Proxy on ‘Go’ for Next Saturday’s G1 Pegasus World Cup
Stidham Trainee Breezes 5F with Strong Gallop-Out
Geroux: Cyberknife ‘Stronger Physically’ for Pegasus
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Godolphin LLC’s Proxy, winner of Churchill Downs’ Grade 1 Clark in his last start on Nov. 25, had his final tune up for next Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat at Gulfstream Park, breezing five furlongs at Fair Grounds Saturday morning. If the five-furlong move in 1:01.80 wasn’t quite as eye-catching as his previous two workouts, that was by design.
Working by himself at the New Orleans track, Proxy was clocked tooling a half-mile in 49.40 to the wire under regular exercise rider Arturo Aparicio. The 5-year-old campaigner continued on to the seven-eighths pole, but since that gallop out was so strong, it was classified as a five-furlong work, said trainer Mike Stidham.
“The two important works were the last two,” Stidham said by phone from New Orleans. “This was important, but we weren’t looking for anything special. We were just looking for maintenance here. He handled it well. He always is a big gallop-out horse, and the best part of the work was the finish and the gallop out. That’s what we were looking for, and we got it. He cooled out well, and all is a go as of right now.”
Eclipse Award-winning jockey Joel Rosario will be back aboard for the third straight race. Proxy will ship Sunday evening to Gulfstream Park, arriving Monday.
The Clark was Proxy’s first stakes victory of any kind, though he’d never been worse than fourth in eight prior stakes attempts. It also came in his first Grade 1 appearance.
“Certainly, I feel like the Pegasus is going to come up tougher overall, a tougher race, so we have to pick our game up from the Clark,” Stidham said. “I don’t think we can run the same race we ran in the Clark and expect to win. I think we need to do a little bit better, and I’m hoping my horse will move forward from the Clark. That’s what we need to see.
“He’s had plenty of time from the Clark. He’s done well here at the Fair Grounds since that race. He’ll get to Gulfstream Monday, and he’ll have time to settle in. Barring any issues between now and then, we’re ready to go.”
Proxy brings a versatile running style into the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. He’s won on the lead; pushed the tepid pace in the Clark before taking command late over the front-running favorite West Will Power; and he’s prevailed as a closer.
“Last time there wasn’t a lot of speed in the Clark,” Stidham said. “Rosario had ridden West Will Power before and obviously knew him well, so we felt like we needed to stay in striking distance of that horse. Now, in a race like this at Gulfstream, more of a speed-favoring type surface, I’d imagine there’s going to be a considerable amount more speed, which should put us in a spot somewhere mid-pack, is my guess. With a rider like Rosario, I’m certainly not going to have much to say to him other than good luck and get the best trip you can.
“He’s shown he can do either (style). If they’re really going fast, he can sit back and finish into fast fractions. If the pace isn’t too hot, he can lay in a close stalking position. It’s going to depend on how the race sets up and where Joel thinks is the best spot for him to be.”
With Proxy being a son of Godolphin’s Include mare Panty Raid - a Grade 1 winner on turf and synthetic and Grade 2 winner on dirt - Stidham acknowledged toying with the idea of switching to the turf a while back. After all, Panty Raid’s older daughter Micheline was strictly turf, winning four stakes and narrowly losing a Grade 1.
“When things weren’t panning out like we had hoped with Proxy, where he was not quite getting it done, the subject came up,” Stidham said. “(Godolphin’s) Dan Pride and Michael Banahan both said, ‘hey, we need to exhaust all dirt options before we go to the grass, because obviously to make a stallion these days, you’ve got to win Grade 1s on the dirt.’ That was exactly what we did. Turf obviously came up, but it wasn’t an option yet - and I’m glad we didn’t.”
Geroux: Cyberknife ‘Stronger Physically’ for Pegasus
Gold Square LLC’s Cyberknife worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 flat in company with Roman Centurion Saturday morning at Fair Grounds in preparation for next Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat at Gulfstream Park. The Brad Cox-trained 4-year-old Cyberknife galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 under jockey Florent Geroux.
The 1:01 clocking was third-fastest of 41 half-mile works at the track, with the 5-year-old stakes-placed Roman Centurion clocked in 1:01.20.
“It was a good work,” Geroux said by phone. “He’s always been a good work horse. So for him, it was just a maintenance work and keeping him busy and fit. He’s had plenty of time to get ready and now we’re a week from the race.”
Cyberknife comes into the Pegasus off a second-place finish in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), in which he had held a narrow lead the last half of the race but couldn’t quite hold off Cody’s Wish. That defeat by a head cost Cyberknife a third Grade 1 victory after taking Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby and Monmouth Park’s Haskell.
Geroux has ridden Cyberknife for the past 10 of his 12 career races. The jockey concurs with Cox that Cyberknife is working better than ever for his last race before going to stud at Spendthrift Farm.
“The horse is definitely maturing now,” Geroux said. “He’s stronger physically. I think he put on some weight. He’s developing very nicely and made another step forward over the winter, physically and mentally. So we’re hoping he’s better than he was last year.”
Cyberknife certainly has come a long way from when he finished first in his debut on Sept. 25, 2021 at Churchill Downs but ran greenly and was disqualified to second for interference. Exactly a year ago off a maiden victory on his third attempt, he was drubbed in the Fair Grounds’ Lecomte (G3) but regrouped to win an allowance race and then the Arkansas Derby. His only race worse than third since needs no apology: It was the cavalry charge known as the Kentucky Derby (G1), in which he was 18th.
“He would zig zag, lose a little bit of focus,” Geroux said Cyberknife last spring. “He’s been better since. He was perfect in the Breeders’ Cup and just got beat by a very nice horse. But it looks like he’s doing much better now - hopefully I’m not speaking too soon.
“It was a tough beat (in the Breeders’ Cup). We wanted to finish up the year strong, and we thought it was a good spot,” Geroux added. “We had a great trip, just couldn’t hold off the winner, who is a terrific miler. I think the mile and an eighth is more to his liking.”
Meanwhile in California, Defunded, Get Her Number and Stilleto Boy got in their final tune-ups for the Pegasus World Cup Saturday morning.
Michael Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Defunded, an impressive winner of the Awesome Again (G1) and Native Diver (G2) in his two most recent starts, breezed five furlongs in 59.40 seconds at Santa Anita. Trainer Bob Baffert saddled Arrogate (2017) and Mucho Gusto (2020) for victories in the Pegasus World Cup.
Gary Barber’s Get Her Number, a close second-place finisher behind Mind Control in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct last time out, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 for trainer Peter Miller at San Luis Rey Training Center.
Steve Moger’s Stilleto Boy worked five furlongs in 1:04.60, handily, at Golden Gate Fields. The Ed Moger Jr.-trained son of Shackleford finished third in last year’s Pegasus World Cup.
In Arkansas: Willis Horton Racing LLC’s Last Samurai turned in a ‘bullet’ workout at Oaklawn Park, where Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas’ trainee breezed five furlongs in 59.40 seconds for the Pegasus World Cup.
In Florida, Skippylongstocking and Simplification breezed Saturday morning for scheduled starts in the Pegasus World Cup.
Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking worked a half mile in 50.45 seconds at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach Count. The 4-year-old son of Exaggerator, who is trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., is coming off a victory in the Dec. 31 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Tami Bobo’s Simplification, who captured the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream last season, breezed a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.22 at Gulfstream Saturday morning. The Antonio Sano trainee’s clocking was the second fastest of 44 workouts recorded at the distance.