The Pegasus World Cup is the richest race on the planet and next month, 12 runners will be chasing the top prize in the $16 million contest. Whoever is successful will become the second ever winner of the Grade One invitational contest at Gulfstream Park.
Here is a look at the leading runners who will line up in 2018, where their owners have put down $1 million each to secure their slot in the race.
Gun Runner – Age: 4 – Trainer: Steven Asmussen – Jockey: Florent Giroux – Record: 10 wins from 17 starts
The headline act in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup is last month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner, who is now considered the best dirt horse in the world following Arrogate’s retirement. Steven Asmussen’s runner has had four Grade One victories in 2017 and he goes into 2018 as the horse to beat in this division.
At the age of four, Gun Runner is likely to be heading into his final season on the track. The Pegasus World Cup will be his opening start of the year and if everything goes well in Florida, he is set to make the trip to the UAE to compete in the Dubai World at Meydan in March.
Gun Runner went into the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar as the second favourite behind the defending champion Arrogate. His jockey Florent Giroux opted to take up the early running in the race and he was never overtaken as he kept on gamely inside the closing 200m to score by just over two lengths.
The bookmakers have made Gun Runner their early -125 favourite to extend his winning run and to repeat what Arrogate achieved a year earlier by completing the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup double.
Collected – Age: 4 – Trainer: Bob Baffert – Jockey: Martin Garcia – Record: 8 wins from 12 starts
Collected made a name for himself in 2017 with victory in the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar in August, where he defeated Arrogate to claim the Grade One contest. Bob Baffert’s runner then went into his first Breeders’ Cup meeting and ran a respectable second behind Gun Runner in the Classic.
The four-year-old colt just didn’t have the pace to overcome Gun Runner at Del Mar, however, connections will be hoping they can catch the Pegasus World Cup favourite cold at Gulfstream Park as he has had a rest following his Breeders’ Cup victory.
Baffert has one of the most impressive records in the history of horse racing in the USA and the Hall of Fame trainer is likely to have his runner in perfect shape for this 1800m contest, where he is sure to be one of the popular tips at Timeform to come out on top. A victory for Collected, who is available in the betting at +700, would surely tempt connections into travelling to the UAE for the Dubai World Cup where he could face Gun Runner for the third time in five months.
West Coast – Age: 3 – Trainer: Bob Baffert – Jockey: Mike Smith – Record: 5 wins in 7 starts
West Coast established himself as one of the best dirt horses in North America with victory in the Travers Stakes in August at Saratoga where he beat his three-year-old rivals in one of the biggest races of the year for his age category.
Rather than take on the three-year-olds again at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in November, his connections opted to compete against the older generation in the Classic and their decision was justified as he more than held his own, finishing third, ahead of the defending champion Arrogate.
West Coast is a year younger than Gun Runner and Collected, therefore, has the potential to find further improvement in 2018. The top two in the betting for the Pegasus World Cup may find it difficult to raise or maintain their standards next year just like Arrogate struggled in his final season before retiring to stud.
Baffert will be pleased that the Pegasus World Cup is over 1800m rather than 2000m as his horse did not look quite as effective over the extra 200m at Del Mar. West Coast has run twice at the 1800m distance during his career and has won on both of those occasions.
West Coast is +700 to win the biggest race of his career in Florida and record his first success in open age company.
Forever Unbridled – Age: 5 – Trainer: Dallas Stewart – Jockey: Joel Rosario – Record: 7 wins in 15 starts
Forever Unbridled is set to take on her opposite sex in the Pegasus World Cup following her victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at the world championship meeting last month. The five-year-old mare has won four of her last five starts, with the only defeat coming in the 2016 Distaff.
Dallas Stewart’s runner was held up in the early stages at Del Mar in the leading race for fillies and mares and came with a run inside the final 400m. She was too quick for her rivals in the last 200m as she broke away to record the biggest win of her career.
Forever Unbridled is +1200 to become the first filly or mare in history to win the Pegasus World Cup in 2018.
Sharp Azteca – Age: 4 – Trainer: Jorge Navarro – Jockey: Jorge Castellano – Record: 7 wins in 14 starts
Sharp Azteca has been one of the most consistent milers in the USA over the last 18 months and that was reflected in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he finished second to Battle of Midway. Connections have hinted that they would be prepared to step up to the Pegasus World Cup trip at Gulfstream Park in which it will be interesting to see how he performs against horses who are comfortable with the distance.
Jorge Navarro’s runner recently appeared at Aqueduct where he won a Grade One contest by over five lengths, therefore, he appears to be in great form. He is available at +1200 to come out on top in the big race next month.
The 2018 Pegasus World Cup takes place on January 27 and can be seen live on NBC.