Pegasus World Cup : 2018, How To Play Gun Runner’s Post-Position Blues. Sporting an improved $16 million purse in its second year, the 2018 Pegasus World Cup, to be run tomorrow afternoon at Gulfstream, has maintained its title as America’s richest horse race. The purse was aggressively improved by a not inconsiderable one-third, or $4 million, over last year’s already hefty $12 million. The Pegasus purse – the winner takes home a very tidy $7-million – has drawn athletes of considerable talent, very much including its current morning line favorites of Gun Runner (currently 4-5), Collected (8-1), and West Coast (8-1), who commandeered last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic with great polish, and who finished in that order. The journeyman Gunnevera (15-1), and the talented newcomer Sharp Azteca – who Gulfstream’s gimlet-eyed handicappers put at 6-1, lower than Collected and West Coast – will bring what we might call the freaky to the top three veterans, and will build a feast in this year’s Pegasus World Cup for the seekers of exotic plays.
Watch Pegasus World Cup 2018 Live
It’s axiomatic in racing that any favorite, or any horse for that matter, will face his or her disadvantages. Gun Runner, the stalwart Breeders’ Cup champion and the winner of his last four outings, is no exception. In other words, it’s not an accident that, after the strong favorite drew the 10-hole earlier this week – renowned as disastrous at Gulfstream because of the short run to the first turn – owner Ron Winchell tweeted “Can’t say I like Gun Runner’s post draw!” Despite his very rough draw, that Gun Runner remains such a strong favorite in the morning line is a testament to his resilience and talent.
On cue, then, we’ll call in our resident sage, the Bluegrass Wise Man ™ , a Kentucky owner and lifelong horseman whose generosity with his native horse sense knows no bounds, to help us wade through the 2018 Pegasus field in all its complexity over the next two days. Disclaimer: The Bluegrass Wise Man has no horses running in any of Saturday’s races at Gulfstream.
But before we bring in the Wise Man ™, herewith, the horses of 2018’s $16-million Pegasus World Cup, in order of post position, followed by trainer, jockey, and morning line.
Pegasus World Cup 2018: Position, Trainer, Jockey, (Morning Line)
Singing Bullet, Dale Romans, Robby Albarado (30-1)
West Coast, Bob Baffert, Jorge Castellano, (8-1)
Stellar Wind, Chad Brown, Joel Rosario, (30-1)
Sharp Azteca, Jorge Navarro, Irad Ortiz Jr. (6-1)
Collected, Bob Baffert, Mike Smith, (8-1)
Gunnevera, Antonio Sano, Luis Saez (15-1)
Fear the Cowboy, Efran Loza, Tyler Gaffalione (30-1)
War Story, Jorge Navarro, Jose Ortiz, (25-1)
Toast of New York, Jamie Osborne, Frankie Dettori (20-1)
Gun Runner, Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux (4-5)
Seeking the Soul, Dallas Stewart, John Velasquez (25-1)
Giant Expectations, Peter Eurton, Gary Stevens (30-1)
Source: Gulfstream Park
We think getting scared is a big help in handicapping a big race, so, with a strong horse improving over the years like Gun Runner, should we bother being scared about his drawing the ten hole?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: The stats on those way outside holes are terrifying, right? Nobody has won out of the ten in the last month. Not one horse. But no, although the post is certainly something to keep in mind, I like Gun Runner’s talent, I like the fact that he has only gotten better over the years, which is why he’s won his last four starts, and I really like the fact that he has tactical speed. He’s raced on all kinds of tracks. He’s a race horse. He can do it. Florent Geroux can put him anywhere he wants in this race and ask him to run. You won’t make much money on him, meaning, I think his price will hold fairly low. Of course, anybody can get boxed in, but more than the post position, I think his challenge is going to be about whether he likes the length of the race, the configuration of the turns, and the track. At Gulfstream, if you’re not in position coming out of the second turn or at the top of the stretch, you’re not going to be in the money. What I’m saying is, no matter what we might think or argue about the run to the first turn, Gulfstream is a tough track in the last third of the race. That’s where you want to be ready.
Let’s take a look at his also-favored compadres from the Breeders’ Cup, Collected and West Coast.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Both of them are set well, for one thing. If anything, West Coast has a bit of an advantage from the two hole, what with that first turn being close, and Baffert is always a dreaded character to be running against. For anybody. While I think Collected’s and West Coast’s morning-line odds are about right, I’m just not sure they can stand up and bring what we know that Gun Runner can bring. West Coast is what you could call the heir apparent, and he’s the real deal, but he was off for a month after the Breeders. In spite of their Breeders’ performances, in some way this is going to be a step up for the two of them. They have to prove they can do it now.
Give us some the patented Wise-Man think on Sharp Azteca.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: That horse is the real deal, a professional, but where he wins is in one-turn mile-long races. So his question is gonna be, can he do it rounding two turns at one-and-an-eighth. Like I say, coming out of that last turn is going to be tough on all of them at Gulfstream, but I think particularly tough on Sharp Azteca. Put another way, it’s not that he, you know, turns into a pumpkin after the mile mark. But tomorrow, he’s gonna have to show he’s got the power and the mindset to be versatile. Given that, it’s a bit of a mystery as to why he’s a little lower on the morning line than Collected and West Coast right now. They’re the veterans at distances, and he ain’t, so to speak, although that may settle out as the money starts talking tomorrow. Either way, if he somehow decides he likes two turns, he could be a good bomb.
Sounds like he could be a building block in a fun trifecta, or function as the revolutionary in some kind of box. Have you put much thought into your exotics for tomorrow?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Little too early for me, but having said that, of course Gun Runner is at the moment the elephant that you can’t ignore. In a funny way, he’s sorta sitting in the middle of the bets no matter which way you turn, driving your possible payout down. If his price gets driven further down at the track tomorrow, and he brings home the win as folks seem to think, it’s gonna be hard to make any money from Mr. Stronach. That doesn’t mean we all aren’t gonna try. Right now I’m playing the top of the field with Sharp Azteca, Gunnevera and the Breeders’ Cup finishers. But that may change tomorrow.
Any last terrifying observations to take us till tomorrow morning? Come on. Give it your best shot.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: No matter what happens, Gun Runner will be put out to stud after this, with fees in the $70,000 range per stand. No matter what. That should tell you something.