Arrogate, California Chrome Top Pegasus World Cup Invitational Field

The $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational field is finalized as of Monday afternoon — we’re taking a look at the twelve horses who will be vying for victory in the inaugural running.

Arrogate in the paddock prior to the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic. Wikimedia Commons/Jlvsclrk/CC

Arrogate in the paddock prior to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Wikimedia Commons/Jlvsclrk/CC

The Pegasus World Cup will become the richest horse race in the world on January 28, 2017 at Gulfstream Park in Florida, offering a record $12 million purse for its first-ever running. This isn’t just any horse race, however — it’s a unique gamble for all parties involved, as the 12 entry slots were sold for $1 million apiece, with the total proceeds funding the purse. Slot holders had the option to fill the gate however they chose — by running their own horse, purchasing a horse to run, renting or selling the slot to other would-be stakeholders or any other configuration. Plenty of wheeling and dealing happened behind the scenes since the original slots were sold in May of 2016, but the field is finalized as of Monday afternoon, January 16 — not officially set, but

The race is generally anticipated to be the much-awaited “rematch” between California Chrome and Arrogate. “Chrome,” as he’s known to fans, needs little introduction — the chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit first captured the nation’s attention in 2014, his three-year-old season, when he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but fell short in the Belmont Stakes. His four-year-old season included a second-place finish in the Dubai World Cup and a European conquest that ended in a disappointing lameness; however, after rehabilitating and reconditioning Chrome returned for his five-year-old season perhaps better than ever, conquering the Dubai World Cup and numerous domestic victories.

However, what was expected to be a crowning achievement to his 2016 season in the Breeders’ Cup Classic turned into a defeat at the hands — er, hooves — of Arrogate, the up-and-coming then-three-year-old who had previously smashed the record for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Racing fans seemed to be split on whether or not this was a freak performance or if Bob Baffert had simply been biding his time to turn this monster colt loose — but when Arrogate nipped right past Chrome (albeit perhaps under a poor ride by Chrome’s jockey Victor Espinoza) the critics seemed to be silenced, at least temporarily.

But these aren’t the only horses in the field — while Arrogate and California Chrome may be the immediate standout stars with an assumption that they’ll be the top contenders, anything can happen in horse racing.

For example, Eragon is an intriguing dark horse — he’s a ten-time winner in his native Argentina with three Grade I victories. The horse was purchased by James McIngvale in December specifically to run in the Pegasus; McIngvale originally hoped to run his champion sprinter Runhappy, but the horse retired to stud after the 2016 Breeders’ Cup and McIngvale sought to retain his slot rather than sell. Argentina has a lively racing scene and a successful bid by Eragon could help bridge further international competition.

Shaman Ghost is a homebred running for Frank Stronach, the mastermind behind the Pegasus World Cup. This colt was the Canadian Champion Three-Year-Old in 2015, winning the Queen’s Plate and finishing a close second in the Prince of Wales Stakes. In 2016, Shaman Ghost defeated favorite Frosted to win the Woodward Stakes, but missed the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to a fever, leaving us to wonder perhaps what might have been. I’m interested to see if this horse is the right stuff to take on the likes of Arrogate and Chrome.

History may remember Keen Ice as the only horse to beat American Pharoah after the latter won the Triple Crown. He may not quite have risen to the occasion since then, so he’s rather a long shot for the Pegasus. War Story has a veteran’s record and many racing fans hold a soft spot for the horse while coming to terms with the fact that he’ll likely be outclassed as well.

Neolithic hasn’t accomplished the same Grade I or II wins as others in the field, but has been training and winning allowance races in roaring form. Breaking Lucky, a past Prince of Wales Stakes winner, heads to the Pegasus as a team effort between partnership owners and slot owners.

One of the more head-scratching entries is nine-year-old Prayer for Relief, who was described in Blood-Horse by trainer Dale Romans as “not as good as he once was.” War Envoy is a long shot entry for slot holder Ruis Racing, as is Ralis for slot holder Reddam Racing (many racing fans assumed over the summer that Reddam Racing would likely run Nyquist, but the colt retired after the summer season).

Rounding out the field is Noble Bird, who originally was not pointed towards the Pegasus but has worked very well since Christmas. He was one of the last additions to the field, and does multiple graded stake wins to his name.

All in all, it’s an intriguing field. As the inaugural running of this world’s richest horse race, it’s important to note that growing pains for such a race are part of the program, and while there hasn’t been a lot of international interest racing fans are nevertheless looking ahead for what this trailblazing field might be able to prove to the world for the future.

We’ll be watching on January 28th to see for ourselves!

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