Pegasus World Cup Invitational – Can Anyone Beat Gun Runner?

  • In Charles Jay
  • Sat, Jan 27th, 2018 3:13:32 pm
  • By Charles Jay - Exclusive to OSGA

Gulfstream Park hosts the richest horse race in the world on Saturday, with Gun Runner the favorite in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

The Pegasus World Cup is an ambitious venture on the part of Frank Stronach, who owns and controls a lot of what we see in thoroughbred racing today. He has not necessarily gotten the greatest response to this race, but they nonetheless will run the second edition on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, FL. It pays a total of $16 million in purses, and BetAnySports customers can get in on all the action by accessing the 10% racebook that is available in the easy-to-use interface. Post time is 5:35 PM ET, and it wil be televised live on NBC.

Of course, the horse to beat is Gun Runner, who is, by far, the biggest earner in this field, with winnings just shy of $9 million. Gun Runner defeated many of the horses in this particular field in the Breeders' Cup Classic, registering to the top Beyer speed figure of any of the contestants (117). Recently, he has been named Horse of the Year over Arrogate, whom he bested in the Classic, avenging a defeat in the Dubai World Cup. The third-place finisher in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, Gun Runner has some huge wins at a mile and an eighth, the distance at which this race will be contested.

But there is some lingering concern over the post position (10) the horse has drawn. Keep in mind that it is a very short run to the first turn at Gulfstream, and there is worry that the horse may lose a little too much ground, especially if some early speed emerges. But any detractors Steve Asmussen's charge might have aren't enough to prevent him from being thre 4-5 favorite.

However, if something does indeed go wrong with his trip, who could be there to take advantage of it? Well, of course you have the horses who finished behind him at the Breeders Cup Classic at Del Mar, many of whom will make post.

For example, there is Collected (8-1), the second-place finisher in the Classic, coming off a very disappointing outing in the San Antonio Stakes, a Grade 2 event where Mike Smith admits to making some mistakes in the saddle. So don't jump to conclusions that this course is losing it. Collected's top Beyer Speed figure of 115 was registered at a mile and a quarter in the Pacific Classic last November, and he may look to be one of those who set the pace here.

West Coast, trained by Bob Baffert, moves out of the #2 slot and might also look to exhibit some early speed. West Coast was third in last year's Classic, but has very impressive victories at this distance in the Pennsylvania Derby and Los Alamitos Derby, so this is a dangerous contender at 8-1 in the horse racing betting odds at BetAnySports.

War Story (25-1) was fourth in the Classic, and is a pretty good distance runner who has failed at shorter routes. He has been beaten in his last three races by Gun Runner, and was fifth, fourth and fourth, all by around 13 lengths, in his last three races at Great 1 level at a mile and an eighth.

Sharp Azteca (6-1) is going this distance for the first time ever. Trained by Jorge Navarro, who also saddles up War Story for this one, he sizzled in the Cigar Mile, and won by 7.5 lenghts at a mile and a 16th last July at Monmouth.

The filly in this field is Stellar Wind (30-1), with five Grade 1 victories. She disappointed in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, finishing eighth, and has never gone a mile and an eighth before. Look for some early speed from her, in what will be her final race.

Seeking the Soul (25-1) hasn't really faced this caliber before, but did win the Clark Stakes at a mile in an eighth at Churchill Downs. Giant Expectations (30-1) breaks from the outside; he scored an upset victory over Collected in the San Antonio Stakes, but as we mentioned, you might not want to draw too many conclusions from that because it was just a bad run for Mike Smith. This horse, ridden by Gary Stevens, likes to show speed early, but will have a tough time getting to the lead with that short run to the turn.

Fear the Cowboy (30-1) has had some success at Gulfstream Park, winning three out of four races, including a Grade 3 event last month. But he has never run anything above that level of company. Singing Bullet (30-1 at BetAnySports) is on the rail – a winner of about $150,000, the top Beyer speed figure is 95, which doesn't really fit into this field. This is Frank Stronach's horse, going this distance for the first time, and has no stakes wins, coming off five optional cleaners.

If there is a wild card in this race, it would be Toast of New York (20-1), who has competed only one time in the last 38 months. That was an allowance test in Great Britain on December 6. But when seen last against world-class company, and on dirt, he was nosed out by Bayern in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic, beating out California Chrome in the process. That was a huge effort. A tendon injury kept him out of action for quite a while, but essentially this is like a fighter coming back from a long layoff. There IS some accomplishment here; this is the #2 earner in this field, written by Frankie Dettori.

Now we come to the contender we are certainly going to work into this mix – Gunnavera (15-1), who also ran in that Classic, finishing in a dead heat with Arrogate, who won last year's Pegasus World Cup. While that was only good for a fourth-place finish, he has nonetheless seen this level of competition, and also has run a mile and an eighth on this track, finishing third in the Florida Derby but gaining strongly down the stretch after breaking from the #10 spot. This horse, the son of Dialed In, is, by pedigree, a big closer, and if we get lots of pace here, he could be set up nicely. He could not have a better rider on board either, as Luis Saez has has been the best jockey at Gulfstream, and comes off a record-tying performance a few days ago where he had seven winners. Gunnavera is our "spoiler," so to speak, if this somehow winds up an unpleasant run for Gun Runner and a couple of the other "usual suspects."

Thus, he is going to get our action in the head-to-head props offered by BetAnySports, as he is a -135 favorite to finish ahead of War Story (+100). We'll also take Stellar Wind (-130) over Great Expectations (+100). And we will take the price with Fear the Cowboy (+105) over Seeking the Soul (-135).

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