Two Breeders’ Cup Champions To Race In 2022 Pegasus World Cup

Written By Dave Bontempo on January 24, 2022
2022 pegasus world cup

The handicapping gates have opened for the 2022 Pegasus World Cup.

“And they’re off”, the horse racing analysts that is, for a clash of Breeders’ Cup-winning titans in the sixth running of the Pegasus World Cup on Saturday, Jan. 29 from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.

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Breeders’ Cup Champions To Run

Recent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Knicks Go and Dirt Mile champion Life Is Good command pre-race interest for this $3 million event, contested at 1 1/8 miles.

The field of 12 will be filled out in the coming days but heavy attention greets the two champions who basked in the sport’s brightest spotlight last Nov. 6.

The post time is at 5:45 p.m. and will be televised by NBC.

Nationwide bettors can access the action via TVG. Claim your sign-up bonus above.

Huge Saturday Purse

The 2022 Pegasus World Cup caps a loaded afternoon card comprising seven races and $5.2 million on purse money. The lineup includes the Pegasus World Cup Turf featuring 2021 winner Colonel Liam.

Many of the graded races occur throughout the Gulfstream Park card, which begins around noon ET.

Pegasus Facts, Figures, Past Winners

YearHorseTrainerJockey
2021Knicks GoBrad CoxJoel Rosario
2020Mucho GustoBob BaffertIrad Ortiz Jr.
2019City of LightMichael McCarthyJavier Castellano
2018Gun RunnerSteve AsmussenFlorent Geroux
2017ArrogateBob BaffertMike Smith

Fastest Time: Arrogate, 2017, 1:46.83.

Richest Achievers: Arrogate and Gun Runner each earned $7 million for winning in 2017 and 2018.

Richest Under Achiever: Toast of New York was dead last in the 2018 running. He was the worst of the 7-12th finishers, all of whom received $650,000.

Similarities Abound Between Knicks Go, Life Is Good

Talk is not cheap. It is the lifeblood of interest in the high-profile Pegasus. This is the public’s last chance to witness Knicks Go before he is going, going, gone. The Pegasus has been announced as his last race. If so, this would be some way to go out, becoming the first repeat winner of the event.

Besides that, the favorites in this race are linked in almost every comparison. They are both frontrunners. Knicks Go has an aesthetically pleasing aggressive style. Lightning fast out of the gate, right to the front and try wiring the field. He has done that in four consecutive graded-stakes victories: the Cornhusker Stakes at Prairie Meadows, the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, the Lukas Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs and the 2021 Breeders Cup Classic at Del Mar.

In the $6 million Classic, he got to the lead and stayed, fending off Kentucky Derby graduates Medina Spirit, Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Brad Cox, he paid a handsome return to bettors at 3-1, notching a mild upset over 9-5 favorite Essential Quality.

Life Is Good likes the front too. Earlier on Breeders’ Cup day, he breezed to a front-running, six-length triumph in the Dirt Mile at 3-5 odds. He won like an odds-on favorite should with Irad Ortiz aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. Life Is Good made a definitive charge down the lane under what was essentially a hand ride.

And the comparisons grew. Life Is Good and Knicks Go not only won on the same Breeders’ Cup 2021 card, but captured the same Breeders Cup Dirt Mile event one year apart. In 2020, Knicks Go prevailed in 1:33.85. One year later, it was Life Is Good at 1:34.12, but Ortiz could have eclipsed that if he pushed the horse.

So linked are the champions that after Life Is Good completed his first quarter (21.88), the track announcer noted that it was faster than Knicks Go’s from the year before (21.98). Look at what one-tenth of one second means at this level. Even with Knicks Go setting a Keeneland track record and Life Is Good running at Del Mar.

They are linked over history too. Comparisons mount over whose success run was better. Was it Knicks Go’s second-half sweep of four significant races? Or was it Life Is Good’s garnering of the Breeders’ Cup in just his sixth race?

And there are the distance variables. Life is Good has never run 1 1/8 miles. Can he handle the distance? What happens if the two lock up in a speed duel? Can someone pick up the pieces?

The champions remain the focus, even as the field slowly materializes toward the pre-race draw. The favorites have probably scared away the closest level of competition.

  • Sir Winton, the 2019 Belmont Stakes winner, is announced as confirmed.
  • Chess Chief, announced as confirmed, was 44-1 in the Lukas Classic Stakes won by Knicks Go at 1-9 odds. He was fifth in a field of six.
  • Stiletto Boy was a determined but distant fifth to Knicks Go at 50-1 in the Breeders’ Cup.
  • Title Ready has only notched a Grade III Louisiana Stakes triumph on back class and finished off the board in recent allowance company.

The racing community seems to acknowledge that an invitation to the Pegasus may be an invitation for third.

Why This Race Matters to the Horse Racing Establishment

It is a bridge, linking the Breeders’ Cup campaign with the spring Kentucky Derby preps and even the world’s richest race, the $12 million Dubai World Cup March 26.

The Pegasus, with a purse equal to the Kentucky Derby, gives horse racing a signature event in all four seasons and before the Triple Crown seasons that also includes the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. A major January event also bolsters the value of races that can be viewed as preps or tuneups in December and early January.

Why This Race Matters to the Public

It’s an encore for a champion like Knicks Go, America’s racing heartthrob.

Fans and bettors are on the ground floor of an event that could grow into a major industry staple. By offering several graded stakes races, the Pegasus World Cup Day will produce exceptional betting pools, large fields and worthwhile payouts.

How It Has Evolved

The 2022 Pegasus World Cup is the sixth year of the race, launched with goals of becoming the world’s richest horse race in 2017. That vision was accomplished with $12 million purse and enlarged with an unprecedented $16 million payout in 2018.

It has since been scaled back to $3 million, with additional money spread throughout the card to entice gambling interest. This leaves the Dubai World Cup as the richest race, at $12 million.

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Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

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