Brandon A. Quick | Thu 25/01/2018 - 15:38 EST

2018 Pegasus World Cup Picks

2018 Pegasus World Cup Picks

The Skinny

There's no mistaking the depth and quality of this field. Funny how $16 million will bring em' right out of the barn. Last year's inaugural running of the Pegasus, which was worth $12 million, attracted a rematch between Arrogate and California Chrome - the 1-2 finishers from the Breeders' Cup Classic. Once again, fans will be treated to a BC Classic rematch as Gun Runner, Collected and West Coast - the 1-3 finishers - will battle nine quality rivals in this mile and an eighth throwdown. 

How good is this field? While this race may not have the cache Chrome and Arrogate brought to the event in 2017 one can argue the 2018 Pegasus represents a better group of runners.

There's an elite miler (Sharp Azteca), two lightly-raced, grade 1-winning up-and-comers (Collected and West Coast), a superstar filly (Stellar Wind), and a pair of sharp, stakes-winning veterans (Gunnevera and Seeking the Soul) to go with Gun Runner and that's to say nothing of the hard-knocking longshots who could get a piece of this gargantuan purse. 

The Field

  1. Singing Bullet (30/1) 
  2. West Coast (8/1)
  3. Stellar Wind (30/1)
  4. Sharp Azteca (6/1)
  5. Collected (8/1)
  6. Gunnevera (15/1)
  7. Fear the Cowboy (30/1)
  8. War Story (25/1)
  9. Toast of New York (20/1)
  10. Gun Runner (4/5)
  11. Seeking the Soul (25/1)
  12. Giant Expectations (30/1)

Key Handicapping Angles 

There's a very compelling argument that this is Gun Runner's race to lose. The champ has won four consecutive grade 1 races and was a second-place finisher in the 2017 Dubai World Cup - his lone defeat last year. Gun Runner won historic races like the Stephen Foster, Whitney and Woodward by open lengths before grinding out a comfortable 2 1/2-length score in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

He's amassed earnings of nearly $9 million and has trained brilliantly for what will be the final start of his magnificent career. While there are no chinks in Gun Runner's armor, the Gulfstream track configuration and his assigned post position (10) could be problematic.

Since April of 2008 in mile an an eighth races at Gulfstream, 223 horses have started from post positions 9-14 with only 10 of them finding the winner's circle. California Chrome's dismal performance in last year's Pegasus could be attributed, in part, to the fact that he was forced to break from the 12-hole with the track's notoriously short run-up to the first turn.  

Here are some of the other more prominent handicapping angles to consider for this year's Pegasus:

  • Top contender West Coast is 2 for 2 at  the 1 1/8-mile distance/Trainer Bob Baffert connects at 29% with runners making their first start off a layoff of 61-180 days. 
  • Collected (8/1) had recorded three straight Beyer Speed Figures of at least 110 before running a 101 in his third-place finish Dec.26 in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes.
  • Stellar Wind (30/1) is 0/4 at 1 1/8 miles and has never faced male horses.
  • Sharp Azteca (6/1) has never raced further than 1 1/16-miles, but is 3 for 5 at Gulfstream.
  • Gunnevera (15/1) and Fear the Cowboy (30/1) are proven over the local track with the former 3-2-1 from 7 starts and the latter 4-1-1 from 6 starts.
  • Toast of New York (20/1) finished second by a nose in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic and was retired to stud soon after. He returned to the races Dec. 6, 2017 with a winning effort at Lingfield in Great Britain on the all-weather surface.
  • Seeking the Soul (25/1) captured the first grade 1 victory of his career last-out in the Clark Handicap and has never finished off the board in 5 starts at the 1 1/8-mile distance.

The Picks

I'll be shocked if Gun Runner doesn't show up with a big race, but there's just too much big money to be made by betting against him. There's also the reality that Gun Runner will have to overcome his poor post position as noted above and that he could be hampered by a very quick pace.

Sharp Azteca, the likely pacesetter, has raw speed comparable to Gun Runner's. He's also classy enough to take this field a long way over a traditionally speed-favoring racetrack. That will leave Gun Runner either tracking quick splits or further back than he's been accustomed to since his emergence as an elite racehorse. I don't think Sharp Azteca takes this field all the way, but the race hinges on his presence. 

If Gun Runner is compromised by the pace, his starting post or both, there are a couple of runners ideally-suited to capitalize. West Coast has shown versatility and was a rapidly-improving three year-old colt in late-summer/early fall of 2017.

He's got plenty of license to improve as a four year-old  - as even his pedigree suggests - and probably finds his best distance at 1 1/8-miles. He'll be piloted by ace jockey Javier Castellano and has enough tactical speed to land a perfect trip in this race behind Sharp Azteca and Gun Runner. 

I also think Gunnevera will run a solid race in this spot, although I doubt he finds enough late kick to win. Like West Coast, this runner should improve as a four year-old. Gunnevera stands out as a horse-for-course to use underneath in exotic wagers such as the exacta, trifecta and superfecta. 

  • 1st: West Coast (#2) 
  • 2nd: Gun Runner (#10)
  • 3rd: Gunnevera (#6)
  • 4th: Sharp Azteca (#4)

Suggested Wagers

  • Exacta: 2 with 4,6,10 AND 10 with 2,4,6
  • Trifecta: 2,10/2,4,6,10/2,4,5,6,7,9,10,12
  • Use 2 and 10 in all multi-race exotic wagers 


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