Today’s 12th race at Gulfstream is the $12 Million GR 1 Pegasus Stakes showcasing a rematch of the top two finishers from the most recent BC Classic. BC winner Arrogate and the phenomenal California Chrome battled to within ½ length in the BC Classic with 3rd place Keen Ice finishing a distant 10 lengths further back. By the Numbers, the Pegasus appears like it may very well be another 2 horse race; however there are concerns and upsets do occur in the Sport of Kings. Since Arrogate and California Chrome show much superior Numbers to the rest of the field, I am going to review them first, with a bit of coverage of the rest of the field.
7-5 Arrogate: Even Pattern and layoff. This guy burst onto to the scene as one of the premier 3YOs in a jaw-dropping 13 length score in the Travers last August. Then, after a 2/12 month break, he followed that up with a gusty ½ length score in the BC Classic, catching front running California Chrome in the last few jumps. In those two races, Arrogate posted blistering fast Numbers of a -1.7 Best and a -1.4 respectively. Connections Baffert and Mike Smith are the very best.
On the concerning side, are another lengthy layoff, the post position, and the cutback in distance to 1 1/8 mile. The back-to-back layoffs indicate some type of health issues, and I understand there may be a hoof problem; however I do trust Baffert’s judgment in entering Arrogate. Breaking from the 1 post in a twelve horse field, I do expect Smith to goose Arrogate from the start, however I think that he can settle as long as he does not get shuffled back at the start. The cutback in distance seems to favor California Chrome, and I also note that Arrogate enjoyed a 4 pound weight edge in the BC Classic and in this race they are at equal weights. Very Dangerous; although the consecutive layoffs cause me concern.
6-5 California Chrome: Marching pattern. Chrome continued his fairy tale story as we won 7 of 8 in 2016, banking over $8 Million, and only missed a perfect record for the year, when Arrogate caught him late in the BC Classic. Chrome was then given 6 weeks to freshen before being brought back in a minor Stakes at Los Al, where he actually sat very wide off the pace, and blew them away by a dominating 12 lengths in improving to an incredible -3.6 Best. He ran the last 2 ½ furlongs in 28 and 4! That, my friends is FAST, and it also indicates that he is not a need-the-lead type. There is little doubt that trainer Sherman has done a masterful job with California Chrome and jockey Espinosa is very good.
Like Arrogate though, there are some concerns here. I am bit concerned that that last 2.0 improvement over his previous -1.6 Best may lead to a bounce. However the ease of the win, and that he has again been freshened for 6 weeks, somewhat alleviate that concern. His far outside post position is also not ideal, as he will need to break sharply to avoid losing a lot of ground around the clubhouse turn. I suspect that Espinosa will have him out with the early leaders, and there is a good chance he will break on top. My top pick!
The others, in post position order:
- 50–1 Prayer for Relief. 1 Race regression and layoff. His recent 9.1 Best is slow for these. His pattern is not positive and he has been away for 2 months. Solid connections. Would be a surprise.
- 30-1 Neolithic. Even pattern. Even though his Number regressed slightly to 6.6 in his most recent from his 5.8 Best, it was such an easy win that I have little concern. Connections are stellar. He will need a huge step forward.
- 25–1 Noble Bird: 1 Race regression and layoff. He bounced sharply in his most recent after posting a fast 2.4 Best. He has been given 2 months freshening for this and his connections are excellent. Will need a big step forward, but figures, at least, in the exotics.
- 50-1 War Story. Circle Back pattern. Ran a 5.8 in an impressive gate to wire score in his latest, Circling Back to his 5.0 Best earned last September. Excellent connections. Will need big improvement.
- 50–1 War Envoy: Two race regression. His 9.7 Best is slow for these, and he has since regressed in his last 2. Would shock me.
- 20–1 Shaman Ghost: Rest then Best and a short layoff. Has a very positive pattern, including that 3.5 Best earned in his last 2 months ago. Deep respect for the connections. If a speed duel develops, he could be picking them up late. Longshot worth at least an exotics look!
- 50–1 Semper Fortis: One race regression. His 7.2 Best is very slow in here. Decent connections. Would need the race of his life.
- 12–1 Keen Ice. Marching pattern. He posted his 3.1 Best last month where his come from behind style was compromised by a very slow pace. It should be noted that he was the 3rd place finisher in last year’s BC Classic. Primo connections. I think he is the most likely to pull an upset, but he will need a perfect setup and the race of his life.
- 25–1 Breaking Lucky. Marching pattern. Very nice pattern as he moved to a 3.1 Best in his latest. Solid connections. With another 2 months freshening, I would not be surprised with continued improvement!
- 50–1 Eragon. From Argentina. Decent Argentina form. In very tough here.
Initial review seems to indicate that California Chrome and Arrogate appear superior to the others, and I give a nod to Chrome. If there is a suicidal pace duel, there are a few in here that figure to be picking up the pieces. Good luck.