One year after winning the W.L. McKnight (G3) on the undercard, Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha starred on the big stage in Saturday’s $980,000 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park. The Mike Maker veteran burst through on the inside to defeat Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand going away by two lengths.
Zulu Alpha had yet to score at the Grade 1 level, but the 11-1 shot was coming off a hard-charging fourth to Bricks and Mortar in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Bricks and Mortar, just honored as Horse of the Year and unanimous champion turf male, had kicked off his historic 2019 with a victory in the inaugural Pegasus Turf – over Magic Wand.
Although the Irish globetrotter was finishing second here again, the circumstances were entirely different. Gulfstream was dreary and yielding last year, when a rail-drawn Magic Wand closed from about midpack. This time, the sun was out, and Magic Wand got her preferred firm turf. But she was drawn on the far outside post 12. Between her post, the course’s tendency to favor forward types, and her sharp break, jockey Ryan Moore let the 7-2 chance stride to the lead.
Magic Wand set an even pace of :24.06 and :48.45, but Henley’s Joy pestered her into picking up the tempo. Her ensuing splits of 1:11.94 and 1:34.82 likely burned a bit too much of her kick.
Meanwhile, Tyler Gaffalione made a heady split-second decision aboard new partner Zulu Alpha. The 7-year-old was close up in the opening strides from his rail post, but tossed his head in the tight quarters, and Gaffalione eased him right back out of the pocket. Zulu Alpha dropped back to 10th, with only two behind him, and remained unhurried much of the way.
Gaffalione’s other key move was to stay on the rail, realizing that a seam was developing for his advance on the far turn. As Magic Wand put Henley’s Joy away and straightened for home, Zulu Alpha was just beginning to unwind. With irresistible momentum, he blew past in midstretch and finished 1 3/16 miles in 1:51.60, just a tick off Suffused’s course record of 1:51.40.
Magic Wand determinedly kept second, staving off Instilled Regard by a neck. The 10-1 Instilled Regard was three lengths clear of a blanket finish. His Chad Brown stablemate, the 12-1 Sacred Life, just snared fourth from Arklow, Sadler’s Joy, and Henley’s Joy.
Arklow was compromised by crowding at the break, and Sadler’s Joy was the chief victim when pinched back to last. Admission Office reported home eighth, a neck to the good of Mo Forza who was hung out to dry on the clubhouse turn. Channel Cat was never involved in 10th. Brown’s Without Parole, the 3-1 favorite, was well placed before retreating on the far turn, and the similarly styled Next Shares trailed. The only withdrawal was also-eligible Tusk.
Zulu Alpha ranks as yet another major winner for his late, great sire Street Cry. The Pegasus boosted his bankroll to $1,971,697 from his 31-10-4-5 record.
Bred and initially campaigned by Calumet Farm, Zulu Alpha was sent to the legendary Dermot Weld in Ireland, where he placed three times. He returned stateside and became an occasional stakes competitor, notably placing third in the 2018 Mervin Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds. When he was risked for an $80,000 claiming tag at Churchill Downs that September, Hui, and then-trainer John Alexander Ortiz, didn’t miss the opportunity to halter him out of a 9 1/2-length romp.
Pitched straight into the 2018 Sycamore (G3), Zulu Alpha recouped much of the investment with his first stakes victory. He continued his progress on the barn switch to Maker, adding the Mac Diarmida (G2), McKnight, and Kentucky Cup Turf (G3) and missing by a neck in last summer’s United Nations (G1).
Zulu Alpha, a half-brother to stakes winner Bank the Eight, is out of the A.P. Indy mare Zuri. She is herself a half-sister to champion Ajina and to Kobla, the dam of multiple Grade 1 star, $2.2-million earner, and outstanding sire Quality Road.