June 24, 2024

Warm Heart goes out in blaze of record-setting glory in Pegasus World Cup Turf

Warm Heart wins The Pegasus World Cup Turf S. at Gulfstream Park
Warm Heart wins The Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Coglianese Photography / Credit to Lauren King)

Ballydoyle’s multiple Group 1 queen Warm Heart put an exclamation point on her career in Saturday’s $952,300 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), defeating males in course-record time at Gulfstream Park. Under a rail-skimming ride by Ryan Moore, reminiscent of his coup aboard stablemate Auguste Rodin in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), the Aidan O’Brien filly accelerated to finish 1 1/8 miles in 1:44.45.

Hitherto unbeaten Integration, who had gone off as the 6-5 favorite, got no nearer than fifth. Longshots filled the minor placings, with Chad Brown’s 14-1 I’m Very Busy coming up a half-length shy of the upset, and the 46-1 Catnip another neck away in third.

Warm Heart nearly won a Breeders’ Cup trophy herself, only just denied by Inspiral’s late surge in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. Inspiral’s form was upheld twice on Pegasus Day, as Breeders’ Cup also-ran Didia bounced back to win the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G2) earlier on the card.

While Warm Heart’s class was never in doubt, the distance of the Pegasus Turf posed a question mark, contributing to her going off as the 2.40-1 second choice. The daughter of Galileo had scored all of her wins at 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 miles. Coming off a third in the Dec. 10 Hong Kong Vase (G1) versus males, she was already set to visit Justify at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Was the Pegasus Turf merely an opportunistic shot on her way out? No, it was very much the proper swan song as penciled in by Aidan O’Brien. The master of Ballydoyle had finished twice in this race with another high-class distaffer, Magic Wand (2019-20).

Warm Heart surpassed Magic Wand’s efforts, becoming the first female to win the Pegasus Turf in its current incarnation. In the race’s overall history, just one other mare prevailed – Passagere du Soir (1992), when it was a 1 3/8-mile affair known as the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup H. (G2).

Moore delivered a masterpiece by ensuring that Warm Heart was well placed early on the cutback in trip. Using her tactical foot to secure a stalking position in range, he also managed to slot in a ground-saving spot from post 9.

Meanwhile, Main Event scampered to the lead through splits of :23.47, :46.86, and 1:09.55 on the firm turf. The newly-blinkered Jerry the Nipper gave chase, and Warm Heart appeared poised to claim them whenever Moore desired.

The moment came cornering for home. The golden seam opened as Main Event drifted just off the fence into the stretch, and Warm Heart had the gears to capitalize. I’m Very Busy and Catnip both gained late, but the filly’s move was decisive.

Warm Heart shaved .06 off the old course mark of 1:44.51, set by champion English Channel in 2007.

“She’s always traveling very comfortably,” Moore said. “I didn’t want to be there too early, and I didn’t want to be tipping out into the straight, and I thought I’d rather just wait. She’s a great filly. She’s had an incredible year. She hasn’t had a bad race.

“The leader (Main Event), he was always leaning out, and he was weakening and I knew I had plenty of horse, so no problem. I was happy to wait.

“She broke smart and she was able to put herself in that spot, and I was always happy.”

O’Brien, watching from Ballydoyle, was effusive in his praise of both Moore and Warm Heart.

“Ryan gave her an incredible ride. He was always very anxious that she went there for that race. We enjoyed watching it. It looks like an incredible day. I wish I was there!”

Brown was delighted with near-misser I’m Very Busy, who executed a significant form turnaround with Integration. Last time out in the Hill Prince (G2), Integration beat him by five lengths.

“I’m just really pleased with his effort,” Brown said of I’m Very Busy. “I thought he got a really good trip. Our goal was to follow one of the live horses. Drawn next to Integration, that was the horse to follow and Irad (Ortiz Jr.) executed it perfectly. He had to pause just momentarily in the stretch to wait for a seam and it might have cost him the win there.”

Catnip ran a bold race in third off a five-month layoff. Jockey Frankie Dettori was wondering what might have been with a better draw than the outside post 12.

“I had to use a bit of energy to get into position,” Dettori said. “At the top of the lane I thought I’d win. He ran a super race. With a better post, it could have been a different story.”

Defending champion Atone checked in fourth, a length behind Catnip. Integration didn’t see much daylight when others were rallying around him, and his inexperience might have told as he belatedly closed with interest in fifth.

“Just not the cleanest trip into the stretch,” Integration’s rider, Tyler Gaffalione, admitted.

Webslinger had a checkered passage as he rallied from last into sixth. Kingmax, Shirl’s Speight, Jerry the Nipper, Adhamo, Main Event, and Master Piece concluded the order of finish. Also-eligibles Grand Sonata and Anglophile were scratched. Anglophile competed on the undercard instead, taking sixth in the William L. McKnight (G3).

Warm Heart signs off with a scorecard of 11-6-2-1 and a bankroll of nearly $2.2 million. Having entered 2023 as a maiden, the Coolmore/Westerberg runner climbed the class ladder swiftly. She won three in a row, including the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot, before sputtering in fifth over a bog in the Irish Oaks (G1). Warm Heart came right back to turn a double in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) and Prix Vermeille (G1) e route to the Breeders’ Cup.

“She’s won two other Group 1s here and big ones, as well,” O’Brien said. “She’s shown everything. She’s tough, she’s durable, she travels, she’s sound. I don’t think you can ask for anything more from a filly. She’s strong, she handles all types of ground, she’s tactical and she’s tough.”

Out of the multiple Australian Group 1-winning sprinter Sea Siren, a Fastnet Rock mare who also became an Irish highweight, Warm Heart will bring a fascinating genetic cocktail to the court of Justify. The 2018 Triple Crown champion is emerging as a global sire with stars from the United States to Europe and Australia.

“We’d love to have her and to be racing her,” O’Brien said, “but the lads’ business is breeding these horses, and she’s an absolutely incredible broodmare to be going to Justify, who looks probably the most incredible stallion that ever was, based on what he’s done so far. It’s so exciting, really.

“She’s absolutely made for him.”