Bob Baffert has won two of four runnings of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), and the Hall of Fame trainer should have a strong hand in the fifth edition on Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park. His reigning Pegasus winner Mucho Gusto and brilliant Charlatan are prominent on the invitation list for the $3 million affair.
Invitation is the operative word, since it’s unclear at this writing whether both Baffert candidates will compete in the 1 1/8-mile test. Mucho Gusto’s main aim is the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup for owner Prince Faisal bin Khaled. The 2020 Pegasus was his launching pad to the $20 million Saudi Cup, where he finished fourth to Maximum Security and Midnight Bisou.
But Mucho Gusto is at a different point in 2021. Given a long vacation to regroup from his international venture, he didn’t return to action until the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2) and ran a ring-rusty fourth off the 10-month layoff. Baffert is playing it by ear whether to give Mucho Gusto another prep ahead of Saudi, depending upon how much the San Antonio brought him on.
Charlatan, on the other hand, appears likely to advance to the Pegasus based on Baffert’s comments after his dazzling comeback in the Dec. 26 Malibu (G1). That was his first official stakes victory, since his Arkansas Derby (G1) romp was negated by disqualification, and the highly regarded colt is still in resume-building mode.
Other Pegasus World Cup invitees among the main dozen are Knicks Go, Jesus’ Team, and Sharp Samurai, the respective top three from the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1); Code of Honor, the 2019 Travers (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner who was second in the Clark (G1) last out; True Timber, who finally scored a breakthrough in the Cigar Mile (G1); last year’s Pegasus runner-up Mr Freeze, unplaced in the Dirt Mile and Clark but a multiple Grade 2 veteran; Tax, a subpar ninth in the 2020 Pegasus but back to his best in a resounding Harlan’s Holiday (G3) here Dec. 12; Kiss Today Goodbye, upset winner of the San Antonio; Charles Town Classic (G2) romper Sleepy Eyes Todd, recently victorious in Keeneland’s Lafayette on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard and the Dec. 19 Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream; and Pimlico Special (G3) hero Harpers First Ride, subsequently successful in two more Maryland stakes including the Dec. 26 Native Dancer.
Gulfstream also extended invitations to four as also-eligibles. In order of preference, the reserves are Longacres Mile (G3) winner Anothertwistafate, whose Saturday victory in the San Gabriel (G2) netted him an invitation to the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) (Sharp Samurai being the other cross-invitee); Math Wizard, the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) upsetter coming off a fourth to Tax in the Harlan’s Holiday; Tampa Bay Derby (G2) surprise King Guillermo, runner-up to Nadal in the other Arkansas Derby division but fourth in his Cigar Mile return; and lightly raced Idol, a close second in his San Antonio stakes debut.
Two notables missing from the Pegasus list, Godolphin homebreds Maxfield and Mystic Guide, need more time. As reported by Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh, both came down with a virus at Fair Grounds that interrupted their training.