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Pegasus World Cup program promises fireworks

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Pegasus World Cup program promises fireworks
Clear Vision wins Saturday's Tropical Turf at Gulfstream Park. Photo by Ryan Thompson, courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Clear Vision upset the feature at Gulfstream Park, Under the Stars was a popular winner at Santa Anita and South African trainer Justin Snaith qualified two horses for November's Breeders' Cup races at Keeneland, all in weekend horse racing.

Gulfstream Park also announced the invitees for the $3 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, $1 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf and $500,000 Grade III Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf, alr Jan. 29.

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The fields set up some potentially monumental confrontations. See a brief look below and we'll have much more later.

The Pegasus name, by the way, refers to the ginormous statue of the mythical winged horse that dominates the Gulfstream Park grounds in Hallandale, Fla.

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Let's take wing with the weekend's action:

Gulfstream Park

Clear Vision found a clear path to victory in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Tropical Turf Stakes. Leading from the start, the 6-year-old Artie Schiller gelding was headed briefly by Belgrado, the longest shot in the field, but came back and drew off to win by 2 lengths.

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Value Proposition was along for second, relegating Belgrado to third. Largent, the odds-on favorite despite an 11-months layoff, finished fourth.

Clear Vision, a 6-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.36. He was claimed for $25,000 last October at Gulfstream, then turned right around to finish second in the Claiming Crown Emerald in his first start for his new trainer, Matthew O'Connor, a former Nick Zito assistant.

The Tropical Turf was Clear Vision's first stakes win.

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"I have to thank Nick Zito," O'Connor said. "He's known for winning big races with long shots and he always told me, 'If you think you can run fourth in a stake, take the shot.' We followed that method here today and it worked."

Largent, who was second in last year's Pegasus World Cup Turf, was a potential candidate to defend that title with a good effort in the Tropical Turf. Despite coming up short, he was included in the 12 horses officially invited Sunday to contest the Turf on Jan. 29.

The Pegasus

Speaking of the Pegasus, the list of invitees to the main $3 million race could set up the most exciting version yet of a race that already has a rich, if brief, history.

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The roster includes Breeders' Cup Classic winner and likely 2021 Horse of the Year Knicks Go; Breeders' Cup Mile winner Life Is Good, who easily could have been last year's top 3-year-old but for an untimely injury; and the undefeated Flightline, who comes off a head-turning victory in the Grade I Malibu.

Knicks Go and Life Is Good literally dominated their Breeders' Cup races, shooting off to the lead and cruising home essentially unopposed. The similar styles left many fans wondering what would have happened if they had gone head-to-head in the Classic. Unless instructions are changed for one or another of the jockeys, we'll find out Jan. 29.

One possibility is they will run themselves to a standstill and open the way for a rival in the last of the 9 furlongs.

That could benefit Flightline, a Tapit colt who has won all three of his races by double-digit margins with eye-popping speed figures.

Trainer John Sadler has expressed himself in awe of the colt, who has won both on the lead and coming from off the pace. And, of course, there will be a full gate for the Pegasus -- a field good enough for almost anything to happen.

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The Pegasus is to be Knicks Go's last race. Life Is Good and Flightline could provide fireworks for the rest of year.

Santa Anita

Under the Stars battled for the lead down the backstretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita, cut the corner heading for home and withstood a late challenge by Awake At Midnyte, winning by 3/4 length. It was another 6 1/2 lengths to Miss Mattie B, who contested the early pace.

Under the Stars, a Pioneerof the Nile filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track under Flavien Prat and looked ready for more. It was her second straight win after a pair of thirds to open her account.

"When we came into this race, I was worried about the post [No. 1], but she's improving," said trainer Bob Baffert, who handles Under the Stars for the Coolmore partners in Ireland.

"She's a half sister to Bodemeister, so she has the pedigree to go further and Flavien thinks she wants to go further also. It's nice when they're bred that well and the Coolmore gang, the ownership group, they've been real patient. I'm just glad they sent her to us."

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Patience might get a different kind of test as Under the Stars forfeited the 10 points she otherwise might have earned toward a start in the Kentucky Oaks because Churchill Downs has banned Baffert and any horse he trains from its premises.

Under the Stars became the fourth Baffert-trained horse to forfeit points in little more than a month. Eda won the Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos on Dec. 4 and gave up 10 Oaks points. Newgrange and Rockefeller reported first and second in the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 1, losing 10 and 4 points, respectively.

Most egregious, Corniche probably won the Eclipse Award as top male 2-year-old of 2021 with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but was denied the 20 points on offer for the winner of that race.

Those points, along with 10 that were withheld from his victory in the Grade I American Pharoah on Oct. 1 at Santa Anita would have the undefeated Quality Road colt on top on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard -- a spot currently occupied by Pappacap, who finished second in the Juvenile and the American Pharoah.

There's still time for Churchill Downs -- which acted unilaterally in this situation -- to sort out the underlying issues and make a definitive statement about Baffert's status for the Derby, Oaks and associated qualifying races. That could leave plenty of opportunities for the best horses to earn their way into the Derby and Oaks.

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But if the situation threatens to drag on with no resolution in sight, owners will have to decide whether America's signature races are important enough to move their horses to other stables. Or -- who knows? -- other innovative tracks might put together competing races for horses not welcome in Louisville.

In Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Las Cienegas at Santa Anita, Zero Tolerance raced in second down the hillside turf, challenged while crossing the main track and ran on to win by a head over late-running long shot Tapwater. The favorite, Hear My Prayer, led the way and held on for third.

Zero Tolerance, a 4-year-old Mizzen Mast filly, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.26 with Prat riding for trainer Ruben Alvarado. She scored her fourth win from six starts.

Oaklawn Park

Coach showed the way in Saturday's $150,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares, repulsed a challenge by Miss Bigley and rolled on to win by 3 lengths over that rival. W W Fitzy was third.

Coach, a 4-year-old Commissioner filly, ran 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:37.58 for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. The victory was her second straight after a long layoff following a ninth-place finish in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks.

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"I thought, given the track condition, Ricardo, obviously, did a fantastic job of getting her involved," winning trainer Brad Cox said.

"Right away, I loved the position she was in. Once they turned up the backside, she's a hard-trying filly. I was pretty confident that she would kick on from there and she responded well. She did a fantastic job. She was ready to roll and we're very proud of her."

Aqueduct

Lobsta was awarded the win in Saturday's $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes for New York-breds despite losing a tight finish by a neck to My Boy Tate. There was nothing wrong with that duel but the stewards, after an inquiry and three objections, sorted out some nastiness from earlier in the contest and moved My Boy Tate down to fourth place.

That also promoted Battle Station and Chestertown to second and third. See the Equibase chart notes (equibase.com/static/chart/pdfAQU10822USA8.pdf) for the rather complicated further explanation. Lobsta, a 4-year-old colt by Emcee, is trained by Gary Sciacca and Javier Castellano had the winning ride.

Eric Cancel, who rode My Boy Tate, argued he had enough room when he initially tried to split horses near the top of the stretch "but once they started putting pressure from the outside, that's when it got bad. I tried to maintain my spot but there wasn't a whole lot I could have done. It was really tight and too little of a spot to play with."

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Next case.

Barese rallied five-wide to reach contention in Sunday's $100,000 Rego Park Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds, got to the front a furlong out and won by 2 3/4 lengths. Agility put a neck in front of Daufuskie Island to get place money.

Barese, a Laoban colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:19.13 with Dylan Davis riding.

Turfway Park

Nobals was hustled to the lead in Saturday night's $100,000 Turfway Prevue stakes for 3-year-olds, maintained a decent lead around the turn and through the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths. It was another 2 1/2 lengths to Amicable in third.

Trained by many-time Arlington Park training champ Larry Rivelli, Nobals ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.99 with Geraldo Corrales in the irons. The Noble Mission gelding won the 2021 Arlington-Washington Futurity and most recently was fifth in the Qatar Golden Mile Stakes on Breeders' Cup weekend.

Delta Downs

Cilla, the odds-on favorite, showed why in the stretch run of Friday's $75,000 Orleans Stakes for fillies and mares. With Thomas Pompell at the controls, the 4-year-old California Chrome filly emerged from a pace-stalking trip to take the lead and drew off to a 2 3/4-lengths victory.

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Icy Charlie was second-best, 1/2 length in front of Onerollofthedice. Cilla ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 58.40.

Greeley and Ben took the lead on the turn in Saturday's $75,000 Sam's Town Stakes and quickly got clear to win by 3 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Wild Bert was second, 1/2 length better than Best You Ever Seen.

Greeley and Ben, an 8-year-old gelding by Greeley's Conquest, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 59.16 for jockey Timothy Thornton.

Sunland Park

Bye Buy Mattie P dueled with Massive Roar throughout Sunday's $100,000 Corralito Steak House Stakes for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, finally crossing the wire a nose in front of that rival. Wheres Braydon was, in fact, in third, another 2 3/4 lengths in arrears.

Bye Buy Mattie P, an Attila's Storm gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.75 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.

Question: Why isn't that race the "Corralito Steaks," a la Turfway Park's innovative "Jeff Ruby Steaks?" This could open a whole new field of sponsorship -- the "Home Depot Fencepost Stakes," the "Clark W. Griswold Bargain Casino Low-Stakes," etc. Just a thought on a slow weekend.

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Also Sunday, Five Pics Please led all the way in the $65,000 Bold Ego Handicap, finishing first by a nose, only to be demoted to second for impeding Count Them Again at the start. Count Them Again finished second and was awarded the victory. Flyin Falynn finished third. Count Them Again is a 5-year-old Premeditation mare.

Around the world, around the clock

South Africa

Trainer Justin Snaith snared both Grade 1 events -- and both Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" invites -- Saturday at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town.

Jet Dark defended his title in the L'Ormarin's Queen's Plate to earn a place in the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile on Nov. 5 at Keeneland and Captain's Ransom eked out a victory in the Cartier Paddock Stakes to gain a starting spot in the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Jet Dark, a 4-year-old son of Trippi, raced well back in the 11-horse field in the Queen's Plate alongside Kommetdieding, the winner of last year's Grade 1 Durban.

Kommetdieding got first run to challenge for the lead, but Jet Dark found the best late effort to draw off for an easy win. Seven-year-old Rainbow Bridge put in a late bid to finish fourth. Jet Dark scored his third Grade 1 win.

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One race earlier, Captain's Ransom rallied from far back, hit the front inside the 100-meters marker and held off Chansonette, winner of the Grade 1 Cape Guineas a month earlier, to win by a short head. Marina was just another head back in third. She now has nine wins from 11 starts.

Although Breeders' Cup offers free entry and fees as well as a $40,000 travel allowance to the winners of a Challenge race, the chances of seeing either Captain's Ransom or Jet Dark at Keeneland are remote.

Arcane protocols require that South African horses essentially wend their way through a multination, six-month quarantine before they can compete in other jurisdictions. It's a pity, too, because there are some really nice horses in South Africa.

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