As it turns out, Bob Baffert will not have the chance to win his third Pegasus World Cup (G1) on Jan. 23. First, Baffert had to retire last year’s winner, Mucho Gusto, after a soft tissue injury. Then he announced that the likely favorite, Charlatan, would take more time to prepare for the Saudi Cup next month instead.
The Pegasus World Cup committee and Gulfstream Park released an initial list of 16 possible horses for the race that was divided with 12 listed as “invitees” and four as “reserve invitees.”
Since, trainer Peter Miller opted to run Anothertwistafate in the Pegasus Turf (G1) and both of the Baffert runners will not be part of the race. As a result, Math Wizard and King Guillermo drew into the field from the reserve invitee list. So, with only Idol left on the AE list, the Pegasus committee added Independence Hall and Coastal Defense as extras.
Here is The 12 horses given first preference are (in alphabetical order):
Code of Honor The now 5-year-old had only one victory in 2020, and that came in his first start of the year in the Westchester (G3) on a muddy Belmont Park track in June. He was well bet in all four of his subsequent races, finishing in the top four in each of them, including three Grade 1s. That campaign has to be considered a disappointment for the Shug McGaughey runner. Since running second in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs, he has been training at Payson Park. As a 3-year-old he won the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Can we expect Code of Honor to find the winner’s circle in his 2021 debut? Use underneath.
Harpers First Ride This Laurel Park-based runner is the winner of his last two starts in listed stakes at the Maryland track. His career record looks impressive, with 10 victories from 17 starts. Last year was the best of his career and included a win in his first and only start in a graded stake in the Pimilico Special (G3) on Preakness weekend. Still, this will be a significant step up in class. Toss.
Jesus’ Team After hitting the board in three Grade 1 races in 2020 — the Haskell (G1), the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile — Jesus’ Team was able to get his first stakes victory in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream Park. All three of his victories occurred at the Florida track. His consistency needs to be respected and makes him worth considering in the trifecta. Use underneath.
Kiss Today Goodbye This West Coast-based runner has won his last two starts, including an allowance at Del Mar, followed by his 15-1 upset victory in the San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. That was his first win in a stakes race, and it came in a field of six. It earned him an invitation to the Pegasus, and he will be one of the longer shots as he makes his first start outside of California. Use underneath.
Sharp Samurai This 7-year-old gelding brings a streak of six races in which he has finished first or second while racing on both turf and dirt in California in only graded stakes. He has not won a race since October 2018. Last seen, he ran third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile behind Knicks Go and Jesus’ Team. Half of his eight victories were at nine furlongs, but only one of them was on dirt. Toss.
Sleepy Eyes Todd
True Timber True Timber got a signature victory when he won the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct in December. The millionaire 7-year-old was able to take control midway through that race and draw off to win by more than five lengths on a sloppy track. He did not hit the board in his three prior starts at Gulfstream, including an eighth-place finish in the Pegasus last year. Toss.
Also eligible (in order of preference): Idol, Independence Hall, Coastal Defense.
Without Charlatan in the Pegasus field, the expected front-end battle between him and Knicks Go is gone and the Brad Cox runner now has a significant pace advantage. Tax, Mr Freeze, and Sleepy Eyes Todd all have raced on the lead in the past, but they don’t have the speed of Knicks Go. In his current form, he will be very hard to beat.
The bottom two spots in the trifecta have plenty of contenders in Code of Honor, Jesus’ Team, Kiss Today Goodbye, Mr Freeze and Sleepy Eyes Todd.