The first defending champion in the brief history of the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), comebacker Colonel Liam became its first two-time winner in Saturday’s $982,300 renewal at Gulfstream Park.
The Todd Pletcher trainee showed no rust off the nearly eight-month layoff, overpowering stablemate Never Surprised to prevail with jockey Irad Ortiz. One race later, Pletcher and Ortiz completed a lucrative double when Life Is Good wired the Pegasus World Cup (G1) on the main track.
Colonel Liam had not raced since regressing to eighth in the June 5 Manhattan (G1), but bettors retained faith by sending him off as the 8-5 favorite. Away alertly from post 6, the son of Liam’s Map secured good position in fourth and began creeping forward on the far turn.
Meanwhile, Never Surprised, the 3.60-1 second choice, had sped to the lead from post 12. The fellow Pletcher pupil was coming off a commanding win in the same race that launched Colonel Liam a year ago, the Tropical Park Derby.
Never Surprised appeared to be going at a faster clip in the Pegasus than the times posted live. That impression was confirmed when no fractions were listed on the chart, and the about 1 1/8-mile event was hand-timed in a brisk 1:47.48. His early pursuers, Doswell and Flavius, could not keep pace in the stretch, in another piece of evidence that the tempo was swift.
Just when the front runner hoped to put the race to bed swinging for home, Colonel Liam arrived on the premises. To his credit, Never Surprised responded and tried to fight back, but Colonel Liam always had the superior firepower. The gray pulled a length clear to top a Pletcher exacta in the Pegasus Turf for the second straight year. In 2021, the runner-up spot was filled by Largent, who didn’t make the race this time. Never Surprised succeeded him in the tough-beat role.
“I was actually pleased with how well he (Colonel Liam) was traveling early on,” Pletcher told Gulfstream publicity. “You could see he got in a good position and had a lot of horse. He moved to Never Surprised early and kept finding more, and Never Surprised dug in. It was a great race for both horses.”
Late-running Space Traveller, who was probing for a seam, burst through on the inside for third. The fact that the Brendan Walsh import rallied from last, and came up just a half-length shy of Never Surprised, further indicates a fast pace.
Atone fared best of the Mike Maker brigade in fourth, edging stablemate Cross Border. Sacred Life checked in sixth, followed by Doswell, Hit the Road, Channel Cat, Field Pass, March to the Arch, and Flavius.
A $1.2 million OBS April juvenile purchase by Robert and Lawana Low, Colonel Liam has amassed $1,810,565 in earnings from his 10-7-1-0 line. Last year’s Pegasus Turf marked his first graded victory. Colonel Liam followed up in the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds and the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, in a thrilling dead-heat with Domestic Spending. He couldn’t get near the same rival in their Manhattan rematch.
Shelved for the remainder of 2021, Colonel Liam kicked off 2022 in the best way. Pletcher was pleased that he didn’t need a tightener to regain top form.
“You just hope you’ve done enough with him. He has talent,” Pletcher said. “We need everything to go exactly as planned. We didn’t have time for a prep race. We put all of our chips in this race. I’m glad it worked out.”
Colonel Liam was bred by Phillips Racing Partnership in Kentucky and initially sold for $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His dam, Amazement, is a daughter of Bernardini and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Wonder Again, herself a full sister to Japanese champion Grass Wonder.