(Photo of Gun Runner)

Since the rightful coronation of Gun Runner before, during and immediately after the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic, with all of his glamour and spectacle, much of the media blitz emanating out of sunny Florida these days has been shoveled toward the 2018 version of the $16 Million Pegasus World Cup — to be held at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.

You can’t swing a recently deceased barn rodent and not hit someone from Gulfstream Park touting “the world’s richest race.” 

Everywhere you turn, some unfortunate soul from Team Stronach is slipping you an update(?) on what ownership group and connection may — or may not — purchase the racing “rights” to this horse or that horse in order to have an entry in a race where the owners put up their own money to run after.

The media team at Gulfstream Park — the former top racing venue which has now been turned into a shopping mall with a racing oval stuck somewhere in the middle of it — has tried its’ best every livelong day to muster interest.

But…

Despite the fact that the world’s most accomplished and renown Thoroughbred of recent times — the grand Gun Runner — will finish his brilliant race career in this event…

And…

Despite the fact that some owners are (may be?) still willing to put up $1 million of their own money to try to win it back against the likes of such a man-child / superhero disguised as a Thoroughbred, and such an obstacle…

And…

Despite there’s really not much else in the world of Thoroughbred racing going on in January, and it coincides with the annual Eclipse Awards give-aways…

The question really remains:

Is this race worth $16 million? Is this field of prospective horses — outside of the great Gun Runner — worth $16,000,000? Is this truly one of the best Races of the year and warrant the hype; the media push; or Grade 1 status?

After all, let’s consider the list of candidates — other than the aforementioned and super-talented Gun Runner — named to date for the 11/8-mile event:

  1. Sharp Azteca, who just won the Cigar Mile in impressive front-running fashion after having succumbed late to the pressure and presence of Battle of Midway in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Only twice in his racing career, Sharp Azteca has tried to extend longer than a mile in distance. He lost to Texas Chrome in the un-graded Super Derby Prelude at Louisiana Downs in August of 2016. And, he won the G3 Monmouth Cup this July over the likes of Donegal Moon and Just Call Kenny. Now, he is going to try Gun Runner?
  2. Neolithic, who has run five times this year — with just one win. And, that came in an Allowance-Optional Claimer at Saratoga.
  3. Mind Your Biscuits, who has never run past a mile in any race in his career. He just was beaten handily in the Cigar Mile by Sharp Azteca, and he hasn’t mustered a win this year since capturing the Belmont Sprint Championship in July.
  4. Stellar Wind, the former champion mare who just ran a distant, distant, distant 9th to Forever Unbridled in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and was sold for a whopping $6 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale — ostensibly to begin her breeding career. But this field was coming up so light, the connections thought…(what?)…maybe?
  5. Seeking the Soul, who just won the G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, beating the likes of Good Samaritan and Hoppertunity. That was his second straight victory after having won an Allowance-Optional Claimer at Keeneland in October. But he has about as many 7th place finishes this year as wins (2 vs. 3). Yet, he does not have two wins at the distance. That is saying something in this prospective field.
  6. Prime Attraction, a 4YO Unbridled’s Song colt who just won the G3 Native Diver Handicap at Del Mar beating Irish Freedom and Mubtaahij (who ran 8th against Gun Runner in the Classic). In his last six outings this year, Prime Attraction has 1 win and 1 second. He has 2 fourth place finishes, a fifth and a seventh.
  7. Gunnevera, who since his impressive victory in the G2 Fountain of Youth at GP in March has only won once. And, that was in the made-up Tangelo Stakes to give him a prep for this year’s Travers Stakes. He ran a distant fifth to Gun Runner in the Classic in his last try.
  8. Collected, who is arguably the only threat to the great Gun Runner in this made-for-Frank(and TV) drama. He was a well-beaten second in the Classic, but had strung together four straight victories before that, including a win over the once-powerful Arrogate in the G1 Pacific Classic. Trained by Bob Baffert, who you can never dismiss.
  9. West Coast, the talented 3YO son of Flatter who had his five-race win streak snapped when he ran a distant and non-threatening third to Gun Runner in the Classic. He did beat up on the 3YO division late in the year, winning the Travers Stakes and the Pennsylvania Derby, but he was no match and no threat in the Big Race.
  10. Forever Unbridled, who, undoubtedly, is at the top of her game right now, what with three straight wins — including the G2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs in June, the G1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga in August, and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar in November. But really? You going to try the world’s top colt with a 5YO mare who has never run against her male counterparts ever before? Owner Charles Fipke lucked out when he named two riders for one race (in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff), but he may have stepped out a bit too far this time.

I have asked our resident breeding expert and South Florida resident, Robert Murphy, to take an in-depth dive into the caliber of the horses that are potential starters for his analysis. I can’t wait to read his insights.

I will ask our resident handicapping and overall industry expert, Dan Liebman, to weigh in with his remarks.

And, I will ask my new friend and expert handicapper, Ed DeRosa, from Bris.net to add this thoughts.

But what do you think?

Is this really a World Cup Event? Is this a Championship Race? Is this race worth $16 million?

Your thoughts are welcome and we will look to post in the subsequent days ahead.

Stay tuned.

Maybe Aidan O’Brien can ship something over here. Right? Please?