Reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome Monday drew the outside post position for his Saturday rematch with Breeders' Cup Classic winner Arrogate in the $12 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
Arrogate, who narrowly defeated California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, drew the inside gate for the richest Thoroughbred race ever.
The Pegasus, brainchild of Gulfstream owner Frank Stronach, is run at 9 furlongs, with a relatively short run to the first turn. That means Victor Espinoza will have to decide whether to gun California Chrome out of the No. 12 gate and try to take a quick lead or establish the best possible position and hope for a clean trip.
California Chrome led all the way in the Breeders' Cup until Arrogate nailed him with one last move in the final yards, cementing an Eclipse Award as the top 3-year-old of 2016 despite not having contested any of the Triple Crown races.
The draw does refocus attention on the other 10 starters, who appear on paper to be hopelessly outclassed by Arrogate and California Chrome. But if traffic becomes an issue as the "big two" try to establish position, tactics and racing luck could play a role in the outcome.
California Chrome will retire to stud after Saturday's race while Arrogate will continue his career under California-based trainer Bob Baffert.
The others in the Pegasus, from gate No. 2 outward, are Prayer for Relief, Neolithic, Noble Bird, War Story, War Envoy, Shaman Ghost, Semper Fortis, Keen Ice, Breaking Lucky and Eragon.
Prayer for Relief has not won a race of any kind since 2013. Neolithic's two victories do not include a stakes race. War Story has four wins but was a distant eighth in the Breeders' Cup. War Envoy's two wins both came in minor events in England and he was third in last spring's Barbados Gold Cup. Semper Fortis has won twice, in a maiden race and an optional claimer.
On the flip side, Keen Ice defeated 2015 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah in the Grade I Travers and finished third in last fall's Breeders' Cup, albeit 10 3/4 lengths behind California Chrome. Noble Bird, Shaman Ghost and Breaking Lucky are all graded stakes winners. Eragon makes his first start outside his native Argentina, where he was a multiple Group 1 winner.
The Pegasus is supported on Saturday's card by six other stakes races, from 5 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, on both the dirt and the turf.