Future is Bright for G1 Pegasus World Cup Hero National Treasure
Runner-Up Senor Buscador Likely Headed to Saudi Cup
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – While National Treasure’s next start has yet to be determined, the 4-year-old son of Quality Road’s future is considerably brighter on and off the track in the aftermath of his impressive victory in the face of adversity at Gulfstream Park in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat.
“He’s just going to get better and better. We were thinking, ‘Where do we run? Do we go to Saudi? Do we go here? We thought, let’s keep him here and be a good horse in America,’” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said following National Treasure’s courageous effort in the headliner of Saturday’s 13-race program that also featured the $1 million 1/ST BET Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) and $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G2) and four other graded stakes.
His victory by a neck over Senor Buscador Saturday cemented his status as the leader of the 2024 older-horse division in addition to enhancing his reputation as an attractive stallion prospect.
“It’s very important, in a race like the Pegasus, that we run our good horses in there because it’s a stallion-maker,” he added. “We need to bring our best horses to keep that race going. It’s a huge day. [Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer, 1/ST] Belinda [Stronach] puts on a big party, a party atmosphere. It’s good for racing.”
National Treasure, who lost the Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile (G1) by a nose to Horse of the Year Cody’s Wish in his prior start, gave Baffert his third success in the Pegasus World Cup, following Arrogate (2017) and Mucho Gusto (2020).
Owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC and Catherine Donovan, National Treasure, who prevailed in the Preakness (G1) by a head after a prolonged stretch duel, once again demonstrated a lot of heart during the running of the Pegasus. Denied pacesetting privileges by Hoist the Gold, who set quick fractions for the first half-mile of the 1 1/8-mile stakes, National Treasure conclusively proved that he is didn’t need to have the lead in order to win. After finally putting away the pacesetter at the top of the stretch, the Baffert trainee opened a clear lead in mid-stretch and had enough in reserve to prevail by a neck.
“He was was out there by himself. He was looking around there. I don't think he was getting tired,” Baffert said. “When he ran with Cody’s Wish, he ran really fast. Cody came to him, but after the race, he just kept going out with him. He wasn't really tired. He just got beat by a really good horse, you know. He fought hard and he's a fighter. In the Preakness, remember that horse came to him? He fights. That’s a huge quality you want to see in a horse.”
Joe Peacock Jr.’s Senor Buscador, who rallied from 11th to finish second, was invited to the Feb. 25 Saudi Cup (G1) following his strong effort under Junior Alvarado Saturday.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, so as long as the horse is doing well, we’ll probably head that way,” trainer Todd Fincher said Sunday morning.
Senor Buscador, who was coming off a late-closing second behind Hoist the Gold in the Cigar Mile in his prior start, finished 4 ½ lengths clear of third-place finisher Crupi.
“He ran a great race. Those two horses separated from the field by quite a large margin. They proved themselves to be two very nice Grade 1 horses,” Fincher said. “We ran a great race. We just came up on the losing end. We just needed a few jumps.”
The 6-year-old son of Mineshaft has won multiple graded-stakes and earned multiple graded-stakes placings with his drop-back, run-late style.
“From Day 1 when we started to run him, he just had that running style. We tried to keep him closes, and he just refuses, so we just let him be,” Fincher said. “He just gets better and better as time goes by.”
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. reported Sunday morning that Skippylongstocking, who was pulled up and walked off in the Pegasus World Cup, exited the race in good order.
“It looks like he was over-heated,” Joseph said. “I just think he overheated on a hot day. He had to use him hard from Post 12. Maybe it was a combination of that and it being hot. He came out well, that’s the most important thing, to fight another day.”