(Bob Baffert / Photo by Gene McLean)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:

Idle since fourth in the Grade III Oklahoma Derby Sept. 29, Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita-based Mucho Gusto ran the race of his life in yesterday’s Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream, winning by 4 ½ lengths while getting a mile and one eighth in 1:48.85.

Ridden for the first time in his 11th career start by recent Eclipse Award winning Jockey Irad Ortiz, Mucho Gusto was hustled from the gate, soon found the rail and had a 2 ½ length advantage turning for home.

“Irad Ortiz did a pretty masterful job,” Baffert, who opted not to travel to Gulfstream, said yesterday from Santa Anita.  “He had me a little worried the way he was down inside like that, but he knew what he was doing.  When he tilted out at the quarter pole, all I could say was ‘Damn, I wish I would have flown down there.’

“I am really happy, I was really surprised because it was a last minute thing,” Baffert told XBTV yesterday at Santa Anita.  “I just thought about (the Pegasus) and I was watching the race closely.  I gave him a good work and I was going to run him next week in the San Pasqual (Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Feb. 1) and I thought, ‘You know what, he worked so well today (Jan. 16), I think I’ll take a shot at it and he hadn’t gotten an invite from the Saudi Cup…So I thought maybe if he runs well (in the Pegasus), he’ll get an invitation.”

As expected, the Saudi Cup invitation has been extended and Baffert said that both Mucho Gusto and McKinzie would depart from Santa Anita on Feb. 18.

“The race is $20 million at a mile and one eighth on Feb. 29,” he said.

MAJOR PLAYERS ROADSTER, GIFT BOX & STORM THE COURT NEARING RACES

Several notable local stakes winners, including 2019 Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster, were prominent on this morning’s work tab, with Bob Baffert confirming Roadster, who drilled six furlongs in 1:12.60, is definite for the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, an iconic prep for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 7.

Most recently second to Omaha Beach in the Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 28, Roadster will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

In addition to Roadster, Hronis Racing’s Gift Box, a winner of last year’s Big ‘Cap and most recently victorious in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes Dec. 28, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80.  Like Roadster, Gift Box is also nominated to the San Pasqual.

Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and recently crowned Eclipse Award winning 2-year-old male Storm the Court worked five furlongs this morning for trainer Peter Eurton in 1:00.60.

INSTAGRAND DRILLS OUT OF GATE IN PREP FOR SATURDAY’S SAN PASQUAL

     A 10 ¼ length winner of the Grade II Best Pal Stakes in his second career start, and third in both the Grade III Gotham Stakes and Grade I Santa Anita Derby last year, OXO Equine’s Instagrand, who was most recently third as the 9-5 favorite in a one mile allowance here Jan. 1, drilled six furlongs out of the gate Saturday in 1:16.60 as he preps for next Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

“I know the time is slow, but to be honest, the track was pretty slow (yesterday),” said Don Chatlos, former assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, who has been Instagrand’s trainer of record for his last two starts.  “When the track is slow like this, my exercise riders know it and there’s no point in trying to make something happen with the time…He galloped out good and he got out of it what he needed to.

“His first race with me at Del Mar (a fifth place finish as the even money favorite in second condition allowance going 6 ½ furlongs Dec. 1), you can throw it out.  He had shipped in from New York and was pulling early, very anxious and he just stopped.  His next race here on Jan. 1, Baffert sent a horse and really made him run early, with no breather.  He got a little tired and got beat a length and a half, but hopefully he’s rounding into form now.”

SIMULCAST WAGERING NOW OFFERED IN SANTA ANITA SPORTS BOOK

In addition to the Grandstand Paddock Room, Santa Anita is now offering free parking and admission on Wednesdays and Thursdays for fans attending its Sports Book, which adjoins the Turf Terrace on the Mezzanine level. State of the art in every respect, the Santa Anita Sports Book features wall-to-wall flat screen television monitors and plenty of betting windows. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com.

     FINISH LINES: . . . Santa Anita will embark upon a four-day race week this coming Thursday, with first post time on Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m.  Santa Anita offers $2 beer and $6 specialty cocktails each Friday at designated locations throughout the track. Specialty cocktails include a Baldwin Buck, Margarita and other selected cocktails. There is also free Club House (including Santa Anita’s Sports Book) and General Admission each Friday . . . FIRST POST ON BIG GAME SUNDAY, FEB. 2., IS EARLY AT 11 A.M.  COME FOR THE RACES AND STAY FOR THE BIG GAME!