Horse Racing

Two best horses in the world duel in the richest race in history — and it’s in our backyard

California Chrome's trainer preps for race

Art "Artie" Sherman, "California Chrome's" trainer, talks with the Miami Herald about race prep before the 2017 Pegasus mega race at Gulfstream Park.
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Art "Artie" Sherman, "California Chrome's" trainer, talks with the Miami Herald about race prep before the 2017 Pegasus mega race at Gulfstream Park.

California Chrome would be on a farm in central Kentucky right now, pollinating the lady horses with his DNA, and rival Arrogate would be wintering in southern California, resting up for the racing year ahead.

They would be if not for this: $$$, and lots of it.

Saturday’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup — the richest race in thoroughbred history — has brought the world’s two best horses to South Florida’s Gulfstream Park for an epic showdown that has the sport buzzing.

“To race for this amount of money is just — it’s crazy,” said jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate’s 51-year-old jockey. “I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined we would be racing for that.”

The Pegasus is all about the money.

With a purse of $12 million, the Pegasus is worth six times more than the Kentucky Derby and about twice as much as the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Only the Dubai World Cup at $10 million rivals it.

The winning Pegasus horse will earn $7 million.

The winning jockey will receive his 10 percent cut of that, or $700,000.

By comparison, the Chicago Cubs each raked in $368,000 for winning the World Series while the Denver Broncos each got $97,000 for winning Super Bowl 50.

And Gulfstream is charging fans $100 just to get in. Admission and parking are free the rest of the year.

It’s the $12 million purse, though, that was the magnet for California Chrome and Arrogate, the top two finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November, and 10 other hopefuls.

If not for the Pegasus and it’s huge payday, California Chrome, who won the 2014 Kentucky Derby, would have retired after his runner-up finish to Arrogate in the Classic. Instead, he’ll race in the Pegasus and then head off to stud.

“If it isn’t for this race, you’d never see California Chrome run again, and Arrogate would be on his way to Dubai,” said Jay Stone, who sets the morning line at Gulfstream and also serves as racing manager for Reeves Racing.

The Pegasus replaced the Donn Handicap on Gulfstream’s racing calendar. The Donn, long a fixture on the track’s winter schedule, attracted a top older horse star now and then, such as Cigar and Skip Away.

But with a $500,000 purse and early-year positioning, it wasn’t a destination point for horses from the West Coast, or those pointing toward richer races later in the year.

The Pegasus and it’s massive purse changed the landscape instantly.

“It really gets to the purpose of what we were trying to do, is to extend the racing calendar so that fans could continue to see horses that they may have never seen on this circuit,” said Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo.

So California Chrome and Arrogate meet again.

California Chrome, now a 6-year-old, has already earned $14 million and would set the all-time earnings record for a thoroughbred with a Pegasus win. He won seven of his eight races last year, with the only defeat coming by a half-length to Arrogate in the Classic, and was voted Horse of the Year.

Arrogate was a late-developing 3-year-old, missing the Triple Crown series before stamping his name with a 13-length victory in the Travers Stakes in August. He backed up that impressive win by taking down California Chrome in a hard-fought Classic.

The dynamic duo will face 10 other challengers, who are given slim chance of pulling the upset.

The Pegasus is scheduled as the last race on the 12-race Gulfstream card, with an estimated post of 5:40 p.m. The race will be shown on NBC (4:30-6 p.m.).

Post time for Gulfstream’s first race Saturday is 11:30 a.m.

Pegasus World Cup Invitational

The field for Saturday’s $12 million race at Gulfstream Park:

Pole Position, Horse

Trainer

Jockey

Odds

1. Arrogate

Baffert

Smith

7-5

2. Prayer for Relief

Romans

Geroux

50-1

3. Neolithic

Pletcher

Velazquez

30-1

4. Noble Bird

Casse

Leparoux

25-1

5. War Story

Navarro

Gallardo

50-1

6. War Envoy

Ruis

Saez

50-1

7. Shaman Ghost

Jerkens

Ortiz

20-1

8. Semper Fortis

O’Neill

Gaffalione

50-1

9. Keen Ice

Pletcher

Castellano

12-1

10. Breaking Lucky

Baker

Contreras

25-1

11. Eragon

Wohlers

Prado

50-1

12. California Chrome

Sherman

Espinoza

6-5

Distance:  1 1/8 miles; TV: NBC (4:30-6 p.m.); Winner’s share: $7 million; About: The Pegasus will be the 12th race on a 12-race card that has a first-race post of 11:30 a.m.

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