photo credit: Barbara Livingston
The Pegasus World Cup Invitational sure lived up to the hype to kick off what should be a monumental year of racing in 2021.
It was an excellent day for trainer Todd Pletcher as three of his horses finished in the top 4 of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. Colonel Liam, the lukewarm favorite in an almost Million Dollar Grade One stakes race, was ridden to victory in a nearly flawless ride by Irad Ortiz. Colonel Liam was stuck behind a wall of horses for most of the race and then rushed to the lead with about 100 yards left in the race. He took the lead and won by a neck over stablemate Largent to give betting customers a Pletcher exacta. Another Pletcher horse, Social Paranoia, finished fourth. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the way they all ran!” Pletcher said from his familiar spot in the winner’s circle. “We loved the way he handled the turf in the Tropical Derby and had trained great since then,” Pletcher said. “We were very optimistic. He’s a little less experienced than some of the other horses, but I think this proves his quality.”
Colonel Liam paid $7.00 and earned a career-high 99 Beyer speed figure in his first graded stakes victory. Up next for Colonel Liam is a possible entry in the Dubai Duty-Free race in late March. Liam is now the 3rd winner of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, joining inaugural winner Bricks and Mortar and 2019 Horse of the Year and Zulu Alpha, who won the race last year. Following the Turf, the race was the $3 Million Pegasus World Cup, and there was significantly less drama as Knicks Go dominated the race at Gulfstream Park, a track he never raced on before. Knicks Go led most of the way, posting fractions of 23 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and:46 for the half-mile as he breezed to a two ¾ length win for his regular jockey Joel Rosario, beating Jesus’ Team.
Trainer Brad Cox was extremely impressed with Knicks Go’s winning performance but was also equally happy with the horse’s post-win check-up. This was the first race Knicks Go ran without Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication used by veterinarians to prevent respiratory bleeding in horses running at high speeds.
After the race, Cox said, "He never had a history of bleeding, but it’s always a little bit of a question the first time, and this gives us confidence moving forward, whether we go to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, or even in future races in this country where running without Lasix in stakes is becoming so prevalent now.”
The 5-year-old grey Colt, who paid $4.60 to win, earned an amazing 108 Beyer speed figure, the same speed figure he made previously in the Breeder’s Cup Dirt mile. While not named after the NBA’s New York franchise, that didn’t stop former Knicks player and current Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Amar'e Stoudemire from profiting on the horse’s win. According to the New York Post, Stoudemire, possibly thinking the horse owners were Knicks fans, wagered on the horse to win and pocketed a cool $700 on his first-ever wager on a horse race. The horse is actually named after the Korea Racing authority, who owns the horse.
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