The 2024 $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes provided a sensational swansong for Warm Heart, a filly from Europe who not only won but broke the track record at Gulfstream Park on January 27.
Her UK-based jockey Ryan Moore showed why he is rated the best in the world with a bold move in the stretch. He did not panic when boxed in but waited and took the brave man’s route close to the rail when a narrow gap appeared. Warm Heart went into the lead and held off the fast-closing I’m Very Busy (14/1) to win by half a length. The colt had been ridden patiently and had to challenge wide under Irad Ortiz Jr. Catnip, the least favored 47/1 contestant of the field of 12 took third under the veteran Frankie Dettori. He was followed by another relatively senior participant, the seven-year-old Atone (34/1) who won this race last year.
Warm Heart, a four-year-old daughter of Galileo, is owned and was bred by Coolmore in Ireland. She is trained by the masterful Aidan O’Brien who was bidding to defy recent trends. Many bettors were confident he would succeed and sent Warm Heart out as the 12/5 second favorite, undeterred by the poor record of fillies and European trainees. O’Brien became the first European handler to take the race in the six years since it was rebranded as the Pegasus Turf. Warm Heart became the first of her gender to succeed against the males.
O’Brien was not at the track but commented after her win that Warm Heart was exceptional and very tough. He saluted her for managing the stress of international travel, her ability to handle a variety of track conditions and her physical and mental strength. He has often said that the progeny of Galileo would run through a wall for you and that was not far from what she had to accomplish during the race. Fortunately there was a small gap in the wall of horses in the stretch.
The talent and courage of horse and jockey enabled them to break the track record on turf described as firm over a mile and an eighth. That record was set by English Channel in a lesser contest back in 2007 in 1 minute 44.51 seconds. Warm Heart clocked a time of 1 minute 44.45. The ground-saving move by Moore helped provide the swansong she deserved.
Warm Heart is the progeny of the outstanding Fastnet Rock mare Sea Siren’s fourth pairing with Galileo. Her three older siblings have achieved very little. The best of them won a maiden as a juvenile and was placed in a group 3 in Ireland. Coolmore must have been disappointed as Sea Siren had been tough and extremely talented. She earned almost $1.5 million when trained in Australia by John O’Shea, scoring at the highest level over six and seven furlongs. Coolmore purchased her from K Biggs’ Enterprise Syndicate for an undisclosed sum. She would not have come cheap.
Warm Heart was not precocious and finished fourth in the only start of her juvenile season having been sent off at 16/1. She soon progressed, scoring on her second start as a three-year-old in May 2023 at Leopardstown in Ireland when tried over a mile and a quarter for the first time. She subsequently beat other females at the highest level in England and France and was narrowly denied victory in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
In early December she did well to finish third in the Hong Kong Vase against the boys when the first two horses were held up and she was ridden close to the pace. She would probably have been retired after the race had she won. The Pegasus Turf was her second start in the US.
Integration, a four-year-old son of Quality Road, was the Pegasus Turf favorite with the leading American racebooks at 6/5. He came into the race after an impressive, five length victory over I’m Very Busy in the Grade 2 Hill Prince Stakes run over this distance at Aqueduct in November. Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing, Claude R McGaughey III had previously saddled him to win the New Kent County Virginia Derby, a Grade 3 at Colonial Downs in September. He was sent off at 7/1 and beat the 7/10 favorite, Chad Brown’s Program Trading, by more than a length.
What happened in the race?
Jerry The Nipper (20/1) broke like a bullet from the number two gate under Jose Ortiz. He briefly led before being headed by and settling behind George Weaver’s Fort Lauderdale Stakes winner, Main Event (22/1) piloted by Javier Castellano. Warm Heart was not the fastest away from gate nine and had to be pushed forwards by Moore to grab third by the first turn. The Michael Stidham trainee Catnip raced behind her under Dettori in fourth. Mark Casse’s Webslinger (9/1) was the slowest to start and found himself at the back of the pack as the first quarter was run in a generous 23.47 seconds.
Warm Heart maintained her third position, wasting no ground close to the rail as the half mile was clocked at 46.86 seconds. Integration moved up to race in fifth under Tyler Gaffalione with the rest of the pack close behind him. I’m So Busy was in the middle of them hugging the rail.
Approaching the final turn Moore appeared to consider running wide of the pacesetters but changed his mind and angled Warm Heart back to the rail. Integration and I’m So Busy were the next two behind him on the shortest route to the wire.
She looked to be well placed until her passage was blocked approaching the stretch. The smallest of gaps appeared on the rail and this light-bodied, brave filly ran through it to take a clear lead which diminished rapidly as they neared the wire. She held off the late challenges of I’m Very Busy and Catnip. Integration was disappointing, beaten two lengths into fifth.
What next for Warm Heart?
This successful globetrotting filly has nothing left to prove. She is set for a new career as a broodmare and has a date with Justify. If she passes on her ability to her progeny, bettors can expect another Coolmore super star in a few years’ time.