Pegasus Grade 1 Stakes Preview

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:

  1. 501 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 251 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 501 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. 
  6. 201 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! 
  7. 501 Semper Fortis: One race regression. His 7.2 Best is very slow in here. Decent connections. Would need the race of his life.
  8. 121 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. 
  9. 251 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!  
  10. 501 Eragon. From Argentina. Decent Argentina form. In very tough here.

Summary

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. 

Ruth Bredleau