Gulfstream rain sends handicappers upstream in Pegasus

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Muddied apprentice Romero Ramsay Maragh walks back to the jockeys room after the first race Saturday at rainy Gulfstream Park. (Ron Flatter photo)

Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Just when it looked like you had all your handicapping questions answered for the Pegasus World Cup card, bang, steady rain arrived Saturday morning here at Gulfstream Park. And it is not going away.

Handicappers pivoting away from a dry forecast will find that all but one of the 12 horses in the $9 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup have hit the board on wet dirt. Of the 10 horses in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, six have finished in the money on wet grass.

The favorites do not figure to be compromised – nor should their odds drift on the tote board.

In his final appearance before going to stud, Pegasus dirt favorite and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate (9-5 morning line, 13-8 in Europe per Oddschecker.com) won last year’s Big ’Cap and finished second in the 2017 San Pasqual Stakes in “wet-fast” conditions at Santa Anita. “Wet-fast” is Equibase’s way of saying that it was anything from damp to anitideluvian.

Making his return to the grass after two dirt starts, Yoshida (5-2, 7-2) notably won the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Derby day at Churchill Downs, where the rain was steady and the course yielding.

Presuming the rain continues apace, it is reasonable to expect that the grass will be no better than yielding for the Pegasus Turf scheduled for 4:51 p.m. EST. The main course that was sealed overnight will probably be sloppy come the 5:36 p.m. EST post time for the Pegasus.

If the tried and true notion is that horses on the lead have the advantage on a wet, main track, then Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City Of Light (5-2, 5-2) may benefit the most. The problem for handicappers is that this will be his first time racing on anything but a fast track.

Chad Brown’s 6-year-old miler Patternrecognition (10-1, 14-1) is a speed horse that is 2-for-2 on wet tracks, but he has to overcome the widest draw on a nine-furlong course where bets on outside post positions go to die.

Other horses that figure to be in the first flight – Tom’s d’Etat (20-1, 50-1), Something Awesome (20-1, 80-1) and True Timber (30-1, 40-1) – have a combined four wins, two seconds and one third in 10 starts on wet tracks. But they may not be in the class of the shorter-priced horses in the field.

Although Audible (10-1, 14-1) won last year’s Florida Derby over the same layout as the Pegasus, his only two losses in the last 14 months were on sloppy tracks, including last month’s Harlan’s Holiday here at Gulfstream.

If there is one horse primed to rise above all the complications in the dirt-cum-slop, it could be Bravazo (12-1, 16-1). D. Wayne Lukas’s 4-year-old colt overcame the fog and slop to finish second in last year’s Preakness, coming up just a half-length short of Justify. But he has lost his last nine races since he finished first in last year’s Risen Star at the Fair Grounds.

The first impression of a wet Pegasus Turf might be to lean hard on an overseas horse that is used to less than firm going. But Irish-based filly Magic Wand (9-2, 6-1) and Japanese mare Aerolithe (8-1, 13-2) have built their success racing on fast turf, which is what their connections were expecting when they paid $500,000 each to buy into this race.

Channel Maker (12-1, 14-1), Yoshida’s stable mate from Bill Mott’s barn, figures to get the attention of bettors looking for a mudder in the Turf. His last two wins came on soft New York tracks in the Grade 2 Bowling Green and the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

On a course rated good in November, Catapult (7-2, 9-2) finished a close second to Expert Eye at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Also out of the John Sadler stable that includes Accelerate, he also had a second and two fourths on wet courses in the spring of 2017.

The other Turf starters that have had some success on less-than-firm grass include the closer Next Shares (15-1, 16-1), Delta Prince (15-1, 20-1) and Dubby Dubbie (30-1, 80-1). Like the dirt long shots, the risk with them is presuming they can measure up to the class of the more fancied horses.

Although the three early races still on the grass will be raced to the inside without a temporary rail, the Pegasus Turf as being to the outside with the temporary rail set at 96 feet.

Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com and more frequently during coverage of big races. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s edition features Gulfstream Park TV and XBTV host/handicapper Jason Blewitt previewing the Pegasus World Cup features and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas discussing his Pegasus horse Bravazo. The feature Racehorses by the Letters considers the best horse with a name starting with “L.” The RFRP is also available at leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher.

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