Stidham: Proxy ‘Has It In Him’ to Challenge in G1 Pegasus World Cup
Lady Speightspeare Making Swan Song vs Males in G1 Pegasus Turf
Hall of Famer Castellano Chasing Second Pegasus Win with O’Connor
Carousel Club, South Beach Complete Pegasus Day Stakes Program
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – While keeping a watchful eye on Proxy as the Godolphin homebred schooled in the Gulfstream walking ring Thursday afternoon, trainer Michael Stidham was as confident as ever that the 5-year-old son of Tapit was ready for the challenge of Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat.
Proxy, rated second in the morning line at 9-2, will break from the No. 1 stall in the starting gate for the 1 1/8-mile event for older horses that will headline Saturday’s 13-race program (First-race post set for 10:50 a.m.) that will feature nine-stakes worth $5.4 million, including the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Qatar Racing and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational presented by Pepsi.
“As far as the horse, he’s doing fantastic. He’s trained well since the Clark, and he shipped well. Now it’s just a matter of getting a decent trip out of the 1 Hole,” Stidham said. “You always worry about getting banged around there down inside and getting shuffled back. Those are the concerns I have, but as far as the race and him being in it, I think he fits well and has a good shot.”
Although he had been graded stakes-placed five times, Proxy won his first graded stakes, as well as first stakes of his career, in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs in his most recent start Nov. 26, perhaps signaling that the best is yet to come.
“Certainly, we’re hoping for that. I think to beat these horses he has to make another step forward, which I think he has it in him to do,” Stidham said. “Now, we’ll see if he can get it done.”
Joel Rosario, who rode Knicks Go to victory in the 2021 Pegasus World Cup, has the return mount aboard Proxy.
Lady Speightspeare Making Swan Song Against Males in G1 Pegasus Turf
Before going off to join owner-breeder Charles Fipke’s broodmare band, Grade 1-winning mare Lady Speightspeare will take on one last challenge when she faces males for the first time in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Invitational presented by Qatar Racing.
Trained by Roger Attfield, who Fipke joined in Canada’s Hall of Fame last year, Lady Speightspeare has seven wins, six in graded-stakes, and $761,145 in purse earnings from 13 lifetime starts dating back to 2020, when she earned the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly.
“You just have to go for it, you know? The fillies race against the males in Europe quite a bit, and fillies can run, too,” Fipke said. “It’s her last race and even if she just places it’ll be good. She’s a group 1 winner already and she was a champion. She’s a pretty awesome filly.”
Lady Speightspeare won the Natalma (G1) on turf in her second career start and made just three starts in 2021, winning twice including the Bessarabian (G2) on all-weather, both at Woodbine, where she raced primarily. In her lone prior attempt at Gulfstream, she was third as the favorite in the 2021 Tropical Park Oaks.
Last year, Lady Speightspeare won three of eight races, taking the Nassau (G2), Trillium (G3) and Seaway (G3) in succession at Woodbine heading into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), where she was third at odds of 32-1, beaten 1 ½ lengths by European invader Tuesday.
Lady Speightspeare was the initial invitation lists for both the Pegasus Turf and $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) Invitational presented by Pepsi.
“I don’t like backing down from a challenge,” Fipke said. “It would be great if she won against the boys.”
Lady Speightspeare is already booked to Gun Runner, the champion older dirt male and Horse of the Year in 2017 who capped his career with a victory in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup (G1), then the world’s richest horse race valued at $16 million.
“He’s an outstanding stallion. I’m kind of keen on that. If you keep her running, sure, you might make a bit more money, but you might not. She doesn’t owe us anything. I’m into the breeding so I’m pretty excited about her broodmare career,” Fipke said. “It is [bittersweet] but what can you say, she’s done really well.”
Luis Saez is named to ride Lady Speightspeare, rated third on the morning line at odds of 6-1, from Post 6.
Hall of Famer Castellano Chasing Second Pegasus Win with O’Connor
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, closing in on 5,600 career victories, will be aboard Chilean Group 1 winner O’Connor while chasing a second win in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Invitational presented by Baccarat Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Castellano, 45, captured the 2019 Pegasus World Cup with City of Light, his career finale, after also riding the Michael McCarthy trainee to a win in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He will be riding O’Connor, one of three horses in the race trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., for the first time.
The 6-year-old O’Connor won nine races in his native Chile, five of them in group-stakes capped by the Gran Premio Latinoamerico last April. He was a popular six-length winner of his North American debut last October at Gulfstream, subsequently running fourth in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) Dec. 31, both times under Edgard Zayas.
“I’m looking forward to it big time. The Pegasus is one of the biggest races here in South Florida and it’s really special for this time of year,” Castellano said. “I really like my horse. His first start in the country he was very impressive, and the second time he had a little excuse. I think that race can push him right in the belly and move him forward. There’s a lot of speed in the race and he’s the type of horse that comes from behind. I think it could be a good setup for him.”
Castellano was at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, to breeze O’Connor Jan. 20, when they were timed in 1:00.80 for five furlongs, the fastest of eight horses at the distance. They will break from outermost Post 12 in the Pegasus with morning-line odds of 10-1.
“I worked the horse last week and he worked really, really good behind horses. He worked in a minute and galloped out in 1:13,” he said. “He did it the right way. I liked the way he went, and he really impressed me the way he did it.”
Castellano will also be aboard Group 1 winner Ivar in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Qatar Racing and Justify My Love in the $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G3) presented by Pepsi. Both horses were bred in Brazil, are owned by Bonne Chance Farm and Stud RDI and trained by Paulo Lobo.
Ivar was undefeated in three starts in Argentina including two Group 1 victories before coming to the U.S. in the spring of 2020. He won the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) that fall in his fourth North American start and exits the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) where he ran fourth, beaten one length.
“In the Breeders’ Cup he ran such a great race, and he was fourth behind the three top European horses,” Castellano said. “Turning for home I thought I was going to win the race. I opened up at the three-sixteenths pole and at the eighth pole all three horses went by, but he ran great. Basically, he beat all the other horses in America in that race. I think I was a good race to set him up for the Pegasus Turf.”
Ivar is the 5-2 program favorite for the Pegasus Turf and will break from Post 10.
Justify My Love also began her career in Argentina with three wins from eight starts, topped by the 2020 La Mission (G2). She has raced three times in North America with her lone win coming most recent start, a 1 1/16-mile turf optional claimer last November at Churchill Downs. She drew Post 8 of 11 and was assigned morning-line odds of 30-1.
“I don’t know too much about the filly, but I watched her replay, and she looks like a really nice horse,” Castellano said. “I’ll get with Paulo and see what he wants to do.”
In all Castellano has mounts in 10 of 13 races on the Pegasus program including Reigning Spirit in the $200,000 William L. McKnight (G3), Doc Amster in the $150,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) and Greyes Creek in the $100,000 Carousel Club.
Carousel Club. South Beach Complete Pegasus Day Stakes Program
Nice Guys Stables’ King Cause, winner of the Knickerbocker (G3) last fall at Aqueduct, drew the rail in an overflow field of 16 entered in the $100,000 Carousel Club Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The Carousel Club for 4-year-olds and up is the second of two stakes going a mile and 70 yards over the all-weather Tapeta course on the Pegasus World Cup Day undercard, preceded by the $100,000 South Beach for fillies and mares 4 and older.
A total of nine stakes, seven graded, worth $5.4 million help comprise a blockbuster 13-race program headlined by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by Baccarat, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) presented by Qatar Racing and $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) presented by Pepsi. Post time is 10:50 a.m.
King Cause, trained by Mike Maker, was first on the also-eligible list for Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) presented by Qatar Racing. He finished third or better in six of 10 starts last year with three wins including a front-running triumph in the Kentucky Cup Classic on the all-weather at Turfway Park.
“He had a couple nice wins last year where things seemed to go his way,” Maker’s assistant trainer Nolan Ramsey said. “We’re prepped and ready with him. The horse had a phenomenal year for us.”
King Cause exits a troubled ninth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 31 at Gulfstream where he was bumped early not able to employ his preferred running style near the lead. Florent Geroux will be aboard from the rail in an overflow field of 16.
“He had some issues in the last race,” Ramsey said. “It was more of a toss in my mind but he’s doing great.”
Other contenders include Ramsey Solution, beaten a neck by stablemate Field Pass when second in the 2021 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3) at Pimlico; and stakes winners Carpenters Call, Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Into the Sunrise, Summer Assault, Grade 1-placed Tango Tango Tango and Grade 3-placed California Frolic.
Joseph Allen’s Cafe Society, Grade 2 placed on Tapeta last fall at Presque Isle Downs, will return to the all-weather surface as the 3-1 program favorite in the South Beach.
Cafe Society, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, has run second in each of her last three starts, two on the all-weather and the most recent in an off-the-turf optional claimer Dec. 17 at Tampa Bay Downs. Junior Alvarado rides from Post 3.
Also among the entries are Out of Sorts, winner of the 2021 Christiana at Delaware Park that romped by 10 in an off-the-turf Claiming Crown Tiara last fall; Love Her Lots, third in Honey Ryder last summer at Gulfstream; and Keeper of Time, winner of Gulfstream’s Andromeda Handicap last winter.