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It hasn’t long been part of the racing calendar, but since the first running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in 2017, the race has had a big impact on the racing world. In a schedule crowded with top-class racing opportunities, both in the States and abroad, the Pegasus World Cup stands out thanks to its unique and fascinating entry criteria, high prize and concentration of equine talent.
The sixth edition of this race will be held on January 29, 2022 and acts as one of the premier horse-racing and betting events in the US – the 2017 inaugural event was, at the time, Gulfstream Park’s highest ever recorded betting handle, at $40.2 million.
Industry leaders such as bookmakers.com make it their business to assemble a number of sportsbooks that offer competitive odds, ever changing as the number of confirmed runners builds and the race begins to take shape. So, what can we expect when we look forward to the 2022 Pegasus World Cup, and how will it look a little different?
This year, the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and Turf contests are joined by a third major race. The $500,000 Filly and Mare Turf, a Grade 3 contest, will be an exciting addition to the Pegasus World Cup roster. It replaces the Grade 3 Marshua’s River contest and will provide an opportunity for some of the best fillies and mares to compete for a big prize.
That race is in addition to the other stakes races that are already part of the Pegasus World Cup experience. The big one, however, remains the Invitational, which once again will offer an enormous $3m prize to the winner, making it one of the most valuable single races in the world.
To date, four horses have run more than once in this prestigious contest – War Story (2017, 2018, and 2020) and Seeking the Soul (2018, 2019, and 2020), while Gunnevera and Mr Freeze have both had two runs, but until now, no winner of the race has returned to defend their crown.
That seems likely to change in 2022, however, as the 2021 winner Knicks Go is lined up to try to make history and win this race for a second time, while becoming the first 6-year-old to win it. History suggests that this is a tough assignment, but then, Knicks Go may be the greatest winner the race has produced.
Brad Cox’s 6-year-old was a relatively slow starter, despite an impressive second place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His 3-year-old career was a disappointment, but he took off in his 4-year-old season, winning all three races, culminating in victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. After winning this race in January, he went on to win 4 races, finishing with the Breeders’ Cup Classic, making him only the sixth horse to win 2 different Breeders’ Cup contests.
Not surprisingly, the Breeders’ Cup has proved to be the best indicator when it comes to Pegasus World Cup success. Four of the previous five winners of this race won either the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile ahead of the contest.
Arrogate (2017) and Gun Runner (2018) had won the Classic, while City Of Light (2019) and Knicks Go (2020) claimed the Dirt Mile. The only exception was the 2020 winner Mucho Gusto, who had never previously won a Grade 1 race.
At this stage, we don’t know the final lineup of the Invitational, but we can be reasonably sure that Life Is Good, the winner of the Dirt Mile, will be lining up for this one. In the hands of Todd Pletcher, who has recorded a third, fourth and fifth place in this race, though is yet to win the contest, Life Is Good has a hugely impressive record of four wins from five races and with more improvement to come, has a great chance of pushing Knicks Go all the way to the line.
Two other horses that also ran in the Breeders’ Cup Classic are possible entrants here. Hot Rod Charlie finished fourth in the race but may run for Doug O’Neill, who previously saddled seventh-placed Semper Fortis in the 2017 edition. A more likely contender is the Classic second Medina Spirit, who at this stage looks like being Bob Baffert’s main hope. He has some ground to make up on Knicks Go, but any horse saddled by Baffert – who has won this race twice – has to be taken very seriously.
The horse that at one stage this season was ahead of Knicks Go in the race to be Horse of the Year may also be lining up for the Pegasus. Letruska, saddled by Fausto Gutierrez, was the most impressive mare in 2021. Although she disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she will be coming back again in 2022, and if she can recover her very best form, she could pose a big threat to Knicks Go.
Two other possible contenders are worth noting. Todd Pletcher could saddle Malathaat, the winner of three Grade 1 races last season, including the Kentucky Oaks. She also finished third in the Distaff and more is expected in 2022. It will also be interesting to see whether Brad Cox will have a second runner in this race in the shape of Mandaloun. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Haskell Stakes before injury cut short his season. If he returns in top shape, he could be another strong challenger in what is already shaping up to be a fascinating Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
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