March 2, 2024

Ivar versus Lady Speightspeare, City Man in Pegasus World Cup Turf

Ivar set an Indiana Grand course record in the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial (Photo by Coady Photography)

Top-class miler Ivar has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park, where his rivals include Lady Speightspeare and City Man.

Ivar will make a rare tilt at 1 1/8 miles in the Pegasus Turf. In only prior try at the trip, the Paulo Lobo trainee was sixth off a layoff in the 2021 Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. He was beaten two lengths that day by Colonel Liam, the two-time Pegasus Turf champ who just retired last week before his possible three-peat bid.

At this stage of his career, Ivar might appreciate the extra furlong, considering that his last win came in course-record time in a 1 1/16-mile stakes at Indiana Grand. The former champion in Argentina scored his biggest stateside victory in the 2020 Shadwell (now Coolmore) Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland, but he’s been nibbling at the minors at that distance ever since. In his past three, Ivar finished runner-up in the Sept. 17 Woodbine Mile (G1) and the Oct. 8 Coolmore Turf Mile, and fourth in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) – the third straight year he’s hit the lower rungs of the exotics in that championship event.

Lady Speightspeare also performed with great credit at the Breeders’ Cup, finishing third at odds of 32-1 in the 1 3/16-mile Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Once Canada’s champion two-year-old filly, the Roger Attfield pupil took a while to regain her form last campaign, but she put things right in the second half of the season. Lady Speightspeare rattled off a graded hat trick at Woodbine before exceeding expectations in the Filly & Mare Turf. Although she had the option of staying in that division’s Pegasus event, owner/breeder Charles Fipke is always game for a challenge. Lady Speightspeare will try to become the first female to win this race in its current Pegasus incarnation; Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand was twice second in 2019-20.

You have to go back to 1992, under the race’s former guise of the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup H. (G2), to find a winning distaffer. Christophe Clement trained that heroine, Passagere du Soir, and he’s double-handed on Saturday with City Man and Decorated Invader. The stablemates, who just ran one-two in the Dec. 31 Ft. Lauderdale (G2), bring different career trajectories. The surging New York-bred City Man is at the peak of his powers, earning this class hike after capturing four of his last five. Decorated Invader owns an abundance of back class as the 2019 Summer (G1) winner, and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), who also garnered a couple of Grade 2s at three. Sidelined for most of 2021 and on the comeback trail last fall, the old warrior might be rounding back to his best.

Graham Motion also sends out a well-credentialed duo. Speaking Scout arrives fresh off his career high in the Hollywood Derby (G1), while new recruit Hurricane Dream is a multiple Group 2-placed stakes scorer in Europe.

Wit, third as the Hollywood Derby favorite, is the Todd Pletcher runner in the main body of the field. Pletcher also has the second on the also-eligible list, late-developing Steady On, who has placed second as the favorite in both stakes attempts. Like the Pletcher duo and the aforementioned Speaking Scout, last-out Santa Anita Mathis Mile (G2) upsetter One More Bid is a four-year-old stepping up to face the divisional veterans.

Mike Maker has one in the starting gate, Atone, and the first also-eligible, King Cause. Atone, who was fourth in last year’s Pegasus Turf, has been knocking on the door at the graded level. King Cause sprang a 15-1 wire job in the Knickerbocker (G3) two back, but never factored in ninth in the Ft. Lauderdale.

While Chad Brown is conspicuous by his absence, two of his former pupils, Chilean import Master Piece and Grade 2-placed Good Governance, have made the line-up.

Master Piece had moved on long ago, in the summer of 2021, to join Michael McCarthy. Enjoying the Southern California lifestyle, Master Piece rolled to a convincing win in the July 31 Eddie Read (G2) and missed narrowly in the Del Mar H. (G2) for the second straight year. After an eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), Master Piece was acquired privately by a partnership including Michael Iavarone and transferred to Saffie Joseph Jr. for the Pegasus.

Good Governance, a lightly-raced son of Kingman, was recently sold for $50,000 as a horse of racing age at Keeneland and transferred to Anna Meah. In his debut for new connections, Good Governance was a troubled, if encouraging, fourth in the Ft. Lauderdale.

Rounding out the dozen in the main body of the field is Who’s the Star, riding a three-race winning streak from Woodbine for Mark Casse. Adept on turf and Tapeta, the deep closer was last seen getting up to force a dead-heat in the Dec. 4 Valedictory (G3).