February 22, 2024

$7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf attracts field of 10

Aerolithe won the Mainichi Okan (G2) at Tokyo in October (c) Japan Racing Association

At a time when Enable and Winx are dominant figures on the world turf, it would be no surprise if Saturday’s $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park was won by a filly or mare.

Two of the three fillies and mares in the 10-horse field represent the entirety of the foreign contingent for the world’s richest grass race at mile or longer, previously known as the Gulfstream Park Turf H. Flying the flag for Coolmore is the four-year-old Magic Wand, who captured the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot and Cheshire Oaks last season. The Galileo filly ended her campaign with seconds in the Prix Vermeille (G1) and Prix de l’Opera (G1), and a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) over ground softer than she likely preferred.

Japanese raider Aerolithe, a Group 1 winner at three in her native land, is no stranger to facing and beating males, and brings with her a solid reputation into the 1 3/16-mile test.

“She’s never shied away from the boys, and she always runs really well,” trainer Takanori Kikuzawa said through interpreter Kate Hunter, Pegasus World Cup field representative for the Japan Racing Association. “This filly has got a lot of speed and, if you look at some of her previous races, she can really go to the front. If we get a good start we plan on going forward and hopefully staying there.”

Yoshida recorded his first Grade 1 win when opening his four-year-old campaign in the May 5 Old Forester Turf Classic (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

The 5-2 morning line favorite is dual-surface threat Yoshida, who captured the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs last May before embarking on a dirt campaign that resulted in success in the Woodward (G1) and a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

“It’s probably debatable whether his dirt races are better than his turf races, and they may well be, but he’s a horse that won very nicely for us in the spring last year on the turf,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He’s run with good company, and we weighed our options here and thought that maybe the turf was the spot to go this time.”

Catapult narrowly missed in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in November to English invader Expert Eye when last seen. The John Sadler trainee had previously won the Eddie Read (G2) and Del Mar Mile (G2).

“He had a little foot issue after the Del Mar Mile and we trained him right into the Breeders’ Cup, but he’s been perfect out of the Breeders’ Cup. I think he’s in tip-top shape,” Sadler said.

Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) winner Next Shares bounced back from a disappointing 13th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to capture the January 5 San Gabriel (G1) at Santa Anita in the final jump. Channel Maker was another that didn’t care much for the softish ground at Churchill when finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). In his three starts prior to that run, Channel Maker had captured the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and dead-heated for first in the Bowling Green (G2) with Glorious Empire, whom he finished second to in the Sword Dancer (G1) two back.

Graded stakes winners Bricks and Mortar and Delta Prince both have multiple wins over the Gulfstream turf. The outsiders in the field are the Grade 3-winning mare Fahan Mura, a likely pacesetter, and multiple allowance winner Dubby Dubbie.