HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (January 24, 2020) – Each week, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race.
The fourth running of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Runhappy headlines a loaded Saturday card at Gulfstream Park featuring six graded stakes. At Sam Houston, the Grade 3 Houston Ladies’ Classic on Sunday features three Grade 1 winners, including 2019 Kentucky Oaks heroine Serengeti Empress making her seasonal bow.
The Pegasus World Cup is the centerpiece of a 90-minute broadcast Saturday on NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET. The broadcast will also feature the $1 million Pegasus Word Cup Turf.
Saturday January 25
2:31 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Fred Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Wachtel Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Gray Magician will be an imposing foe to 13 rivals in the Fred W. Hooper, a one-mile race for 4-year-olds and up. Gray Magician will make his 4-year-old debut in the one-turn Hooper following a productive 3-year-old season that included a start in the Kentucky Derby. Although he finished far back in the Run for the Roses, Gray Magician came right back to finish second in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby, win the Ellis Park Derby, and finish second in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones before winning an optional claiming allowance at Keeneland.
3:03 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 La Prevoyante Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
On Saturday, Kelsey’s Cross will try the 1 ½-miles distance for the first time in the Grade 3 La Prevoyante on Gulfstream’s Pegasus World Cup card. Lady Paneme (FR) is the slight 3-1 program favorite in the 1 1/2-mile turf fixture for fillies and mares. But Kelsey’s Cross could have a say in the outcome if she proves she can handle the distance.
3:36 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Peter Deutsch’s multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Spiced Perfection goes after her eighth career stakes victory and second straight in the Inside Information over seven-furlongs. Based in California with trainer Peter Miller, Spiced Perfection will be making her South Florida debut but is no stranger to coming east. Last year she won both the Grade 1 Madison Stakes and Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America in the fall at Keeneland and captured the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap at Aqueduct.
4:12 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 W.L. McKnight Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Trainer Mike Maker will go after his fourth-straight victory with many arrows in his quiver – he trains four of the 12 horses entered in the McKnight: Justice Racing’s Apreciado; a pair from Paradise Farms and Mad Dog Racing, Carom and Temple; and Three Diamonds Farm’s Cross Border, who could scratch to race Sunday at Sam Houston Park in the John B. Connally Turf Cup. One of Maker’s strengths is turning horses he has claimed into graded stakes winners, usually in distance races on turf. All three of his McKnight winners were claimed earlier in their careers. Prior to being claimed by Maker in 2019, Apreciado, Carom and Temple had no stakes experience.
4:49 p.m.—$1,000,000 Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park on NBC
Rather than have Zulu Alpha try for a repeat win in the W.L. McKnight, owner Michael Hui is opting for a far bigger prize later that afternoon in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. Hui said that when trainer Mike Maker laid out the possibilities for the 7-year-old’s first start of 2020 it was an easy decision. Though the McKnight launched a great 2019 season for Zulu Alpha, who won three graded stakes and $1.1 million in purses, Hui was eager to change course.
5:34 p.m.—$3,000,000 Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on NBC
With the defections of Grade 1 winners Omaha Beach and Spun to Run, the Pegasus World Cup figures to be a wide-open afar with 10 horses set to go to post. Hronis Racing LLC and trainer John Sadler will send out Higher Power, who has blossomed into a Grade 1 winner since being purchased for $250,000 in April at Keeneland’s horses of racing age sale. In his fourth start for his new connections, the 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro offered a commanding 5 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, defeating Pegasus World Cup contenders Tenfold, War Story, and Seeking the Soul. Trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled Arrogate for his Pegasus World Cup victory has sent Mucho Gusto to Gulfstream for Saturday’s race. The 4-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man will be seeking his first Grade 1 victory, but the multiple graded-stakes winner has fared well in top-class company, finishing second behind Maximum Security in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.
7 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes Santa Anita Park on TVG
Trainer John Sadler’s talented 6-year-old gelding Flagstaff, idle since November 2, heads a field of six older horses going six furlongs in the Palos Verdes Stakes. A game nose winner of the seven furlong Damascus Stakes, Flagstaff, a lightly raced son of champion Speightstown, will be making his second start in graded stakes competition on Saturday.
Sunday January 26
6:20 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes at Sam Houston on TVG
Six highly capable fillies and mares will compete in this year’s Houston Ladies Classic, led by 2019 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress. Trained by Tom Amoss, Serengeti Empress had an impressive run last year, winning the 2019 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds Oaks prior to her victory in the Kentucky Oaks. The bay filly completed her 3-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last November at Santa Anita.
7 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes at Sam Houston on TVG
A field of 12, including six turf specialists from the barn of Mike Maker, are slated to go to post in the John B. Connally Turf Cup, to be run at the distance of 1 ½-miles. Maker has several excellent prospects this year, including Cross Border, owned by Three Diamonds Farm. Sired by English Channel, he last competed in the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.