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The Aidan O’Brien-trained Warm Heart won the 2024 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park in her final career start.
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Globe-trotting filly Warm Heart, already a multiple Group 1 winner last year in Europe, capped her racing career in style with a record-setting performance in Saturday’s $1 million 1/ST BET Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
The sixth running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf and the eighth renewal of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by Baccarat on dirt, both at 1 1/8 miles, and the third edition of the $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G2) headlined a blockbuster Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series program featuring seven graded-stakes worth $5.2 million in purses.
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Based in Ireland with trainer Aidan O’Brien, Warm Heart ($6.80) covered the distance in 1:44.45 over a firm turf course to break the track record of 1:44.51 set by champion English Channel in a Feb. 22, 2007 allowance.
Given a heady and patient trip from O’Brien’s first-call rider, champion Ryan Moore, the 4-year-old Warm Heart became both the first female and first European-based horse to win a Pegasus race. She retires with six wins and $2.2 million in purse earnings from 11 starts, and is booked to be bred to 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify.
“We’re absolutely delighted. It’s incredible,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said by phone from Ireland. “Ryan obviously gave her an incredible ride and has done such an incredible job. We’re just so delighted for everyone, and for her to go off now to Justify is so exciting. She’s absolutely made for him.”
Main Event, front-running winner of Gulfstream’s Pegasus Turf prep, the Dec. 30 Fort Lauderdale (G2), was intent on the lead from Post 11 and got there under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, going the opening quarter-mile 23.47 seconds and a half in 46.86 with Jerry the Nipper pressing on his outside and Moore having settled Warm Heart in third along the rail.
The order remained unchanged as they rounded the far turn, with Moore biding his time behind Main Event. Once straightened for home, Moore sent Warm Heart through a narrow opening between Main Event and the rail and she sailed through with aplomb, creating enough space from her rivals to hold off a late charge by I’m Very Busy to win by a half-length.
It was a neck back to the third-place finisher, 45-1 longshot Catnip, who was a length in front of defending Pegasus Turf champion Atone. Integration, Webslinger, Kingmax, Shirl’s Speight, Jerry the Nipper, Adhamo, Main Event and Master Piece completed the order of finish. Also-eligibles Grand Sonata and Anglophile were scratched.
“The leader, he was always leaning out and he was weakening, and I knew I had plenty of horse, so no problem. I was happy to wait,” Moore said. “She’s always traveling very comfortably. I didn’t want to be there too early, and I didn’t want to be tipping out into the straight, and I thought I’d just wait. Se’s a great filly. She’s had an incredible year. She hasn’t had a bad race.”
Warm Heart won the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) in England and Prix Vermeille (G1) in France in back-to-back starts last summer and fall, then was beaten a neck when second to champion Inspiral in the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita. From there she went to Hong Kong to face males for the first time in the 1 ½-mile Vase (G1) Dec. 10, finishing third.
“She’s an incredible filly. Ryan said it just didn’t work out for her the last race,” O’Brien said. “But she’s tactical, she’s tough and she quickens. She doesn’t do an awful lot when she gets there but that’s the way she’s always been. She’s very classy and very hardy, loves the fast ground.
“We’d love to have her and to be racing her, but the lads’ business is breeding these horses and she’s an absolutely incredible broodmare to be going to Justify,” he added. “It’s so exciting, really.”
Trainer Chad Brown was thrilled with the effort from I’m Very Busy, who has now run second in three graded-stakes, most recently in the Nov. 18 Hill Prince (G2) to previously undefeated Integration, who suffered his first loss when fifth in the Pegasus Turf.
“I thought he got a really good trip,” Brown said. “Our goal was to follow one of the live horses. Drawn next to Integration, that was the horse to follow and [jockey] Irad [Ortiz Jr.] executed it perfectly. He had to pause just momentarily in the stretch to wait for a seam and it might have cost him the win there. We’re very proud of him.”
This was the third Pegasus Turf try for O’Brien, who ran second with filly Magic Wand in 2019 and 2020.
“We enjoyed watching it. It looked like an incredible day,” he said. “I wish I was there.”
Aidan O’Brien (Warm Heart, 1st): “We’re absolutely delighted. It’s incredible. Ryan [Moore] obviously gave her an incredible ride and everybody has done such an incredible job. We’re just so delighted for everyone and for her to go off now to Justify is just so exciting. She’s absolutely made for him.”
“Ryan gave her an incredible ride. He was always very anxious that she went there for that race. We enjoyed watching it. It looks like an incredible day. I wish I was there.”
“He’s an incredible professional rider, the way he does everything, the way he analyzes everything. His fitness and his experience are incredible. We’re just so lucky to have him. He sums up everything so well. Incredibly hard on himself, he doesn’t forgive himself for anything, but I think that’s what makes him the rider he is. Every year he’s getting better, which is incredible.”
“She’s an incredible filly. Ryan said it just didn’t work for her the last race, but she’s tactical, she’s tough and she quickens. She doesn’t do an awful lot when she gets there but that’s the way she’s always been. She’s very classy and very hardy, loves the fast ground, fast track. She’s incredible. We’d love to have her and to be racing her, but the lads business is breeding these horses and she’s an absolutely incredible broodmare to be going to Justify, who looks probably the most incredible stallion that ever was based on what he’s done so far. It’s so exciting, really.”
“She’s won two other Group 1s here [in Europe] and big ones, as well. She’s shown everything. She’s tough, she’s durable, she travels, she’s sound. I don’t think you can ask for anything more from a filly. She’s strong, she handles all types of ground, she’s tactical and she’s tough. I’m just so delighted watching it all. The atmosphere is there and I’m delighted for everybody. We feel very privileged to be part of her story.”
Chad Brown (I’m Very Busy, 2nd): “I’m just really pleased with his effort. I thought he got a really good trip. Our goal was to follow one of the live horses. Drawn next to Integration, that was the horse to follow and Irad executed it perfectly. He had to pause just momentarily in the stretch to wait for a seam and it might have cost him the win there. We’re very proud of the win there.”
Ryan Moore (Warm Heart, 1st): “She’s always traveling very comfortably. I didn’t want to be there too early, and I didn’t want to be tipping out into the straight, and I thought I’d rather just wait. She’s a great filly. She’s had an incredible year. She hasn’t had a bad race.
“The leader, he was always leaning out, and he was weakening and I knew I had plenty of horse, so no problem. I was happy to wait.”
“This is the second day I’ve ridden here. I’ve ridden plenty of places now, so it would be a poor excuse if I had lost.”
“She broke smart and she was able to put herself in that spot, and I was always happy.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (I’m Very Busy, 2nd): “Perfect trip, what can I say? I had a beautiful trip. He just cut the corner and when he cut the corner that was the key move. He was brilliant when he cut the corner. Ryan is a master at what he does and he’s a champion. He cut the corner and he got me right there, but I’m happy with my horse.”
Frankie Dettori (Catnip, 3rd): “He was very good to me. I had good position in fourth. I had to use a bit of energy to get into position. At the top of the lane I thought I’d win. He ran a super race. With a better post, it could have been a different story.”
Oisin Murphy (Atone, 4th): “He had a very good trip inside. I managed to get on the back of Ryan [Moore] turning into the stretch. He finished very well. For a big outsider, it was great to see him back with such a great performance.”
Tyler Gaffalione (Integration, 5th): “Just not the cleanest trip into the stretch.”
David Egan (Kingmax, 7th): “I felt the pace was a lot quicker today than it was in the Fort Lauderdale and it told. I was going as quick as I could most of the way. With the pace I needed to make my move, I had to go a little wide and it took its toll against top-class horses, but he will have his day.”
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