Cox, Baffert, Pletcher Aiming For More Pegasus Glory

First Mission is one of two Pegasus probables for Brad Cox | Coady

Trainers Brad Cox, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher all have victories to their credit in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. and each of the three champion trainers will have an opportunity to add to those numbers in this year's $3-million feature Saturday, Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.

Cox, who won the the 2021 renewal with Knicks Go (Paynter), looks set to be represented by a pair of entrants in the nine-furlong contest. Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming), front-running winner of the GI Pennsylvania Derby last September, will seek to become the second Saudi-owned winner of the Pegasus as he looks to bounce back from a 10th in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic. Godolphin's 'TDN Rising Star' First Mission (Street Sense) is also among the 12 invitees and will have the chance to turn the tables on Trademark (Upstart), who beat him a nose when last seen in the GII Clark S. at Churchill Nov. 24.

National Treasure (Quality Road), whose sire accounted for 2019 Pegasus winner City of Light, can give Baffert a third Pegasus, joining inaugural winner Arrogate (Unbridled's Song) as well as Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man). Winner of last year's GI Preakness S., the bay was just touched off by Cody's Wish (Curlin) when last seen in the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Pletcher is represented by Grand Aspen (Dialed In) in the main body of the race, who earned his ticket to the Pegasus with a narrow defeat at the hooves of O'Connor (Chi) (Boboman) in the GIII Harlan's Holiday S. at Gulfstream Dec. 30.

In addition to O'Connor, the Saffie Joseph, Jr. trainee might be joined by his stable companion Skippylongstocking (Exaggerator), the GII Charles Town Classic winner who was last seen finishing third in the Dirt Mile.

Also among the invitees are Hoist the Gold (Mineshaft), winner of the GII Cigar Mile H. trying to stretch out to nine furlongs; Newgrange (Violence), last-out winner of the GII San Antonio S.; Cigar Mile runner-up Senor Buscador (Mineshaft); GIII Smarty Jones S. hero Il Miracolo (Gun Runner); and multiple Argentinian Group 1 winner Subsanador (Arg) (Fortify), fourth in the San Antonio.

Defending champion Atone (Into Mischief) is among a dozen invitees to the GI Pegasus World Cup Turf, but looks to face a field much stronger on paper than 12 months ago. Chief amongst the opposition is Godolphin's Master of The Seas (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), who might make another trans-Atlantic trip having taken a photo in the GI Breeders' Cup Mile. Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) has been kept busy by trainer Aidan O'Brien, as she proved an unlucky loser in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November ahead of a third in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase last time. Arguably the most intriguing among any of the Pegasus invitees is Integration (Quality Road), who was unbeaten in three smashing victories at three in 2023, including the GIII Virginia Derby and GII Hill Prince S. Webslinger (Constitution) won three of his nine starts last term, a season that might have been even more productive but for near misses in the GI Saratoga Derby Invitational S. and GI Hollywood Derby. Main Event (Bernardini) earned his spot in the field with an all-the-way success over Kingmax (GB) (Kingman {GB}) in the GII Fort Lauderdale S. Dec. 30.

Chad Brown won the inaugural GIII Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf with Regal Glory (Animal Kingdom) in 2022 and has two chances to double his tally in the form of GI Matriarch S. runner-up Fluffy Socks (Slumber {GB}) and MGSW Consumer Spending (More Than Ready). Queen Goddess (Empire Maker) is winless in four starts since defeating the Brown-trained Shantisara (Ire) (Coulsty {Ire}) in last year's renewal.

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