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The Bob Baffert-trained National Treasure won the 2024 Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park for Baffert’s 3rd race title.
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Preakness Stakes (G1) winner National Treasure asserted his class Saturday at Gulfstream Park, providing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his third success in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat.
The Pegasus World Cup, a 1 1/8-mile event for 4-year-olds and up, headlined a 13-race program that also featured the $1 million 1/ST BET Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G2) and four other graded stakes.
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National Treasure did not have things his own way in the Pegasus, having been denied pacesetting honors by Hoist the Gold, but the son of Quality Road held up to the early pressure and held gamely to hold off a late-running Senor Buscador by a neck.
“I’m proud of him. He ran his race. He showed up,” said Baffert by phone from Southern California. “That’s all you can ask for as a trainer. He was prepping well for it.”
Baffert had previously won the Pegasus World Cup with Arrogate (2017) and Mucho Gusto (2020).
National Treasure, who is owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC and Catherine Donovan, was sent to post as the 5-2 favorite in a field of 12 older horses. He entered the Pegasus off a second-place finish in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), in which he was nosed out by defending champion and 2023 Horse of the Year Cody’s Wish.
“I’ve always thought he was that good a horse. He was just very immature and he’s getting better and better, the way he’s training,” Baffert said. “He trained much better than he was going into the Breeders’ Cup.”
National Treasure broke cleanly from the starting gate but was outsprinted to the lead by Hoist the Gold, who had captured the Dec. 2 Cigar Mile (G2) at Aqueduct in front-running fashion. The Dallas Stewart-trained Hoist the Gold ran the first quarter of a mile in a solid 23.18 seconds on his way to a 46.32 half-mile clocking under Hall of Famer John Velazquez. However, Hoist the Gold was unable to shake the Baffert trainee, who applied pressure on his outside before moving away from the tiring pacesetter in the stretch, completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.51.
“He’s very brave. Obviously, a great job by Bob,” jockey Flavien Prat said. “He’s always on point. It’s been a great pleasure riding [National Treasure}.”
National Treasure was engaged by Senor Buscador nearing the wire but would not be denied his second Grade 1 win. The Baffert trainee set the pace in last year’s Preakness Stakes but showed the same resilience he demonstrated at Gulfstream Saturday while holding off a strong bid by Blazing Sevens by a head.
Senor Buscador, who had been training at Gulfstream since finishing second in the Cigar Mile, finished second under Junior Alvarado, 4 ½ lengths ahead of Crupi and jockey Frankie Dettori. Hoist the Gold finished fourth, another 6 ¼ lengths back
“It’s very hard to come from way back on this track. But I was happy when he was picking it up and I’m excited. But I could feel the last sixteenth of a mile he was getting tired from making that huge run from the back,” Senor Buscador’s jockey Junior Alvarado said. “My horse ran his eyeballs out. He gave me a helluva run. He gave me everything he had today. My horse ran his heart out today.”
First Mission, the 5-2 second choice in the betting, showed a little early speed before fading to ninth for trainer Brad Cox, who had saddled Knicks Go for a victory in the 2021 Pegasus World Cup.
“Just didn’t handle the track at all. A lot of dirt hitting him in the face. He didn’t seem like he wanted to go forward through it,” Cox said. “Luis [Saez] said at the half-mile pole he didn’t move forward when asked. Pretty simple watching the race on television, I kind of thought going up the backside he was struggling with the ground. Regroup and see what happens.”
National Treasure had been off-the-board in three starts between his front-running victory in the Preakness and his game second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The Kentucky-bred colt had a productive 2-year-old campaign, during which he won at first asking at Del Mar before finishing second in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland.
Bob Baffert (National Treasure, 1st): “I’m proud of him. He ran his race. He showed up. That’s all you can ask for as a trainer. He was prepping well for it.”
“I’ve always thought he was that good a horse. He was just very immature and he’s getting better and better, the way he’s been training. He trained much better than he was going into the Breeders Cup. We felt good about it, but you still need a lot of luck. You have to ship well. You have to break well.”
“I knew there was going to be a hot pace and but Prat and I we talked about it. You can’t take his speed away. You can’t be worried about one horse. Just let him do his thing and he did. That’s why he won.”
“I loved our post and the way he broke. He broke well. Prat, he’s really good out of the gate. He’s a smart rider. We picked different scenarios. I said, ‘the only scenario is when the gate comes open, you’ve just got to get away from there. We know that Johnny (Velasquez) is going to be really aggressive and you need to be aggressive also.’ He did and he was in a good spot.”
I knew they were flying but when is saw :23 and change I said, ‘well that’s manageable.’ Good horses, they keep running.”
Todd Pletcher (Crupi, 3rd; Dynamic One, 7th; Grand Aspen, 10th): “I thought Crupi ran great. He was obviously way back early but he closed really well to be third, so we’re pleased with that. The other two didn’t seem to fire. Both jocks indicated the kickback was pretty abrasive. No plans yet. We’ll let the dust settle and come up with one.”
Dallas Stewart (Hoist the Gold, 4th): “It was great. He had a great trip. Johnny rode him great. He relaxed, 46 and change, no issues. Everything was good, we just got outrun. It was a good race.”
Brad Cox (First Mission, 9th): “Just didn’t handle the track at all. A lot of dirt hitting him in the face. He didn’t seem like he wanted to go forward through it. Luis [Saez] said at the half-mile pole he didn’t move forward when asked. Pretty simple watching the race on television, I kind of thought going up the backside he was struggling with the ground. Regroup and see what happens.”
Flavien Prat (National Treasure, 1st): “He’s very brave. Obviously, a great job by Bob [Baffert]. He’s always on point. It’s been a great pleasure to be riding him.”
Junior Alvarado (Señor Buscador, 2nd): “It’s very hard to come from way back on this track. But I was happy when he was picking it up and I’m excited. But I could feel the last sixteenth of a mile he was getting tired from making that huge run from the back. My horse ran his eyeballs out. He gave me a helluva run. He gave me everything he had today. My horse ran his heart out today.”
John Velazquez (Hoist the Gold, 4th): “I broke well and did what I needed to do to get there, and it wasn’t good enough for him to hold off the winner. A mile is perfect for him. One turn. He got to the first turn pretty well. We got to the backstretch and the second turn and he had to switch to his right lead on the turn and he got messed up in his own stride.”
Paco Lopez (O’Connor, 5th): “It was a little rough at the beginning of the race. He didn’t break very well. After that I tried to position my horse. I used him at the three-eighths [pole] and he responded to me. He felt very good, very comfortable. I think he may need to go longer.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (Dynamic One, 7th): “I think the track was pretty fast. My horse broke good and they ran away from me. I let him settle, let him relax, and he switched off. I thought I was going to make just one run and it didn’t work out for me. When I asked him he just stayed steady, and they never came back. The track was pretty fast and I think it helped the speed today. The winner ran great.”
Jose Ortiz (Grand Aspen, 10th): “He broke OK. I thought we were going to probably be sitting third or fourth but unfortunately he was getting a lot of dirt and he wasn’t happy at all. The track is fast and the kickback was brutal. He never got comfortable with it. He never jumped on the bit.”
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