It’s almost unheard of these days that you get a colt with wins in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Pacific Classic, and Dubai World Cup to race into his six year-old season, but a race with a $12 million purse was too hard to pass up for ownership group of California Chrome. With the toughest loss of his career coming this past October in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. California Chrome does has something to prove January 28th at Gulfstream Park. He is out to prove that his loss to the three year-old colt, Arrogate, was indeed a fluke.
Arrogate, now a four year-old colt by Unbridled’s Song out of the Distorted Humor mare Bubbler has only raced five times in his short career. Leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, he broke his maiden in his second try, and then followed that up with two allowance victories, and the ultra-impressive 13 1/2 length victory in the Grade 1 – Travers Stakes.
While Arrogate kept winning, improving on the track in the morning, and in the afternoon. After the victory in the Travers’, Baffert said, “That was ridiculous.” And it truly was an insane victory, he set a track record in a race that had been run 146 times before Arrogate entered the starting gates that afternoon.
So the stage was set for the Breeders’ Cup, California Chrome had already proven he was the best older male dirt horse in the world. Arrogate, had proven that at the very least that he was as good a three year-old as any, and after the record setting stakes performance at Saratoga, he was ready to take on the best of the best.
In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, California Chrome went straight to the lead, traveled in the two-path and set rather moderate fractions, and had no excuses when it came time for the stretch battle. At the furlong mark, it looked like Chrome may have had the race won, but during the final 100 yards, Chrome tired, and Arrogate stayed on well and closed ground quickly late to win by half a length.
Gulfstream Park will set the stage for Chrome’s chance for revenge in the final race of his career. It’s kind of sad because if Chrome does win because we won’t have a chance to see a grudge match later in the year. Who knows, maybe the ownership group, California Chrome, LLC will change their minds and possibly send Chrome to Dubai for another shot at the Dubai World Cup or they could also keep him local for his six year-old season. The most likely scenario is that the inaugural Pegasus World Cup will be the culmination of an outstanding career. There have been some great horses in the past decade, American Pharoah, Beholder, Zenyatta, Goldikova, Curlin, Frankel, Afleet Alex, Wise Dan, and Game on Dude. I probably could have added more horses to the list, especially if you include more of the grass horses from overseas, but this coming Saturday will be interesting to say the least.
Here is a complete breakdown of the Pegasus World Cup, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
GRADE 1 – PEGASUS WORLD CUP INVITATIONAL STAKES (1 1/8 miles)
#1 – ARROGATE (Mike Smith/Bob Baffert) ODDS: 7/5
As I stated above Arrogate has not lost in his last five starts. Most recently, he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Travers Stakes, both are Grade 1 events. With his lack of experience coming off of a layoff, it is going to be difficult to gauge how he is doing down in Florida. He does have the most consistent work pattern you can possibly have going into a race of this magnitude. He has had a run of weekly six furlong works that date back to Christmas time. He was given roughly three weeks off after his victory in the Classic. He came back with a couple moderate :48-:49 four furlong works before putting up a :58.2 bullet that was #1 out of 76 works at that distance at Santa Anita on December 13th.
The consistency can’t be knocked at this point, he has done everything he was supposed to do off of that amazing victory over California Chrome. It’s hard to think he won’t be in tip-top shape and form this coming Saturday. Note that his last work this past Saturday at Santa Anita was on a wet surface, and he was fifth out of eight works most likely because they were not going at a full gallop. I didn’t watch the work and time it like I normally do before these big races, so I would just throw it out. It was just as fast as the rest of his six furlong works, don’t worry about it if you are planning on playing Arrogate.
Arrogate’s Brisnet Prime Power Rating is 166.3 top for this group. His best pace ratings are higher than California Chrome’s by a significant margin, but also remember he has only had five races for these values to be calculated. He hasn’t had the chance to have an ‘off’ effort be calculated in those. On the other hand, if Arrogate runs his best effort, California has never run as fast as him according to Brisnet’s pace figures. If you are looking to play one of the longshots, there are two horses with faster closing pace figures when they are running their best when compared with Arrogate: Noble Bird and Keen Ice. The question is going to be how far behind the two speedsters will those horses be when they hit their high gear and can they avoid trouble.
At this point, I think that Arrogate is most likely the horse to beat. I am going to put his value line right around even money. If you can better than even money, I would play him. His pace figures are just so high and his efforts on the training track are also consistent. If I don’t hear anything negative about him during the week. I wouldn’t hesitate if you like him.
#2 – Prayer for Relief (Florent Geroux/Dale Romans) ODDS: 50-1
This horse came off a long layoff after shipping back to America from Dubai at the end of March. He came back in the Grade 2 -Fayette Stakes at Keeneland in October, went off at 15-1, kept touch through the opening half and faded from there while Noble Bird won the race. He followed that up with a start at Churchill Downs in the Grade 1 – Clark Handicap which is also run at nine furlongs, the same as the Pegasus. He chased the pace in the six-path early and faded badly at odds of 96-1. He returns to Gulfstream for the first time since February 2015, when he finished fourth in the Donn Handicap.
It is going to be extremely difficult for Prayer For Relief to have any kind of impact on the Pegasus considering he couldn’t have an impact on the races he was in towards the end of 2016. I would also have trouble using him in any kind of exotic unless it’s some type of ticket where you are using ‘all’ in third or fourth.
#3 – Neolithic (John Velasquez/Todd Pletcher) ODDS: 30-1
Broke maiden in second start at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16th mile, Gettysburg finished third in that race and won his next start. Neolithic followed that up with a second place effort to Summer Revolution at Saratoga in August. Summer Revolution has been unsuccessful in a number of stakes events following that allowance victory. Neolithic failed in his next three starts (two allowance, one Grade-3 stakes). After returning to Gulfstream in December and posting a 100 Brisnet Speed Figure in a first level allowance win, the ownership group decided to enter Neolithic in the Pegasus World Cup at Neolithic’s favorite track where he has never lost.
Even with the undefeated record at Gulfstream Park and Todd Pletcher calling the shots, Neolithic is going to need a career best effort, and they are going to have to try and change some of their past tactics. In his last win, Neolithic went gate-to-wire, he simply does not have the speed to do that unless he finds something we have not seen before. His best chance would be to come from off the pace, and take advantage of the inside post position. If Johnny V. doesn’t do that, they have no chance of getting a piece of the this gigantic purse pie.
#4 – Noble Bird (Julien Leparoux/Mark Casse) ODDS: 25-1
Noble Bird is coming off a seventh place finish behind the winner Gun Runner in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs going nine furlongs back on November 25th at Churchill Downs. After a troubled start, Noble Bird was sixth by four at the first call, then moved forward to grab second before faltering late to finish seventh. Considering the trouble, I think you can toss that race out. It went completely wrong from the get-go. Trainer Mark Casse was unhappy with the trip and I am sure Julien Leparoux would do it over if he could. The odds on Noble Bird are likely to come down from the 25-1 mark he is on the morning line. I am not saying Noble Bird is going to win the race on Saturday, but if there is a likely candidate to do it. Noble Bird has the best closing pace in the race and if he can get in position within a few lengths at the top of the lane, it could be possible to have an effect on the outcome. Birdstone took down Smarty Jones, Mine That Bird pulled one of the biggest Derby upsets ever, and Summer Bird won the Belmont; could Noble Bird win the Pegasus?
#5 – War Story (Antonio Gallardo/Jorge Navarro) ODDS: 50-1
After an impressive win in the Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct back on December 17th, Jorge Navarro who is taking over for trainer Mario Serey Jr. for this race has placed War Story in the Pegasus World Cup, it will be his fifth attempt in Grade 1 company, he has went off at odds of 90-1 or higher in three of those starts, and he went off at 44-1 in the Cigar Mile in the other. According to jockey Antonio Gallardo, the horse was supposed to win the Cigar Mile, they thought they learned something by taking the blinkers off of the horse. Apparently, he made a mistake, he corrected it traveling to New York for the Queens County, and the horse won going away at odds of 3-1. Granted it wasn’t a graded race and it wasn’t nearly as tough a group. He did shed off a challenge from the 6-5 favorite, Bay of Plenty, in that race, and drew off to win by more than seven lengths. If they did learn something in that race, it is possible considering the horse ran his two best speed figures of his life in his last two starts, he could find his way into the exotics and if a miracle happens even better, I don’t see it though.
#6 – War Envoy (Luis Saez/Mark Ruis) ODDS: 50-1
The five year-old now owned by Ruis Racing LLC and trained by Mick Ruis is taking an ambitious shot by entering in the Pegasus. The horse most recently raced out in California under Craig Dollase and Shelbe Ruis and had no success in two turf sprints. They will attempt to stretch out this Saturday and shock the world. War Envoy did have some success overseas winning the Brittania Stakes at Ascot in June 2015. He followed that up with a poor effort in Ireland at Curragh before shipping to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in which he ran poorly to finish 11th.
For him to have a chance, he will need most horses to race poorly, and he will have to have a career best effort. The chances of that happening are extremely unlikely. His odds realistically should be 200-1 or higher.
#7 – Shaman Ghost (Jose Ortiz/Jimmy Jerkens) ODDS: 20-1
The winner of last year’s Woodward Stakes at Saratoga is a very intriguing prospect if you look outside the top two horses in the race. He has yet to have the chance to take down California Chrome or Arrogate and is owned by Stronach Stables.
His pace figures are slightly slower than Chrome or Arrogate, but if he continues to improve off the efforts late in 2016, he could have a shot to pull the upset at a decent price. He will likely be much closer to 10-1 than the 20-1 morning-line has suggested.
He has threw up back to back bullets in his last two workouts on the Palm Meadows training track. It will be interesting to see how he takes to the Gulfstream surface in his return for the first time since March 2015 in which he broke his maiden in his fourth start. I would expect strong support late at the windows for this horse if his odds are worth it. Pay close attention to the odds. It can be beneficial to write them down every five minutes or so if you are an online player, take notes and see how it effects the results, you will be surprised.
#8 – Semper Fortis (Tyler Gafflione/Doug O’Neil) ODDS: 50-1
Reddam Racing ships in this four year-old by Distorted Humor with high optimism off of a strong effort in the Malibu Stakes. He finished sixth but only six and quarter lengths off the winner, Mind Your Biscuits. Prior to that, he finished second in the Zia Park Derby at odds of 5-2 behind Pass the Buck. And, he also just missed by a head in the Grade 2 – Los Alamitos Derby to upcomer Accelerate.
Semper Fortis does have the running style that would put him in contention if California Chrome and Arrogate begin to weaken in the stretch. The problem is his speed rating is low, his Brisnet Prime Power Rating is 10th. It is going to take a lot of improvement. His highest speed figure to date according to Brisnet is a 101 and that doesn’t get him nearly close enough to win this race. The winner of this race will likely get a figure between 110 and 125. My opinion is that he is simply not good enough
#9 – Keen Ice (JJ Castellano/Todd Pletcher) ODDS: 12-1
Keen Ice hasn’t won a race since the pace broke down in his one in a lifetime upset of American Pharoah. Could he become the horse to pull the ultimate upset twice? Some people think it’s possible, he got second for the first time in eight starts in the Grade 3 – Harlan’s Holiday last out, he was outfinished by Stanford. I just can’t see taken odds between 8-1 and 15-1 on this type of horse that hasn’t been able to come close to California Chrome or Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup or the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
If you are interested in betting on Keen Ice, the one thing you do have going for you, he has run five speed figures above 100. His Brisnet Prime Power Rating puts him sixth in the Pegasus and with an overall record of two wins in 19 starts.
#10 – Breaking Lucky (Luis Contreras/Reade Baker) ODDS: 25-1
The 46-1 long shot that almost pulled the huge upset in the Clark Handicap loomed a huge threat to Gun Runner, but could not sustain his bid and finished roughly three lengths back. Gun Runner was not allowed to enter the Pegasus. Winchell Thoroughbreds submitted an entry on Monday into the race, but were denied because the horse had not been tested for the equine herpesvirus through a nasal swab. The horse did test negative for the virus through a blood test Gulfstream Park officials confirmed.
We are left with Breaking Lucky, the second place finisher in the Clark, he posted a Brisnet Speed Figure of 109. The highest leading into the race other than Chrome which ran 102 jogging around the track in the Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos and Arrogate ran a 115 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic 84 days ago.
If Breaking Lucky puts up the same speed figure on Saturday, that would likely get him somewhere in the mix of being in the money. It will likely take improvement off that figure to have a chance at winning the race.
I am a little confused on what the odds of Breaking Lucky will be at Gulfstream Park. The morning-line of 25-1 could be accurate or it could be way off. If he takes money and handicappers bet on improvement he could go off much lower than that. If handicappers’ see it as a fluke, he could go off at 25-1 or higher. I am betting that it’s a fluke.
#11 – Eragon (Edgar Prado/Laura Wohlers) ODDS: 50-1
This is the most difficult horse in the race to analyze. He has not started on American soil and I don’t know a ton about trainer Laura Wohlers and how well she can get one ready that started in Argentina 77 days ago. There is no Brisnet Prime Power Rating for this six year-old by Offlee Wild out of =Express Time (ARG). I would put his figure some where in the bottom half of this field. One thing I learned when Calidoscopio captured the Breeders’ Cup Marathon in 2012 is that you can not dismiss Argentinian breds. They can close with a flourish and if for some reason this horse is the real deal. The Argentinian’s playing their horse online, locally, and/or overseas will be singing their way to the mutuels windows.
#12 – California Chrome (Victor Espinoza/Art Sherman) ODDS: 6-5
I think I have said enough about California Chrome throughout the analysis of these 12 horses to prove that he is the one to beat. I honestly think he is the best horse in the race. If you can play on TVG and get their guaranteed odds of 10-1 on California Chrome, I would take it in a heartbeat. I believe he sets the pace from the outside and draws away late. If anybody runs him down, I truly think it’s Noble Bird.
Here are my picks for the Pegasus World Cup:
#1 – California Chrome
#2 – Noble Bird
#3 – Shaman Ghost
#4 – Arrogate
$50 win: #12 California Chrome
$10 Exacta: 12 with 4 and 7
$5 Exacta: 4 and 7 with 12
$0.50 trifecta: 12 with 1,4,7 with ALL
$0.50 trifecta: 12 with ALL with 1,4,7
$0.50 trifecta: ALL with 12 with 1,4,7
$0.50 trifecta: ALL with 1,4,7 with 12
$0.50 trifecta: 1,4,7 with ALL with 12
$0.50 trifecta: 1,4,7 with 12 with ALL