May 21, 2018

Mucciolo: Windy forecast for Pegasus

Stellar Wind after winning the 2017 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park (c) Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography

by John Mucciolo

Saturday’s second running of the $16 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park is led by Horse of the Year Gun Runner, who will be making his final lifetime start.

Steve Asmussen trainee was sublime in the second half of 2017, rolling home to four dominant Grade 1 wins in succession against the best of his generation. While he will always live in the shadow of the mighty Arrogate to some extent, take nothing away from the sensational son of Candy Ride who dusted the aforementioned in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

I have quickly learned to respect and appreciate the talents and accomplishments of Gun Runner. But as a bettor, I must demand value in this big field.

In handicapping the Pegasus, it seems pretty obvious to me that the early tempo will play a decisive role in the outcome. “Freak” miler Sharp Azteca has a world of pace, Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Collected is flat-out fast and Gun Runner is always in the first flight of runners. When you have the likely top-three betting interests all with similar running styles, it makes sense to look outside the box for some value and a potential upsetter.

STELLAR WIND has the best chance for an upset in my estimation. And while I don’t have a ton of confidence in her win chances, I will use the classy mare in most wagers and expect to see the Maryland-bred in a threatening spot inside the final furlong.

Champion and multiple Grade-1 queen will be making a first outing since moving to the barn of Chad Brown, as well as her initial start following a poor run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) that was a head-scratcher. A daughter of Curlin, Stellar Wind had never run a bad race prior to her last at Del Mar and I will simply toss it and move on.

Recent $6 million purchase at Keeneland November will be making her career finale and is an obvious longshot in facing the boys. Six-year-old has trained like one who is ready to deliver and I love the expected trip for Stellar Wind. Classy chestnut will tuck in behind the wealth of speed in this field from post 2 and I argue she is a better runner when rallying from off the pace like she did earlier in her career.

I can also argue that competing against the likes of Beholder, Songbird, Forever Unbridled et al in recent years may have been an equally daunting task to the opposition she faces Saturday.

Stellar Wind will need to step forward with a career-best to challenge for the win, but her 105 BRIS Speed two back is fast enough to beat most in this field and she figures to receive a prime set-up. If new pilot Joel Rosario gets to save ground and has clear sailing approaching the turn for home, there could be a strong gale closing down the Gulfstream stretch.

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