I probably shouldn’t have run him in the Metropolitan Mile. He was wide and Vekoma got the trip. He’s a nice horse. Maybe this will be his day”

Tyler Gaffalione is scheduled to ride Code of Honor for the first time Saturday,

“Obviously, he rides this racetrack very well and he’s very familiar with it,” McGaughey said. “He’s a very patient rider and that’s what Code of Honor wants, so I’m pleased to have him.”

Randy Hill, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Hugh Lynch’s Tax is set to make his second straight start in the Pegasus, in which he finished off the board after stumbling at the start last year. The 5-year-old son of Arch, one of two returning Pegasus entrants, is coming off a dominating 4 ½-length victory in the Dec. 12 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream.

“He’s better now than he’s ever been. We always knew he was a really good horse. He’s grown and developed into a better horse than he was last year. I think with age he’s getting better and getting stronger, healthier,” Gargan said. “He has a few little issues we had to work through, and he’s gotten through them. I’m expecting a big performance.”

Luis Saez has the return mount aboard Tax, who drew Post No. 7 and was rated third at 5-1.

Jim Bakke and Jerry Isbister’s Mr Freeze will seek to improve on a second-place finish behind Mucho Gusto in last year’s Pegasus. The Dale Romans-trained 6-year-old came right back from his big run in the Pegasus with a three-length victory in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). The son of To Honor and Serve has won one of six subsequent graded-stakes starts, capturing the 1 1/8-mile Fayette (G2) Oct. 10 sat Keeneland before finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and fifth in the Clark.

Mr Freeze was rated at 15-1 after drawing the Post No. 11.

“Mr Freeze has plenty of gas, so he can get out and settle where he needs to be. It’s a pretty fair race going a mile and an eighth here no matter where you draw,” said Romans, who named John Velazquez to ride Mr Freeze. “He loves this racetrack.”

Romans is also scheduled to saddle Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Helen K. Groves Revocable Trust’s Coastal Defense for the Pegasus. The 5-year-old son of Curlin finished fourth in both the Fayette and Clark in his last two starts and is also rated at 15-1. Corey Lanerie has the mount.

He is a grinder, so hopefully he can drop over before the first turn, Romans added.

Thumbs Up Racing LLC’s Sleepy Eyes Todd, who is rated at 8-1 in the morning line, enters the Pegasus off a half-length victory in the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector Dec. 19 at Gulfstream, but the 5-year-old son of Paddy O’Prado was a front-running winner in the 1 1/8-mile Charles Town Classic (G2) in August.

“I love the mile and an eighth,” trainer Miguel Silva said. “He already won at that distance and he performed really good at that distance. We’re just hoping that we have a different kind of trip. We don’t want to be on the lead and hopefully we can pick up horses at the end.”

Jose Ortiz is scheduled to ride Sleepy Eyes Todd for the first time.

Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Jesus’ Team is rated at 10-1 in the morning-line for the Pegasus on the strength of a pair of Grade 1 placings last year. After winning a $32,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream last March, the son of Tapiture went on the road to finish third in the Preakness (G1) and second behind Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The 4-year-old over-achiever returned to Gulfstream to prepare for a start in the Pegasus with a victory in the Claiming Crown Jewel Dec. 5.

Jesus’ Team is trained by Jose D’Angelo, a former leading trainer in Venezuela before venturing to South Florida in 2019,

“It’s very exciting. It is the most important race of our calendar in South Florida at Gulfstream Park,” D’Angelo said. “I think it’s a big test for both me and Jesus.”

Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Mucho Gusto to victory last year, is scheduled to ride Jesus’ Team for the first time Saturday.

Trainer Michael McCarthy, who saddled City of Light for a 5 ¾-length romp in the 2019 Pegasus, is scheduled to saddle Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creek Racing Stables LLC, Robert and Kathleen Verratti’s Independence Hall. The 4-year-old son of Constitution, who finished fifth in last year’s Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream, came off a seven-month layoff to win a Nov. 8 allowance at Del Mar before finishing fifth in the seven-furlong Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita last time out.

“There are a lot of unknowns with the horse. Can he handle a mile and an eighth? His one race at Gulfstream was just OK,” McCarthy said. “So, there are a lot of unknowns going into this.”

Flavien Prat has the call.

John Sondereker’s Kiss Today Goodbye enters the Pegasus after winning his first stakes in the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita. The Eric Kruljac-trained 4-year-old son of Cairo Prince is rated at 12-1. Mike Smith, who rode Arrogate to victory in the 2018 Pegasus, has the call on Kiss Today Goodbye.

Harpers First Ride, who has been privately purchased since his last start by GMP Stables LLC, Cypress Creek Equine and Arnold Bennewith, will seek his fifth stakes victory in six starts Saturday. The Claudio Gonzalez-trained 5-year-old son of Paynter will be ridden by regular jockey Angel Cruz.

John Fanelli and partners’ Math Wizard will seek his first victory since capturing the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) in the Pegasus. The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained 5-year-old son of Algorithms will be ridden by Edgard Zayas.

Michael Dubb, Steve Hornstock, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Nice Guys Racing’s Last Judgment, who captured the Jan. 16 Sunshine Classic by 6 ½ lengths at Gulfstream Park, drew into the field upon the withdrawal of True Timber. The Michael Maker trainee will be ridden by Paco Lopez.

MEDIA ADVISORY – PEGASUS INTERVIEWS

Brad Cox, Dale Romans, Todd Pletcher, Kirk Wycoff, Claudio Gonzalez Interviews

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Interviews for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational (G1) and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).

Brad Cox – Knicks Go (World Cup)
Click here to view

Dale Romans – Mr Freeze, Coastal Defense (World Cup)
Click here to view

Kirk Wycoff – Cross Border (World Cup Turf)
Click here to view

Todd Pletcher – Largent, Social Paranoia, Colonel Liam (World Cup Turf)
Click here to view

Claudio Gonzalez – Harpers First Ride (World Cup)
Click here to view

Gulfstream Park Daily Results and Activity

Results

Wednesday, January 20
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $16,000 $23,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $16,000 $23,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Starter Allowance – $50,000 $38,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Maiden Special Weight $40,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Claiming – $20,000 $24,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Starter Optional Claiming – $50,000 $38,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming – $16,000 $44,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 8 Claiming – $35,000 $37,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 9 Claiming – $35,000 $33,000 Overnight Overnight
Race 10 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $25,000 Overnight Overnight



Early Entries

Saturday, January 23 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $51,000
Race 2 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 3 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $51,000
Race 4 Fred W. Hooper S. $125,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $52,000
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $50,000
Race 7 Marshua’s River S. $125,000
Race 8 La Prevoyante S. $125,000
Race 9 Inside Information S. $200,000
Race 10 W. L. McKnight S. $150,000
Race 11 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational S. $1,000,000
Race 12 Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. $3,000,000

Final Entries

Friday, January 22
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $16,000 $23,000
Race 2 Claiming – $12,500 $22,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $12,500 $19,000
Race 4 Claiming – $6,250 $17,000
Race 5 Claiming – $16,000 $28,000
Race 6 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $39,000
Race 7 Starter Allowance – $16,000 $31,000
Race 8 Allowance Optional Claiming – $16,000 $40,000
Race 9 Allowance Optional Claiming – $25,000 $47,000
Race 10 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $25,000

Pegasus Turf Can Add to Pletcher’s Successful Gulfstream Legacy

TODD PLETCHER

16-Time Leading Trainer has Three Candidates for $1 Million Stakes


Video Link Included

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – He’s won the Florida Derby (G1) more times than any trainer in its history and led Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet standings a record 16 times, including a staggering 15 in a row from 2004-18.

Now, Todd Pletcher is looking to add the Pegasus World Cup to a crowded Hall of Fame caliber resume that already boasts multiple Kentucky Derby (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup race victories as well as a record seven Eclipse Awards.

Pletcher, 53, has three contenders for the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) Jan. 23 in graded-stakes winners Largent and Social Paranoia and recent Tropical Park Derby winner Colonel Liam. All three are coming off victories over Gulfstream’s grass course.

“The good thing for us is they all seem to like this turf course. They all have very good records here,” Pletcher said. “We’re pretty pleased with their final races over this course and the way they’ve been training, and the fact that their records are all good here gives us added optimism.”

Though he won’t have a starter in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), Pletcher has enjoyed success in the event in past years, respectively running third and fourth with Neolithic and Keen Ice in the inaugural 2017 edition and fifth with Audible in 2019.

Pletcher is a five-time winner of the Pegasus’ predecessor, the Donn Handicap (G1), with Harlan’s Holiday (2003), Quality Road (2010), Graydar (2013), Constitution (2015) and Mshawish (2016).

“I’m a great fan of the Donn Handicap. It was a race that was very good to us over the years, but the Pegasus kind of brings it up a notch and makes it a must-see race,” Pletcher said. “It’s always exciting to have horses running in big races.

“I think it’s great that Gulfstream’s done this with the two Pegasus races,” he added. “It gives us kind of marquee event at the meet where, maybe outside of the Florida Derby, we were missing that kind of marquee day.”

Pletcher Interview: Click here to view

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s 5-year-old gelding Largent, winner of the Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 12; The Elkstone Group’s 5-year-old Social Paranoia, winner of the Appleton (G3) on the 2020 Florida Derby undercard; and Robert and Lawana Low’s 4-year-old colt Colonel Liam are a combined eight-for-10 on the Gulfstream turf, with one second and one third.

Pletcher has won the Florida Derby five times between 2007 and 2018, with 2017 victor Always Dreaming going on to capture the Kentucky Derby. While better known for his prolific dirt horses, he has enjoyed success on the grass with horses such as 2007 turf champion English Channel and Grade 1 winners Honey Ryder and Wait a While, and he won the Pegasus Turf’s predecessor, the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1), with Mshawish in 2015.

Other notable milestones Pletcher has reached at Gulfstream include career wins No. 1 (Feb. 25, 1996) with Majestic Number, No. 3,000 (Feb. 11, 2012) with Spring Hill Farm and No. 4,000 (March 18, 2016) with Eagle Scout.

While he figures in the mix for two of the five graded-stakes on the Pegasus undercard – the $125,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) with Haikal and $125,000 La Prevoyante (G3) on turf with Always Shopping and Cap de Creus – Pletcher would like to add a Pegasus Turf win to his long list of Gulfstream accomplishments.

“I’d like to hope that it shows our versatility, that were able to be successful on turf and dirt, and with younger horses and older horses,” he said. “It’d be a fun win for any of the three that hopefully could do it.”

Tax a Major Player in Pegasus World Cup

GULFSTREAM PARK, FLORIDA

19, 2021Returns after Stumbling at Break Last Year
Video

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Tax, a big bay gelding who returned from a six-month layoff to impressively win the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) Dec. 12, gets his second shot at Pegasus glory Saturday when he lines up with 11 others for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational (G1).

Owned by R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Hugh Lynch and trained by Danny Gargan, Tax was claimed out of his second race for $50,000 in October of 2018. The son of Arch has since won three graded races and nearly $1 million.

After stumbling at the start of last year’s Pegasus and finishing ninth, Tax was off for six months after a fifth-place finish in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Gargan said the plan originally was to run at Keeneland in the fall and then the Breeders’ Cup, but a temperature kept the colt away from the races until his victory in the Harlan’s Holiday.

Gulfstream host and analyst Acacia Courtney talked to Gargan about Tax getting a clean break in this year’s Pegasus under jockey Luis Saez, the big colt’s maturity, and the ownership group.

VIDEO: Click here to view

McCarthy Returns to Pegasus World Cup with Refreshed Independence Hall

Saddled 2019 Winner City of Light

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – When last seen at Gulfstream Park, Independence Hall was finishing fifth in the track’s marquee race for 3-year-olds, the 2020 Florida Derby (G1). Ten months later, the son of Constitution returns for Gulfstream’s most important race for older horses, Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational (G1).

Much has changed between trips to South Florida for the colt co-owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, and Kathleen and Robert Verratti. Following his disappointing finish as the 3-1 third choice in the Florida Derby, he was given a sabbatical and later moved from the East Coast-based trainer Michael Trombetta to Michael McCarthy in California.

McCarthy won the 2019 Pegasus with City of Light.

The Pegasus will be the first start for Independence Hall since he finished fifth of six, nearly 10 lengths behind Charlatan in the Malibu (G1) on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park. McCarthy expected a much stronger performance in the seven-furlong Malibu on the opening day of Santa Anita’s winter season.

“For one reason or another, which I can’t put my finger on, he just did not seem to fire that day,” McCarthy said. “I have to draw a line through it. The horse has trained forwardly since.”

Independence Hall has had two breezes this month. The most recent was six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Santa Anita on Saturday.

“His work was very, very good,” McCarthy said. “If you bring a horse into a $3 million race, I think this is the kind of work you want to bring him in off.”

Jockey Flavien Prat will ride Independence Hall for the first time in the Pegasus.

Robert Verratti purchased Independence Hall as a yearling from Constitution’s first crop for $100,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale as a pinhooking prospect. On the advice of his bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill, Verratti decided to hold onto the colt, as a buy-back at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale of 2-year-olds in 2019. After Independence Hall easily broke his maiden at Parx in September, Eclipse and Twin Creeks purchased interests in the colt.

Independence Hall promptly built his reputation as a Kentucky Derby prospect for his ownership group with a 12 ¼-length win in the Nashua (G3) and a 4 ½-length win in the Jerome at Aqueduct and was second as the 3-5 favorite in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. The lackluster Florida Derby outing led to a pause in his career and a vacation at WinStar Farm.

“They just decided that he needed a little time off, a bit of a mental freshening more than anything. It seems to have done him some good,” McCarthy said. “The horse has come to me in very good order. The body of work he put together last year I thought was very good. We are just trying to go ahead and build on that.”

McCarthy said that Independence Hall arrived from Kentucky during the summer and was ready to resume training. He had his first breeze on Sept. 26 and won a 6 ½-furlong optional claimer on November 8.

“The horse fell into a pretty nice routine once he got here, was very straight forward,” McCarthy said. “The first race for us at Del Mar, obviously we were expecting a decent performance with him. I thought the way he won was more or less what we had been seeing in the morning. It was a perfect setup for a race like the Malibu.”

Though the Malibu did not work out as his connections had hoped, the colt came out of the race well and they decided the next challenge would be the nine-furlong Pegasus, which offers the highest purse in North America for older horses outside the Breeders’ Cup.

“It was one of those things, as some of the invitees started falling by the wayside, this became more and more of an option,” McCarthy said. “It’s $3 million. It’s a good spot to take a swing at something like this. You may never get this chance again until Breeders’ Cup time, nine months from now, for this kind of money. Why not?”

McCarthy welcomes the opportunity to join Hall of Famer Bob Baffert as a two-time Pegasus-winning trainer.

“That would be awfully nice,” he said. “I’m bringing a horse in who is training as well as I could ask him to be. We’ll see what happens.”