Horse, Dog & Sports War Story, Semper Fortis To Go in Pegasus


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Two more slots have been filled for the Jan. 28 GI Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream as War Story (Northern Afleet) and Semper Fortis (Distorted Humor) have been added to the lineup for the $12-million race.

The primary owner of War Story, the recent winner of the Queens County H., is Ron Paolucci’s Loooch Racing. Paolucci reached a deal with Pegasus stakeholder Dan Schafer and will use his spot to run in the race. Schafer, who does not own any horses of his own, declined to reveal any details of the transaction.

“I just feel excited,” Schafer said. “I’m excited for the race and I’m excited for my position in it now. Obviously, not having a California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) or an Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) doesn’t discourage me, but at the same time it’s a pretty big task to try to tackle them. You would imagine it is going to be those two finishing one-two in some order, but with horse racing you never know. War Story gives me a fighter’s chance.”

The Dec. 17 Queens County seemed to be a turning point in War Story’s career as he won by 7 1/4 lengths and showed much more early speed than normal, leading at every call. In his prior start he was fourth in the GI Cigar Mile H. Paolucci said that the horse has improved since they took the blinkers off prior to the Cigar and made some other adjustments. The trainer is Mario Serey Jr.

“The reality is this is the richest race ever run in the history of racing,” he said. “When you look at it from that perspective, it’s hard not to be excited about it. I’m a lot more excited since we took the blinkers off and we got a little contraction in his ears to have him not hear things at the break. If this horse breaks, which we think he will, he’s a very viable option as an upsetter. I’ll say this: other than Arrogate and California Chrome, there’s not another horse in the race I’d trade places with.”

Paolucci is not convinced that Arrogate will in fact make the Pegasus World Cup.

“I know Bob Baffert relatively well because he trained Ria Antonia (Rockport Harbor) for us,” he said. “If Arrogate runs in the [GII] San Pasqual S. [on Sunday], which it looks like he will, I think it’s a case of a lot of smoke and mirrors. Bob likes to have time between races and time to get them ready. If he runs on Jan. 1 he won’t go back to the track until the seventh or eighth and then he’s got to get on the plane. That doesn’t give him much time to train and that’s not very Bob-like.”

Paolucci also pointed out that Baffert doesn’t seem to be a big fan of Gulfstream. He is only 2 for 17 there in his career, has not run a horse there since 2007 and last won a race at Gulfstream in 2001. That winner came with Captain Steve (Fly So Free) in the GI Donn H., which has been reincarnated as the Pegasus.

Semper Fortis’ presence in the race was first reported by the Daily Racing Form. He is owned by Reddam Racing, which bought a spot hoping to run 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo), who has been retired. Semper Fortis broke his maiden in a $30,000 maiden claimer at Del Mar and most recently finished sixth in the GI Malibu.

“We’ll run a horse to get some of the money back,” Paul Reddam told the Form. “If you don’t have a realistic shot of running 1-2 and you’re more likely to finish in the pack, you have to take your lumps.”

The owner of any horse starting in the Pegasus will earn $250,000 just for running, plus a cut of the handle and other revenue sources. It is estimated that the total amount paid out to the also-rans will be about $400,000. It costs $1 million to secure a spot.

With the additions of War Story and Semper Fortis, four spots remain open for the race. Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), the winner of the GI Clark H. and Stanford (Malibu Moon) remain two of the bigger names among the “free agents.” Stanford kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with a three-length win in the Dec. 17 Harlan’s Holiday S.

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