By Jim Freer
Pegasus Fever is starting to rise at Gulfstream Park, and there will be a spike at about 4:32 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.
That is the scheduled post for the ninth and feature race— a 1 1/16 mile dirt allowance, with a $43,000 purse, for three-year-olds and up.
The likely favorite is Neolithic, a three-year-old colt whose owner Starlight Racing is considering him for the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup (Grade 1) that will be run at Gulfstream on Jan. 28.
The Pegasus will be 1 1/8 miles on dirt for four-year-olds and up.
Starlight has paid the required $1 million for a starting spot in the Pegasus. The eleven other spots also have been purchased.
Wednesday’s feature race is part of a ten-race card with first post of 12:35 p.m. It looms as a test of whether Neolithic is good enough for the Pegasus.
Early Wednesday afternoon on this Web site we will post an article that has analysis of the Wednesday race. We will have coverage later in the afternoon on our blog.
Neolithic has won just one of six starts. But he showed promise in his most recent race, finishing second in a nine-horse field in the Discovery Stakes (Grade 3) at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt track at Aqueduct on Nov. 12.
“Starlight owns a gate, so we’ll see how he runs on Wednesday,” Todd Pletcher, Neolithic’s trainer, told the Gulfstream media office.
Neolithic appears to be the best Pegasus candidate for Starlight, which is based in Lexington, Ky., and headed by managing partner Jack Wolf.
But Pegasus slot owners, officially known as shareholders, have several options for getting a horse into the Pegasus starting gate.
Owners of Pegasus spots can choose to race, lease, contract or share a starter or sell their place in the starting gate.
The winner’s share of the purse is $7 million. Second place is worth $1.75 million and third place is $1 million. All other finishers will receive $250,000.
All entrants will also share equally in 100 percent of the net income from handle, media rights and sponsorships from the Pegasus World Cup day. Entrants in the 2017 race will also have the first option to participate in future Pegasus World Cup races.
The Stronach Group, the Aurora, Ont.-based parent of Gulfstream, is organizing the Pegasus and the day’s other events. Gulfstream and Stronach Group will receive the revenues from tickets to attend and food and other concessions, without sharing them with stakeholders.
With the inaugural race just over six weeks away, there is speculation that the field might consist of superstars California Chrome and Arrogate—along with horses that are well-known by avid racing fans but not by casual fans of the sport.
Arrogate caught California Chrome in the stretch and beat him by a half-length in the 1 ¼ mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
Juddmonte Farms, which owns Arrogate, has not purchased a spot in the Pegasus field. However, it is likely that a lease or other arrangement will be made for Arrogate to be in the race.
Sharman Ghost, Gun Runner, Keen Ice, Laoban and Connect are among other horses that are being mentioned as possible starters in the Pegasus.
On Pegasus day there will be a $100 charge for general admission at Gulfstream, with no guarantee of a seat. It will be the first time Gulfstream has charged general admission to the racing facility that it opened in 2006.
Details on prices for seating and for restaurants at Gulfstream can be found on the Pegasus World Cup Web site
“We are looking at this as a Breeders’ Cup type day,” said P.J. Campo, Gulfstream’s general manager and Stronach Group’s vice president of racing.
Stronach Group is expecting that demand for tickets will be heavy from thoroughbred owners and racing industry officials in the United States and other countries.
Gulfstream’s racing facility can accommodate approximately 16,000 people, and that is always wall-to-wall on Florida Derby day, Campo noted.
By charging admission and putting up temporary fences, Gulfstream can assure that the property will not be filled beyond capacity, he said.
The Pegasus World Cup will be televised live on NBC. That network and its NBC Sports Channel sister programmer will have coverage of preliminary races and events on Jan. 28.
South Florida fans who cannot get into Gulfstream on Pegasus day will have the usual option of going to other pari-mutuels, such as Hialeah Park and Pompano Park, to watch simulcasts and bet on Gulfstream races—in this case including the Pegasus World Cup.
The Jan. 28 undercard will have six stakes, including three long-established Grade 3 races.
The card also will have the first running of the Poseidon, which has a $400,000 purse and is not graded.
The Poseidon, like the Pegasus, is 1 1/8 miles on dirt for four-year-olds and up. It is set up partly as a race for Pegasus shareholders who have “back-up” horses for the Pegasus.
As part of introducing those two races, Gulfstream in 2017 will not hold the Donn Handicap. The Donn has had long-time Grade 1 status, and was 1 1/8 miles on dirt for four-year-olds and up. It had a $500,000 purse in 2016.
The American Graded Stakes Committee made the Pegasus a Grade 1 race because Gulfstream is holding it as a calendar replacement for the Donn, at the same distance and with a purse that is just as large or larger.