Hallandale Beach, Fla.
There were the usual questions and concerns and sighs of relief at Wednesday’s draw for this weekend’s $3 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
“I’m just happy to be in there,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said after morning-line favorite Omaha Beach (7-5) drew post 5 in Saturday’s 12-horse field, adding that “‘5’ is a great number. One thing I do know is whatever post you get is what you get. You can’t do anything about it.”
But the draw seemed like a side note to the more palpable buzz here at Gulfstream Park. In addition to eliminating the $500,000 entry fee and cutting the purse from $9 million to $3 million, The Stronach Group decided to ban race-day medication for any Pegasus horses, the harbinger of a dictum that is being phased into stakes races across America over the next two years.
“It’s interesting with the ‘no medication,’” Mandella said. “But no problem. You write the rules. I’m going to go with them the best I can. I have no concerns going in.”
That condition most notably means that the 12 horses racing Saturday will do so without Lasix, the anti-bleeding diuretic that they all have gotten used to on their way to this nine-furlong race on what is expected to be fast dirt.
“It was not my intent inconvenience horsemen,” TSG chairwoman Belinda Stronach, apologizing to them at Wednesday’s draw. “Pointing to the future with respect to medication-free races, we put our heads together. We said this was the year we wished to do it.”
Bettors have been left to guess how horses will respond to being taken off Lasix. And so have connections.
“Nobody knows whether their horses will perform differently without Lasix,” trainer Dale Romans told Horse Racing Nation.
Romans has the long shot Mr. Freeze (30-1) in Saturday’s field, most of which look like it could be playing a supporting role to Omaha Beach’s valedictory before he goes off to stud.
Mandella has dropped everything to prioritize this race. Omaha Beach was shipped here after his decisive victory Dec. 28 in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. And Mandella was not far behind.
Aside from a hoof issue that was apparently solved with new shoes, Omaha Beach has gotten into a steady routine walking around the barn and galloping on the very racecourse where he will end his career having just turned 4 years old. It is a career that has been marred by throat and viral issues, some of which caused him to miss the 2019 Kentucky Derby in which he probably would have been favored.
“He settled in nice,” Mandella said. “He’s had plenty of time. We’re kind of getting bored walking around back there. It’s time to get serious.”
Although Mandella played cool about the draw, he knows that horses drawn in posts 10-12 do not do well at Gulfstream Park. They are 2-for-21 in two-turn races on the main track during the ongoing meet. A similar trend did not stop Gun Runner two years ago, but he was so much better than the rest of the field that he could have been drawn into a gate at Miami International and still won.
The draw becomes a concern for the likes of Mucho Gusto (9-2), Bob Baffert’s 4-year-old that has four graded-stakes victories – but no wins of any kind since July. He got post 10.
“Better than 11,” Baffert texted from California. “All speed horses outside.”
To be sure, Spun To Run (9-2), Mucho Gusto and Bodexpress (30-1) drew 9, 10 and 12. They all will be trying to overcome the wide start and get the early lead in the short, 150-yard burst from the gate to the clubhouse turn. Early speed is what Spun To Run used to upset Omaha Beach nearly three months ago in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
As Baffert put it in another text, “Mad dash to turn.”
The full Pegasus World Cup Invitational field, with post positions, trainers, jockeys and morning-line odds:
1. True Timber – Kiaran McLaughlin – Joe Bravo – 20-1
2. Tax – Danny Gargan – José Ortiz – 12-1
3. Diamond Oops – Patrick Biancone – Julien Leparoux – 20-1
4. Seeking The Soul – Dallas Stewart – John Velázquez – 30-1
5. Omaha Beach – Richard Mandella – Mike Smith – 7-5
6. Higher Power – John Sadler – Flavien Prat – 6-1
7. War Story – Elizabeth Dobles – Joel Rosario – 30-1
8. Mr. Freeze – Dale Romans – Luís Sáez – 30-1
9. Spun To Run – Carlos Guerrero – Javier Castellano – 7-2
10. Mucho Gusto – Bob Baffert – Írad Ortiz Jr. – 9-2
11. Tenfold – Steve Asmussen – Tyler Gaffalione – 30-1
12. Bodexpress – Gustavo Delgado – Émisael Jaramillo – 30-1
Magic Wand favored in Pegasus Turf
Runner-up to 2019 Horse of the Year favorite Bricks And Mortar in last year’s inaugural running, the Irish mare Magic Wand (7-2) is the morning line favorite despite drawing the outside post for Saturday’s $1 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, the 5-year-old will start from post 12. Horses starting outside gate 8 are only 8-for-197 this season in races of at least a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf. Saturday’s race is 1 3/16 miles.
Without Parole (4-1), the betting favorite in global and European futures, drew more favorably into post 3. He is one of three Chad Brown horses in the field, but he has the least experience with the man who is expected to repeat as America’s top trainer here at Thursday’s Eclipse Awards. Owners John and Tanya Gunther transferred the 5-year-old entire from English trainer John Gosden late last year.
The Pegasus Turf will also be run without race-day medication. This is the field:
1. Zulu Alpha – Mike Maker – Tyler Gaffalione – 12-1
2. Arklow – Brad Cox – Luís Sáez – 6-1
3. Without Parole – Chad Brown – Frankie Dettori – 4-1
4. Sadler’s Joy – Tom Albertrani – Javier Castellano – 8-1
5. Channel Cat – Todd Pletcher – John Velázquez – 10-1
6. Instilled Regard – Chad Brown – Írad Ortiz Jr. – 10-1
7. Admission Office – Brian Lynch – Flavien Prat – 30-1
8. Henley’s Joy – Mike Maker – Julien Leparoux – 30-1
9. Next Shares – Richard Baltas – José Valdivia Jr. – 30-1
10. Mo Forza – Peter Miller – Joel Rosario – 5-1
11. Sacred Life – Chad Brown – José Ortiz – 12-1
12. Magic Wand – Aidan O’Brien – Ryan Moore – 7-2
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column will be posted daily through Sunday from the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. It usually appears every Friday morning at VSiN.com. You may also hear two episodes this week of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod at VSiN.com/podcasts. A special, pop-up Thursday will include Las Vegas horseplaying experts Vinny Magliulo, Patrick McQuiggan, Dave Tuley, Johnny Avello and Chris Andrews handicapping the Pegasus World Cup and the Pegasus Turf. The regular episode Friday includes Gulfstream Park TV’s Jason Blewitt and Acacia Courtney with their preview of the Pegasus card and Tax’s trainer Danny Gargan. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and is sponsored by Xpressbet.