The 2017 Kentucky Derby Trail for up and coming three-year olds gets put on the back burner this Saturday in light of Gulfstream Park’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational for four-year olds and up.
It does not get any better than this horse betting fans with the biggest purse ever up for grabs in the inaugural running of this made for millionaires event. Twelve different owners have each put up one million each to earn the right to enter a horse in this race. The top prize for the winner is expected to be $7 million as the single-highest payout in the history of professional horse racing.
2017 Pegasus World Cup Invitational: Gulfstream Park
The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is Grade 1 stakes race that is restricted to 12 entries as part of a total prize purse of $12 million. The race will be contested on the dirt track at Gulfstream over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
This All-Star field is about as deep as it gets, but I am still going chalk with California Chrome at 6/5 morning line odds as my top choice to win. The six-year old California-bred champion will be breaking from the 12th post with jockey Victor Espinoza getting the ride. Trainer Art Sherman is sure to have this horse ready following a disappointing second-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. It was the only time his horse failed to win in eight events that season.
The former Kentucky Derby winner (2014) comes into this race ranked No. 1 by Horse Racing Nation and his current rating stands at 9.01. Since November of 2014, he has not finished lower than second in 11 major graded stakes races.
The biggest subplot in this multi-million dollar horse racing extravaganza is another showdown between California Chrome and the second-favorite Arrogate, who will be breaking from the first post at 7/5 morning line odds. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, this four-year old Kentucky-bred colt is coming off his big victory in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic. The only loss on his racing resume last season was a third-place finish in a Maiden Special Weight race at Los Alamitos in mid-April.
His current winning streak stands at five including a victory in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in late August over a distance of 1 ¼ miles. Arrogate comes into this race ranked No. 3 by HRN with an 8.89 rating.
The tricky part in coming up with a winning trifecta pick for this race is deciding which horse in the remaining field has what it takes to hang with the two frontrunners. Keen Ice finished third behind the two in the Classic and he has been listed as a 12/1 third-favorite for Saturday, but I am going to stretch the odds a bit with Noble Bird at 25/1 as my third choice. Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux, this six-year old Kentucky-bred horse also has something to prove on Saturday after fading to a disappointing seventh-place finish in last November's Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
This followed a pair of impressive victories in the ungraded Lukas Classic Stakes and the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes in his previous two runs. Noble Bird comes into this race ranked No. 45 with an 8.13 rating.