By J. Keeler Johnson (“Keelerman”) Twitter: @J_Keelerman
An exciting Saturday of racing awaits at Gulfstream Park. An action card with seven bets marked by the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).
This is a race day you don’t want to miss, so take a look at the feature events and plan a few options:
Pegasus World Cup pitch (G1)
The fourth edition of the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf looks a bit different from the first three renewals. The distance has been shortened from 1 3/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles, just like when the Pegasus World Cup Turf was a less lucrative prize pool known as the Gulfstream Park Turf S.
Reducing the distance traveled by one sixteenth of a mile may not seem like a huge change, but the difference could have a meaningful impact on the outcome of the Pegasus World Cup Turf. Specifically, it can help the opportunity #12 Never be surprised (7-2), a player with excellent pace who will try to win the Pegasus World Cup Turf championship ahead.
Never surprising praise from the warehouse of Todd Pletcher, who won the 2021 Pegasus World Cup with #6 Colonial Liam (3-1). Colonel Liam is back to defend his title, but the talented 5-year-old hasn’t participated since June and could have benefited from a prep run.
By contrast, there isn’t any concern about fitness for Never was surprised. Never exceeding exactly seven starts, Never surprisingly displayed promising form against the ranked holding company last season, placing second in Kitten’s Joy S. (G3), Saranac S (G3) and Hill Prince S. (G2) in the face of some quality opponents.
But Never surprisingly is in stronger form than ever this winter. On November 26, he ran the 1 1/16-mile Gio Ponti S. string at the Aqueduct, strong enough to beat the Plate S Winner. And on December 26, Never Surprised posted a score. identical victory in Gulfstream’s 1/16-mile Tropical Park Derby, leaving no doubt his superiority over winner Kent S. (G3) Yes This Time.
His powerful finishing ability at fast speed is Never Surprised’s greatest weapon, giving him an often insurmountable tactical advantage. Hot racer Luis Saez (who hit an incredible 47% win rate in partnership with Pletcher over the past two months) put that pace to good use in the Tropical Park Derby and he is likely to do so. So again at the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
Saturday’s pitch wasn’t crammed with pace, so a typical Never Surprise performance was enough to secure an early lead. From there, I believe Never Amazinged will be hard to catch, especially on the short 1/8 mile ride.
Pegasus World Cup (G1)
Undoubtedly, the most exciting race of the weekend is the sixth edition of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1). Nine horses entered the lucrative 1 1/8 mile prize, but two—#1 Knicks Go (6-5) and #4 The good life (7-5) – ranks higher than the rest in achievement and speed metrics.
Their credentials are formidable. Knicks Go won the 2021 Pegasus World Cup and took a dominant win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Meanwhile, Life Is Good is a long way off going unbeaten in six starts, including a 5 3/4 length lap in Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
There are many reasons to support Life Is Good. Intern Todd Pletcher is said to be the “now” horse after his amazing Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile win where he posted quick fractions of: 21.88, :44.94 and 1: 08.76 before easily defeating the villagers. And Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winners performed well in the Pegasus World Cup.
But underestimating Knicks Go could be a mistake. In terms of Beyer and Brisnet speed numbers, the Knicks Go is significantly faster than its younger rival. Knicks Go has also been thoroughly proven to run 1 1/8 mile or so, while Life Is Good has never run more than 1 1/16 mile.
It’s also important to note that Knicks Go beat tougher opponents than Life Is Good. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Knicks Go took the lead to beat the Kentucky Derby (G1) preceded by Medina Spirit and winner Belmont S. (G1) Essential Quality with ease. And over the summer, the Knicks Go beat Whitney S. (G1) 1 1/8 mile long 4 1/2, counting winners Clark S. (G1) Maxfield and Metropolitan hero H. (G1) Silver State among those who were defeated by his opponents each other.
According to Life Is Good’s credit, he defeated Medina Spirit on a couple of occasions last winter. However, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2021 doesn’t draw the most difficult pitch, and competing against Knicks Go will certainly be a tougher ball.
I have been a fan of Life Is Good since his debut and believe that he is having a great 2022 season. But I must support the battle-tested Knicks Go in Saturday’s sensational mind showdown.
Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Turf?
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as “Keelerman”) is a writer, cinematographer, voice actor, amputee, and horse racing enthusiast. A huge fan of racing history, he considers Dr Fager the greatest racehorse ever made in America, but considers Zenyatta his all-time favorite.