Three Eclipse Award finalists are among the invitees to the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park, but it would be a surprise if they all turned up.
While Omaha Beach is confirmed for the $3 million feature, his leading rival for the 2019 three-year-old male title – Maximum Security (also a Horse of the Year finalist) – is reportedly awaiting the $20 million Saudi Cup on February 29. McKinzie, a finalist in the older dirt male division, is likewise opting to pass the Pegasus in favor of arriving fresh in Saudi Arabia, according to Daily Racing Form.
Omaha Beach, easily victorious over Roadster in the Dec. 28 Malibu (G1), will make his final career start in the Pegasus before retiring to stud at Spendthrift. The 1 1/8-mile test could give him a chance to avenge his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) upset at the hands of Spun to Run, most recently runner-up to Maximum Security in the Cigar Mile (G1). Other newly turned 4-year-olds invited to the Pegasus include Pennsylvania Derby (G1) upsetter Math Wizard, Tax, and Mr Freeze, along with Mucho Gusto who has first preference on the reserve list.
Gift Box, who outdueled McKinzie in last March’s Santa Anita H. (G1), comes off a terrific repeat in the San Antonio (G2). One of two invitees for Hronis Racing and John Sadler, he is joined by Pacific Classic (G1)-winning stablemate, Higher Power, third to Vino Rosso and McKinzie in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Last year’s Pegasus World Cup runner-up Seeking the Soul is among the dozen in the main body, but War Story, Bravazo, Diamond Oops, and True Timber are the respective second through fifth reserve invitees.
The most surprising invitee for the dirt event is Ballydoyle globetrotter Magic Wand, who more predictably garnered an invitation to the companion $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) as well. Second to Bricks and Mortar in the inaugural Pegasus Turf a year ago, the Aidan O’Brien mare came closer to the Horse of the Year favorite in the Arlington Million (G1). Magic Wand has since brought her world tour to Australia and Hong Kong, where she was an unlucky near-misser in the Dec. 8 Hong Kong Cup (G1).
Trainer Chad Brown, a finalist for yet another Eclipse Award after a record-setting 2019, has bid adieu to retired Bricks and Mortar but remains well stocked for a repeat. Without Parole, hero of the 2018 St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, was third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in an audacious debut for the barn, and Instilled Regard just scored a turf breakthrough in the Ft. Lauderdale (G2). Brown might also be able to call upon the first reserve invitee, Sacred Life, coming off a second to Next Shares in the Seabiscuit (G2).
The lone equine Eclipse finalist on the Turf list, Mo Forza, has won four straight including the Hollywood Derby (G1) and Mathis Brothers Mile (G2). The Peter Miller pupil would be tackling elders for the first time in a stakes.
United came up a head shy of Bricks and Mortar in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Other invitees who participated in the Turf are Zulu Alpha (fourth), Channel Cat (seventh), and Arklow (eighth). Sadler’s Joy, the third in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf who skipped Santa Anita, was also third to Arklow in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) before outclassing the Red Smith (G3) field in his latest.
Rounding out the dozen in the main body are Canadian champion turf mare Starship Jubilee and Belmont Derby (G1) winner Henley’s Joy. No match for Mo Forza so far, Henley’s Joy is one of two invitees for trainer Mike Maker along with Zulu Alpha. After Sacred Life on the reserve list, in order of preference, are Admission Office, A Thread of Blue, Mr. Misunderstood, and Lucullan.
Runners in both the Pegasus World Cup and the Pegasus Turf will compete without raceday medication.