By John Mucciolo
The first running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) is approaching, headlined by the sensational duo of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) star Arrogate and North American Thoroughbred racing’s leading money earner California Chrome. While this duo appears to be heads and shoulders clear of 10 brave foes that are due to line-up against them, the Gulfstream Park main oval could be a quirky one that not all runners take a liking to, so I feel compelled to think outside of the box and try to zero in on a price play.
Shaman Ghost is a horse who has grown on me over the past six months and I have reason for optimism that he can mount a serious challenge to crash the party on January 28. Winner of the 2015 Queen’s Plate, the Canadian champion blossomed in 2016 and has room for additional growth.
Five-year-old son of Ghostzapper was a game victor in the Woodward (G1) two back and I loved the middle move he made last time out in the Clark H. (G1) before flattening out inside the final furlong behind the very impressive Gun Runner, a horse not many were going to beat on that day and one who appeared to have been aided by a speed-favoring surface.
Conditioned by Jimmy Jerkens, the Ontario-bred Shaman Ghost posted a sharp maiden win on this very oval going two turns, which could prove to be a big plus, and he’s been in South Florida working since mid-December for a very sharp trainer who knows how to point toward a big race. While it’s obvious that Shaman Ghost must continue to get faster, or needs one or both of the big duo to come up a little flat, I will not discount his chances at a nice payday in a field where an abundance of early speed could aid his late closing kick.
Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith will surely have California Chrome and Arrogate in the mix early on over a Gulfstream track with a speed-favoring reputation and neither will allow the other to get too comfortable at any portion of this race, in all likelihood. Adding a few other likely pace players to the fray (especially if Noble Bird breaks) should only help the ‘Ghost, who is eligible to close strongest of all.