Now that Omaha Beach and Spun to Run have been scratched from Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the two favorites for the $3 million race are Mucho Gusto and Higher Power.
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Mucho Gusto, who is 9-2 on the original morning line, hasn’t won since June, and has never won in company higher than grade 3. Bob Baffert trains the son of Mucho Macho Man, who picked up jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. earlier in the week. Mucho Gusto was once good enough to be considered a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender, but that didn’t pan out when he ran third in the Sunland Derby (G3) last May. He has not won over the distance or outside of California.
Higher Power, who won the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, was a 9-1 surprise in that race last August, which was the first and only stakes victory of his career. He went on to run third in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) as the second choice, and then third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 9-1 again. John Sadler trains Higher Power, and is looking to do better than last year when he saddled favored Accelerate to be third.
Their tepid favoritism could leave the Pegasus World Cup open for its first longshot winner. Tax (8-1) has never been worse than third at the distance in five tries. Diamond Oops (15-1) has won five of six starts over the Gulfstream Park surface. Seeking the Soul was second in this race last year, then went on to win the Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs over the distance.
War Story (30-1) has run in this race twice before, with a fifth-place finish in 2017 as his best effort here. But the eight-year-old Northern Afleet gelding won the local prep race for this, the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) here on December 14, and gets jockey Joel Rosario for this. He was a graded stakes winner in July over the distance as well. War Story is just dollars away from $3 million in earnings.
Mr Freeze (20-1) is an improving type, who blossomed late in 2019 to win the Ack Ack (G3) and run third in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs. He was also second in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland over the distance. Dale Romans trains and Luis Saez moves from War Story to this five-year-old.
Bodexpress and Tenfold round out the field. Bodexpress was made famous when he lost John Velazquez at the start of the Preakness Stakes as a maiden, but came back to win two races in a row in the fall, including an allowance by nearly seven lengths. He was third in the Harlan’s Holiday behind War Story and was good enough to run second in the Florida Derby (G1) over this trip last year.
By Emily Shields for TVG