When Gulfstream Park owner Frank Stronach conceived the Pegasus World Cup in early 2016, little could he have known that Donald Trump would be sworn in as president of the United States roughly a year later. But here we are, with an ostentatious reality-show realtor in the Oval Office and a track with a 110-foot statue of a winged horse crushing a dragon welcoming spectators to the richest race in thoroughbred history. The confluence is uncanny.
As a local realtor once quipped to the Miami Herald: “Nothing says, ‘Welcome to Gulfstream Park’ better than a horse stomping on a lizard that was made in China.” (The statue’s foreign assembly would doubtless tick off our new commander-in-chief, hypocritical as his protectionist mindset may be.) But the track, like the January 28 Pegasus World Cup, is resolutely innovative. Purposefully eschewing the NASCAR-like scale of, say, Kentucky Derby host Churchill Downs, Gulfstream is basically an upscale shopping mall with a racing oval attached to it, with very little trackside seating. Thankfully, the horses that run there are typically pretty good, especially during the winter, when South Florida has an edge on the rest of the country in terms of hospitable weather for outdoor sporting events.
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Here’s how the Pegasus World Cup works: Twelve positions at the starting gate have been sold at a price of $1 million apiece, with the $12 million forming the race’s purse. (The winner will walk off with $7 million.) The owners of those 12 slots have the choice of running one of their own horses, contracting with an outside stable to run a horse, or selling the starting slot to the highest bidder. The field for the inaugural Pegasus Cup was formed through a combination of all three, with Juddmonte Farms — owner of Breeders’ Cup Classic champ Arrogate — purchasing a post from Coolmore Stud, one of the nation’s preeminent breeding outfits.
Arrogate will likely be the favorite for the one-and-one-eighth-mile race, but he’ll face stiff competition from California Chrome, whose owners have admirably bucked the 21st-century trend of immediately retiring victors of a major three-year-old race to stud. Among the also-rans with a puncher’s chance are 9-year-old warhorse Prayer for Relief and Keen Ice, one of only two horses ever to beat Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. If only that horse were still active, the opulence in Hallandale Beach would border on blinding.
Pegasus World Cup
4:30 p.m. Saturday, January 28, at Gulfstream Park, 901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach; 877-847-6683; pegasusworldcup.com. General admission costs $100.