The richest horse race in thoroughbred history, the Pegasus World Cup, goes to the post late Saturday afternoon (Jan. 28, 2017) at Gulfstream Park in Florida. The concept for the mile-and-an-eighth race is entirely unique; the 12 starting slots were sold for $1 million apiece, and horses will run for the combined $12 million prize. On paper, it appears to be a match-race between California Chrome and Arrogate. Is it really that simple?
Let’s look at the contenders and see if there is a bet worth making.
If Chrome bags the $7 million first-place prize he’ll become the richest horse in history. The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner has been impressive the last couple years. He won the Dubai World Cup last year. This year, he took victories in the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again Stakes. He lost at the wire to Arrogate in November’s Breeders Cup Classic, however. He’ll break from gate 12, the far outside on Saturday.
Since Gulfstream expanded its track in 2006, horses from that gate are 1 for 18 in races at this distance. Horses in gates 10 through 12 are 7 for 117 in mile-and-an-eighth events on dirt. He’ll be racing for the lead early.
While Chrome is retiring after this race following a brilliant career, Arrogate’s career is just getting started. He burst on the scene late last summer, romping to an easy win in the Travers at Saratoga. That impressive victory left many wondering if it was a one race fluke or the emergence of a super-horse. He backed up the victory by coming out of nowhere to reel in Chrome down the stretch at the Breeders Cup. Though his rail draw, gate 1, is not as bad as being on the far outside, it isn’t ideal either. In order to make sure he has clear racing room and doesn’t get stuck behind a wall of horses early on, it is likely Arrogate will be asked to be forwardly placed from the get go.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is one of the most successful in the world and Keen Ice has a good history at Gulfstream. That said, his best days may be behind him. He beat Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah at the Travers two summers ago but is winless in eight races since. If there is a hot pace, he prefers to do his best running late.
Frank Stronach, who owns Gulfstream Park, also owns this five-year-old son of Ghostzapper. He’s won six of his last ten races, including the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in September, and the Brooklyn at Belmont in June. He could sit a good trip, right behind the front runners, ready to pounce if they let up.
Noble Bird ran perhaps his best race in October’s Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, but was not good in late November against Shaman Ghost (among others) in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. He will be forwardly placed, but perhaps can sit just off a potential speed dual up front. Unlike several other horses in this field, this may be Noble Bird’s best distance.
This is not a particularly good betting race. If either of the top contenders runs poorly, the other is likely to win. In all likelihood, the field needs both Chrome and Arrogate to have an off-day in order to win. Though it is no fun to bet on favorites, Chrome has the more difficult outside post, and more miles on his legs. Playing Arrogate straight is a good option. Or, if you think Chrome is not going a really bad day, bet Arrogate on the top of several others in the exacta.
Photo Credit: By Jlvsclrk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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