Premier Pegasus soars in San Felipe
Bouncing back with a vengeance from his first career loss in the February 20 San Vicente S. (G2), PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus) spread-eagled what looked like a competitive field in Saturday's $250,000 San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita. A homebred owned and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, Premier Pegasus unleashed a monstrous closing kick to romp by a stakes-record 7 3/4 lengths over 2-1 favorite Jaycito (Victory Gallop), stating his case as the leading Kentucky Derby (G1) contender on the West Coast.
The stretch-out to two turns, and removing blinkers, proved a mighty combination for the 7-1 shot, who settled much farther back than usual in the early going. As Premier Pegasus relaxed kindly in midpack for regular rider Alonso Quinonez, a torrid pace battle was erupting between Runflatout (Flatter) and Albergatti (Unbridled's Song). Both stepping up off sprint maiden wins, Runflatout and Albergatti hooked up in a speed duel through fractions of :21 3/5 and :44 2/5.
Comma to the Top (Bwana Charlie) stalked in third until the far turn. When Albergatti first gave way, and Runflatout was spent soon after, Comma to the Top was on the premises to take over through six furlongs in 1:08 4/5. Meanwhile, Premier Pegasus was commencing an eye-catching move and making rapid headway.
Although Comma to the Top was leading the way into the stretch, Premier Pegasus had much more momentum. He inhaled the rubber-legged Comma to the Top, and in a matter of strides, rocketed three lengths clear. Jaycito, who had been unhurried at the tail of the field, steadily improved his position and worked his way into second, but the favorite was no match for the resounding winner.
Indeed, Premier Pegasus widened his advantage over Jaycito in deep stretch. His winning margin of 7 3/4 lengths was a stakes record, eclipsing Consolidator's 6 1/2-length win over Giacomo in the 2005 San Felipe. Premier Pegasus sped 1 1/16 miles on the fast track in 1:41 1/5 and rewarded his backers with mutuels of $16.60, $7.20 and $5 as the fourth choice in the 10-horse field.
"We took the blinkers off because we were thinking it would make him relax a little bit more," Cho said, through his son Raxon. "We didn't want him to sprint out with all these speed horses. He's a smart horse, so we knew that he'd be ready to run without blinkers.
"There was no concern (about finishing third in the San Vicente). He came back strong, he came back ready, and he had a great workout and he looked great."
Premier Pegasus' win ended a 69-race losing streak endured by Quinonez, whose last visit to the winner's circle came February 13.
"If you cry, nobody is going to listen," Quinonez said of the month-long drought. "I've had a couple slumps before, but this has been a tough one. This is the race you want to win to start again though.
"I want to say thank you to Mr. Cho for giving me the opportunity," Quinonez said. "I have to thank Maria (Ayala, Cho's assistant). She does all the work and she knows what she's doing.
Premier Pegasus is headed to the Santa Anita Derby (Benoit Photos)
"We knew he was going to run a lot better this time. It is always good to win this kind of race. The horses were flying on the lead during the first part of the race and I knew they were going to come back to the field. I was just hoping to make a move at the right time, and he did. He waited for me until I asked him.
"At the three-eighths pole he switched leads and grabbed the bridle. I didn't hold his intentions back, I just let him go. He knew it was time to go because he is a very special horse. I'm happy with the horse and hopefully we have a good future with him."
Jaycito had 1 1/4 lengths to spare over Bench Points (Benchmark), another deep closer. Comma to the Top, who was drifting out markedly down the lane, checked in another half-length back in fourth. Quail Hill (Candy Ride [Arg]), Awesome Patriot (Awesome Again), Surrey Star (Ire) (Dubawi), Jakesam (Smoke Glacken), and the eased pair of Albergatti and Runflatout rounded out the order under the wire.
The trainers of Jaycito and Comma to the Top looked on the bright side of their efforts in defeat.
"He did good," Bob Baffert said of Jaycito. "He was way back there. The horse learned a lot today, so we'll go step by step."
"I'm very happy with his race," Peter Miller said of Comma to the Top. "The fractions were ridiculous, suicidal. He was wide the whole way and he put those two away (Runflatout and Albergatti) and kind of gave a little bit of a spurt and then he threw his ears up. He kind of pulled himself up for a little bit there, which he had never done before. I'm really happy with the race, and he hung in there very well and he wasn't beaten far for second. We're keeping all of our options open. We just don't want to hook a race where it's ridiculous fractions like this."
Premier Pegasus' third career stakes score improved his mark to 5-4-0-1, $293,400. After a debut win at Del Mar on July 24, the dark bay returned about three months later to post a front-running victory in the October 23 Jack Goodman S. at Oak Tree at Hollywood Park. Premier Pegasus again used his early foot to lethal effect in the November 20 Hollywood Prevue S. (G3) going seven furlongs. He reappeared at that same distance in the San Vicente, running rather evenly for third behind The Factor (War Front) and Sway Away (Afleet Alex).
Out of the Grade 3-placed Squall Linda (Summer Squall), Premier Pegasus is a half-brother to 2008 Norfolk S. (G1) victor Street Hero (Street Cry [Ire]), who ran third in that same year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and Del Mar Futurity (G1). The mare also has an unnamed juvenile colt by Bob and John as well as a full yearling brother to Street Hero.
Premier Pegasus' second dam is stakes winner Glimmer Glass (The Axe II), who is responsible for Grade 1-placed multiple stakes king Kohen Witha K. (Kings Lake) as well as the dam of 2002 Martha Washington S. heroine Miss City Halo (Carson City). Glimmer Glass is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 scorer Trojan Bronze (*Tobin Bronze) and the winning Clystalla (Pia Star), from whom descend the likes of Australian champion and group stakes producer November Rain (Estaminet), New Zealand highweight San Luis (Flying Spur) and Group 1 star Race Master (Bluebird).
Cho indicated that Premier Pegasus would make his next start in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Watch Me Go prevails in Tampa Bay shocker
Saturday's $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) produced a shocking conclusion, with 43-1 outsider WATCH ME GO (West Acre) edging the biggest longshot in the nine-horse field, 86-1 Crimson Knight (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]), by a neck in the final strides. Most of the attention was focused upon Brethren (Distorted Humor), who was favored at 1-2 off an easy four-length score in the February 12 Sam F. Davis (G3), but the well-regarded colt began to weaken in midstretch after turning for home with a short lead and wound up 3 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up in third.
Third when making his two-turn debut in the Sam F. Davis, Gilbert G. Campbell's homebred Watch Me Go recorded his biggest victory by far, improving his overall line to 9-4-0-1, and the $210,000 payday should ensure him enough graded earnings to make the Kentucky Derby (G1) field. The Florida-bred colt was unplaced in his first four stakes attempts, but they were all in sprints.
Moonhanger (Malibu Moon) rushed to the early lead after flipping in the gate and delaying the start, reaching the quarter-mile mark in :23 3/5, but Brethren was away quickly from post 9 and surged to the front before the conclusion of the first turn while three wide. Brethren opened a 1 1/2-length advantage on the backstretch, completing the opening half-mile in a comfortable :48 1/5. Watch Me Go stalked the pace in midpack during the early stages and advanced to a striking position in third leaving the backstretch.
After chasing the pace in second, Crimson Knight put pressure on Brethren on the far turn. Brethren was along the rail with Ramon Dominguez and entered the stretch in a full drive, passing the three-quarters mark with a head lead in 1:12 3/5, but he gave way with a little less than a furlong left to run. Crimson Knight passed Brethren and tried gamely to last until the wire, but Watch Me Go had momentum on the far outside and wore down his rival in deep stretch, finishing the 1 1/16-mile event in 1:44 1/5 over the fast track.
Luis Garcia had the mount on the Kathleen O'Connell-trained winner, who paid $89.40, $28.80 and $8.80 for the upset.
"I was really happy, and I was sure he'd dig in," O'Connell said. "He's exhibited a great amount of heart, and he really tried hard. His last race was his first time going two turns, and it was a graded race. Unfortunately, if you've got a three-year-old that's won a few races, there's not an easy prep spot. But he's just fulfilled a lot for the owner and for myself."
"I knew this horse was something special," Garcia added. "He was only third in the Davis, but he showed me something; that was his first time stretching out and learning to relax behind a good pace. That experience helped us today. We broke well today and the plan was to get in behind the favorite Brethren and to follow him along and wait for the stretch. Brethren took a challenge from that other horse going into the turn and I was able to wait a bit longer; then when I asked him in the stretch he had a lot of run left. Sometimes everything works out just right!"
Crimson Knight proved to be a savvy $16,000 claim for his new connections, who haltered the gelding from a February 24 turf win at Tampa Bay Downs, and the former claimer returned $50 and $11.80 to his supporters. Brethren held third by 2 3/4 lengths over fourth-placer Beamer (Vindication), who was followed under the wire by Economic Summit (Malibu Moon), Free Entry (Tale of the Cat), Too Experience (Drewman), Striding Ahead (Empire Maker) and Moonhanger. Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) was withdrawn in favor of the Timely Writer S. at Gulfstream Park.
Out of the unraced Sabbath Song (Deputy Minister), Watch Me Go counts the stakes-placed Asgoodasshelooks as a full brother. His dam is a half-sister to stakes winners Blitzer (Ziggy's Boy), Diamonds Galore (Diamond Shoal [GB]) and Cozy Star (Cozzene), and Watch Me Go's second dam is the stakes0winning Sirona (Irish Stronghold). This is also the female family of stakes winners and Grade 2 runner-ups Mufattish (Hansel) and Regal Dreamer (Architect).
Watch Me Go captured his career debut at Calder last May and recorded an 8 1/2-length victory over allowance/optional claiming rivals at Tampa Bay prior to his third in the Sam F. Davis. He upped his career earnings to $311,345 on Saturday.
Watch Me Go will receive his final prep for the Kentucky Derby in either the Arkansas Derby (G1) or Blue Grass S. (G1), both on April 16, according to his connections.