Since the dust settled in early November at the Breeders' Cup, the on-track buzz has been building to see a clash of elite speed among two of the event's champions. That clamor comes to fruition Saturday over 1 1/8 miles in the sixth running of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, presented by 1/ST BET, Race 12 on a dozen-race lineup at Gulfstream Park. KNICKS GO and LIFE IS GOOD displayed extraordinary talent in separate tilts, and now racing fans and horseplayers get the chance to see them match up on the racetrack.
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A nine-horse field includes a pair of Breeders' Cup champions, KNICKS GO and LIFE IS GOOD, also features a Belmont Stakes winner in SIR WINSTON. Add in Grade 2 winner CHESS CHIEF, Grade 1-place STILLETO BOY and Grade 2-placed TITLE READY. The obvious standout class is KNICKS GO in terms of strength of schedule, though the talent of LIFE IS GOOD makes up for some of what's missing on his resume in comparison.
The heavyweights are the speed. Expect rail-drawn KNICKS GO to fire to the front (he was going to regardless of post) and for LIFE IS GOOD to be right there mixing it up with him. Horses within 3-4 lengths of them going down the backstretch are going to be in gassed mode by the top of the lane. Closers should round out the exotics.
KNICKS GO went 1:09-4/5 in last year's Pegasus World Cup and still drew off to win by nearly four lengths. He has an ability to fly and re-break at the top of the stretch that you see in many Brad Cox trainees, but none to this degree. His win over the track and distance are separators with LIFE IS GOOD, who has neither raced at Gulfstream nor been beyond 1-1/16 miles. I won't make any declarative statements of superiority about the pair; cases can be made on both sides. And you get the game's two best money riders of the day, Joel Rosario and Irad Ortiz Jr. Let the slugfest begin!
Any hope of an upset relies on the fast favorites drilling each other into submission. Good luck with that complete fall-out as KNICKS GO has won eight of his last 10 (four straight) and LIFE IS GOOD has won five of six. The chances of both of them dueling to defeat is quite slim.
As a bettor, you're hoping for one of two things in this race: first, taking just one of the key players and singling them in multi-race wagers, thus creating value as many players will use two and increase the numbers of guaranteed losing tickets to pay the winners; second, you're hoping the speed duel takes a toll on one of them and you can get a price closer along for second in the exacta.
Two potential exacta splitters for me are TITLE READY and SIR WINSTON. That's partly because CHESS CHIEF has been so Fair Grounds-centric in his results that he may just be a horse for course there, and STILLETO BOY figures to be too close to the pace for his own good, along with stretch-out sprinter ENDORSED. As for TITLE READY, he's fresh and his workout tab is far livelier than is normal, indicating he could be doing very well. SIR WINSTON goes for a Mark Casse barn that's firing on all cylinders at Gulfstream to start 2022 and he should have tired horses to pass in the lane.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
KNICKS GO hasn't missed a superfecta since coming to Brad Cox's barn and is the defending champ proven in this race.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
SIR WINSTON gets the pace set-up and the barn is smoking now.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
It's no picnic tossing LIFE IS GOOD, but the gamble has to be to get a major player out of the exacta.
$50 exacta part-wheel KNICKS GO over TITLE READY and SIR WINSTON ($100).