All 12 stalls have been filled but the $12 million Pegasus World Cup betting suggests that only two horses stand realistic chances of grabbing the record-breaking winner’s prize at Gulfstream Park on Saturday (5.40pm ET on NBC).
The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Arrogate is slightly ahead in the betting at 10/11, expected by many to repeat his victory over the Classic runner-up, California Chrome 5/4. The remaining ten runners are available at prices varying from 25/1 to 200/1.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the four-year-old Arrogate was recently chosen as the Longines World’s Best Racehorse and initially appears to have had more luck than his key rival in the draw. Arrogate will start from the number one stall ridden by Hall Of Fame jockey Mike Smith whilst the six-year-old California Chrome will have to handle the widest draw of all under Victor Espinoza.
It is a short run to the first bend so Espinoza will be concerned about having to run wide but his horse has experience of coping with a multitude of race scenarios. California Chrome is not only a seasoned professional but is a much more amenable type than Arrogate.
Smith’s draw looks great on paper but he could find himself trapped on the rail in the middle of the pack as there are some speedy starters outside him. Arrogate is a sizeable, immensely talented horse but he may not be the fastest to reach top gear and he has zero experience of weaving between horses. His immense bulk would be effective in a barging match if he had the attitude to get involved in one but he would not be the easiest horse to manoeuvre through a small gap.
Arrogate started from stall nine in the Breeders’ Cup, enabling him to run in space on the outside and Smith will almost certainly be sweating over his ‘dream draw’ here. On the positive side, Arrogate won the Travers from stall one but this is a more hotly contested affair.
Arrogate is a rising star but this will be California Chrome’s final appearance on a racetrack as he is set for a new career at stud. Fairytale endings are uncommon in racing but there are a number of reasons for this preview to believe that California Chrome can go out in style – and not just because he was only beaten half a length in the Classic.
Firstly, California Chrome carried 4lb more than Arrogate at Santa Anita as he benefited from the weight allowance for three-year-olds. This is a different scenario as all Pegasus runners will carry 124lb except Eragon, the horse purchased from Argentina, who will carry 119lb. That 5lb allowance is allocated to horses that run without Lasix, an idea designed to attract runners who are not usually permitted to use the drug.
A second point to remember is that the Breeders’ Cup was run over a mile and a quarter. This race is a mile and an eighth. Arrogate took the lead from California Chrome at the very end of the stretch and looked to need every single yard of that longer distance.
Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman (pictured) is understandably expecting the shorter distance to play to his horse’s strengths as he has more tactical speed than Arrogate who may eventually be seen enjoying a mile and a half.
Arrogate is also very inexperienced with only six runs to his name and, having missed his intended prep run as a result of sloppy track conditions, he is entitled to be slightly fresh. He has been a testing ride in the past and will need to be focused and obedient to retain his advantage over California Chrome.
Another positive for Chrome is that Espinoza thinks he can improve on the ride he gave him in the Classic. He is not alone in that opinion and was widely criticized for looking over his shoulder and allowing Arrogate to close on him rather than concentrating on sending his horse forward. He has not forgiven himself for getting his champion beaten and should use Chrome’s speed more wisely here.
All known form suggests that these two horses are the best in the race by a distance but it is worth mentioning Keen Ice who finished third, 11 lengths behind them at Santa Anita. Trained by Todd Pletcher, his owners said before the Classic that they were hoping to pick up the pieces if the pace was ridiculous. The pace was reasonable and Keen Ice, a hold up horse, still managed to finish with many supposedly superior runners behind him.
Since then he was a beaten favorite at this track in mid December but it would not be a surprise to see him place, especially if a furious battle develops for the lead. With so much money at stake jockeys as well as their horses could be over excitable.
Our Preview’s Pegasus World Cup Prediction & Betting Pick Verdict
The two market leaders are well-matched and the consequences of the draw and the subsequent quality of the run they receive through the race are likely to prove decisive. California Chrome’s starting position is a concern but Arrogate’s chances of victory could be reduced by his apparently perfect draw too. Over this trip, off level weights, this preview’s betting prediction and pick is California Chrome. He can end his illustrious career with the most valuable victory in history. You can back him with any of the top USA online betting sites including Bovada, 5Dimes or BetOnline.