Key Takeaways from Pegasus World Cup Day 2023

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream Park. The spectacular day of entertainment centered around a 13-race card highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Baccarat, the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes Presented by Qatar Racing, and the $500,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Association Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational Stakes Presented by Pepsi.

ALL ABOUT STYLE: Pegasus Day was all about style in so many ways at Gulfstream Park, including the manner in which the biggest race was won. Art Collector was a dedicated front-runner in many of his 10 previous victories, but Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott thought his best shot in the Pegasus World Cup was for the newly-turned 6-year-old to come from off the pace for jockey Junior Alvarado. The change in strategy contributed to an authoritative 4 ½-length decision against Defunded despite 15.50-1 odds. “The horse liked what he did with him,” Mott said. “He liked the fact that he was able to settle and breathe and do all of those things that you need to do to reserve that energy, because it is all about saving energy.”

ENCOURAGING SECOND: Top assistant Jimmy Barnes, who handles most of the travel for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, views Defunded’s second-place Pegasus finish as an invaluable experience. “I learned a lot about traveling with him. Maybe now we can travel more,” Barnes said of the gelded 5-year-old son of Dialed In. “He handled the ship well. He handled the paddock well. Before we weren’t sure about traveling because he’s a little fractious and temperamental.” The good showing at Gulfstream Park creates a lot of possibilities for Defunded the rest of the year. “We expect big things from him,” Barnes said.

GRADE 1 BREAKTHROUGH: Trainer Michael Maker has a knack for bringing out the best in older horses. Six-year-old Atone, who earned its first Grade 1 win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, is the latest example of that. The gelded son of Into Mischief had won just one of eight starts in 2022 with a pair of second-place efforts and two thirds. “He was a hard-luck horse last year,” Maker said. “He’s always been right there and (Saturday) was his day.” Irad Ortiz Jr. became the sixth different jockey to ride Atone in the last six starts. His patience was key. “I waited but at the same time I tipped my way out so when I hit the clear my horse was there,” Ortiz said. “All the credit goes to the horse.” And a bunch to Maker and his staff.

WEST COAST INVADER: Queen Goddess is based on the West Coast for trainer Michael McCarthy, and all five of her lifetime wins had come there before the Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf. In her two ventures away from California, she had run fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup Stakes Presented by Dixiana at Keeneland in October 2021 and fifth on dirt in the Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park last February. Now 5, the daughter of Empire Maker showed she could win a road game with a 1 ½-length decision against favored Shantisara in the Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf on behalf of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber. “She’s matured. She’s a filly we always thought would get better with age,” said Aron Wellman, who founded Eclipse.

DOMINATION: Michael Maker accomplished his fifth victory in the $150,000 William L. McKnight Stakes Presented by Davidoff Cigars earlier on the card and made a strong statement in the process. Remarkable 9-year-old Red Knight showed he still has plenty of run left in him. He was followed by stablemates Value Engineering and Wicked Fast. Temple, yet another stablemate, took fifth. Maker said after Red Knight’s 11th victory in 32 career starts, “He loves his job.” Red Knight, bred and owned by Thomas Egan’s Trinity Farm, is a gelded son of Pure Prize. He rebounded from an 11th-place finish in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.