Pegasus World Cup Turf 2022 Entries: Defending Champ Colonel Liam Returns on Saturday
Race 11: 1 1/8th (Turf), Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), Purse $1 million, 4+ (Saturday)
Formerly known as the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap, and later the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, the rechristened Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes came into existence in 2019. As a $1 million race, it has boasted a strong field, as well as some important turf specialists among its winning alumni. Trainers who have hoisted the trophy and collected this hefty purse multiple times, include the likes of Chad Brown, who won with Alamanaar (GB) and Bricks and Mortar … Shug McGaughey with Strolling Along and Point of Entry … and finally, Todd Pletcher. The HOF conditioner joined the club last year with Colonel Liam, and before that with Mshawish. This race is a solid distance test, and as Colonel Liam proved last year, can be a stepping stone to competing in other important Grade 1 contests as the year progresses.
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Space Traveller (GB) (Jky: J. Spencer/Trn: B. Walsh):
A former runner in Richard Fahey’s midst, this son of Bated Breath (GB) moved to Brendan Walsh’s barn back in August of last year. Walsh is one of those North American conditioners who takes on a number of international horses from abroad. Some are competitive, while most seem not to be … Way it goes … I like this entry because he has some back class from races like the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) back in 2019, and more recently, the last Arlington Million (G1). Well-bred for the turf, look who comes to ride … Jamie Spencer. That’s a big-time jockey who knows how to make a statement. I know he isn’t Dettori, Moore, or Buick, but still … This one has promise!
#2 Atone (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: M. Maker):
Trainer Mike Maker has 4-of-a-kind entered this year in the Pegasus. We know they will all run differently, but what we can bank on is that each one will be prepared. Maker’s program is strong, and his turf training continues to be all-encompassing. This well-bred son of super sire Into Mischief is ready for action off a 2nd place finish in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) back in December. Maker replaces Jaramillo with Castellano, and I am fine with it. The latter is not quite the wizard he was 5 years ago, but he still deserves respect. The rating ability of his mount in the spot is an asset, and I think he could be full of promise, if … and this is a major “if” … if he can take the required step forward. The versatility of Into Mischief as a sire producer just continues to impress …
#3 Flavius (Jky: A. Lopez/Trn: M. Maker):
When I think of this son of War Front, I automatically turn to his ability as a miler. I am not sure that 10 furlongs is really something he can do. His dam side says otherwise because it routes through Dynaformer … and we all know what that means … turf distances. I think this ridgling is still just as talented as when he ran for Chad Brown, and if you could get double-digits on this one come Saturday, that could be the steal of the day. Paco Lopez gets the call, and his grass stats are just uncanny. This could be a sleeper pick since the “chatter” will certainly go elsewhere. Maker horses aplenty … A top 3 pick though here …
#4 March to the Arch (Jky: E. Gonzalez/Trn: M. Casse):
I am not sure that Mark Casse’s entry in this spot is as sharp as he used to be back in the good ole days. Here is a 7-yr-old gelding by Arch that has 30 starts to his credit. Live Oak Plantation bred a nice one, and he has 8 wins to the tune of over $980k in winnings to his credit. When he is “on,” he could be one of those “deep-ball” threats that likes to toss one from the back of the pack, if you get my mixed-sports-metaphors. Maybe that is the issue, his riders have had just too much to do in the face of slow fractions or traffic. What we know is that Casse will have him ready to roll, and the distance should not be too much of an issue. The last time he competed at 1 1/8th at Woodbine in a “Non-G” event, it resulted in a win. Jockey Edwin Gonzalez is a live rider … hmm … interesting.
#5 Hit the Road (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: D. Blacker):
Remember the Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita last March … here is the winner of that race. Trainer Dan Blacker celebrated his 1st Grade 1 win, and it was an impressive performance by the son of More Than Ready. That sire has produced some quality turf routers, and other than the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland in April of last year, this one has yet to miss being in-the-money. The addition of Tyler Gaffalione is interesting because I think in many ways, he has surpassed Florent Geroux when it comes to turf riding ability. Geroux spends part of his time these days at Oaklawn, so that might be a tad unfair. At any rate, I think this is one to include for minor awards, but to me, it is an outside chance at best.
#6 Colonel Liam (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: T. Pletcher):
How can you put money down to “Win” on the defending champ in this spot? I am not sure … There is no question that Todd Pletcher’s horse by Liam’s Map was excellent during the first 3 races of his 2021 campaign. However, the Turf Classic (G1) and his battle with Domestic Spending really took its toll. Granted that was one of the best grass contests I have seen in some time, and I am glad that after being shutdown after the Manhattan (G1), that Pletcher has him competing again. I just cannot believe that he will be that sharp, even with Irad Ortiz in the saddle. The former Eclipse-winning jockey is fighting an injury, and he may not be up to scratch. I am going to pass on backing this one. Just too many questions …
#7 Doswell (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Tagg):
Here is a salty blade runner that is one of those types that will be underestimated by the pundits and horseplayers alike. Maybe he does not have the class rating that equates to being able to “hang” in a Grade 1. However, what he does have is the venerable Barclay Tagg in his corner. A conditioner with a vast array of experiences in his toolkit, I like the fact that Tagg’s gelding by Giant’s Causeway is showing up to prove his mettle. This runner won the “prep” for this race all on the frontend with Junior Alvarado aboard. It was a game effort in the Fort Lauderdale, and I know that kind of style in turf racing is very risky. Go too fast, and you are going to be passed late by those with a strong turn-of-foot … Go too slow, and you could be challenged early, and get into a speed duel … Alvarado has impressed me lately on the green, and he is a lawn jockey with some late-developing talent. When you are hot … well, you’re hot.
#8 Sacred Life (FR) (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):
The lone Chad Brown entry has many attributes, and despite being laid off since November, I like this one very much. A son by Siyouni (FR), a French sire of major renown, there are some strong class lines that are etched in this one’s past. With a major driving ability that kicks in late in a race, he has the accelerating ability to get the job done here. With a series of near misses over the course of 2021, he really showed some skill in the Knickerbocker (G2) at Belmont in October. Brown hit the mark, and his ridgling won going 1 1/8th. Ever since he switched to Jose Ortiz, this pairing looks good to Michael Dubb and Madaket Stables … they invest in winners. Ortiz should be able to get his feet wet in S. Florida, now that he has officially shifted his tack from Aqueduct to Gulfstream. Warm weather … ah … turf racing … ah … A top pick for me … already know.
#9 Field Pass (Jky: U. Rispoli/Trn: M. Maker):
Even though this horse by Lemon Drop Kid bested his gate-mate in the Seabiscuit H. (G2) at Del Mar, it was only by a head. Umberto Rispoli used everything he had to inch away from Jose Ortiz … I agree, it was a great performance, but the problem with this entry is that you never know which horse is going to show. Mike Maker has made shrewd decisions with this Three Diamonds Farm router, when it comes to shipping. He has run in important races on both Coasts, and in-between. Yet, I get the sense that the layoff will affect him more than others that are drawn in here. Maybe he is more of a miler or fit for 9F … not 10? It is a “pass” for me …
#10 Channel Cat (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: J. Sisterson):
With all of the S. Florida weather lately, and the races being taken off-the-turf, one has to wonder if the ground will greatly enhance the chances of a runner like Jack Sisterson’s? This horse by the great English Channel has a number of races under his saddle “going” over good ground. The Calumet homebred is a distance specialist, and likes to go further than 1 1/8th. He has the opposite problem of some of his compatriots in that this race might be too short. Still, with Joel Rosario in the irons, anything can happen. Even though this 7-yr-old could be a little long in the tooth, he still has ability and the experience to get the job done. Sisterson goes with the “blinks off,” and that could be just a “let’s try something” type of move. Interpret that how you must …
#11 Cross Border (Jky: R. Gutierrez/Trn: M. Maker):
Last year, this Mike Maker runner was my top pick in this race because I thought he ran nicely at the Fair Grounds. It was a big step-up for him to come and race in the Pegasus Turf. He acquitted himself quite well, and I was pleased to see him get-up for 3rd with Tyler Gaffalione aboard at odds of 14/1. Maker took that experience, and continued throughout ’21 to ratchet up the class challenges. It seemed like almost every month, the ridgling by English Channel was heading off to the next big turf contest. Each time he ran, it was a strong college-try, and his victory in the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga was a thing to behold. To get back to run in this spot, Maker used Turfway Park as a tune-up back on 18 Dec. Can you believe he was 12/1 in that “Non-G” 100k contest? Now, with the youthful Rey Gutierrez taking the mount, it will be intriguing to see how his level of fitness measures up. A player to respect …
#12 Never Surprised (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):
The “other half” of Pletcher’s uncoupled entry … this is a colt by Constitution that actually has the least amount of experience out of all of this group. In 7 career starts though, he already has 4 wins, and 3 seconds to his credit. Some of those races were BTs, but a few were of the “graded” variety. I wouldn’t write this one off because when Luis Saez and this HOF conditioner get together, they can be lethal. Numbers do not lie … The real question is, how will Repole Stable’s young ace respond to running against much older Thoroughbreds? That is a tough one to answer … Saez is such a gifted rider, and if anyone can make a difference on this grass course, it’s him. I give this one a shot, but will not be using him on top. Class still makes a difference … especially when it comes to longevity … and this runner isn’t quite there … not yet, at least.
Join us Saturday for all of our Pegasus Day selections! Should be a great set of races from Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet! Be sure to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!