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TrackNotes: A Sunny Place For Shady People

Man o MAN!

Just after watching the wonderfully educational and equally disgusting American Experience documentary "The Swamp" about the Everglades, TrackNotes happens to satellite down to Hallandale Beach, Florida for the year's first big race, the bombastically (and plagiarizingly) named Pegasus World Cup Invitational (Grade I, 1-1/8 miles[nine furlongs], dirt, $9,000,000) at Gulfstream Park.

Thanks to Viewers Like You, I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that Florida really is, as Dag Juhlin so often sings, the dangling wang of the United States.

Florida wants what it wants and will lie and cheat, steal and kill, and displace with extraordinary cruelty to get it.

Florida doesn't have to listen to anybody, including Mother Nature, because it can jerry-rig its way out of anything. Need a dupe for a nefarious sweep around the Constitution? Come on down! They've got it all, including the flesh and blood of America's Biggest Problem.

Thankfully, I'll remember from the TV show the Herculean efforts of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who made her bones on various beats at the Miami Herald, to raise awareness of the magnificence of the Everglades and help establish the national park, with sympathy and help from Franklin Roosevelt, who was a real president.

So, yeah, four grafs later, you know I learned a lot about the American experience, and so many things about Florida, even this week's racing, were tied together, like Lebowski's rug.

Spinning out of the turn, race fans, there are common threads here.

Gulfstream Park, equally a mall as a racetrack or casino, does things the way it wants.

Frank Stronach's track is infamous for ringing the bell well after post time, often no less than eight to 10 minutes late, which results in overlapping with big races at other tracks, disjointed closing of betting "windows," and the firmly valid perception that computer whales are sneaking their bets in unfairly. This race will start, for all intents and purposes, on the clubhouse turn, which I've pointed out before. Race timing won't start until 70 or so feet after the start because of "timing zones."

Thankfully, I don't have to live in or go to Florida, although I did visit many years ago, save for TV for the (maybe) Holy Bull, (probably) Fountain of Youth and (certainly) Florida Derby.

We've already had some racing luck, through the post position selections, so this third annual Pegasus really does shape up as a very intriguing race. With some international flavor. See how I came back around right there?

This is a very funny feeling race. Is it the big first tilt of 2019? Or is it the last gasp of 2018? Like holding in that last hit as long as you can.

Your "superstars," who 2018-ish will run right out the door to stud service after this one, are the five, Accelerate, the 9-5 morning line favorite, Joel Rosario up, and the three, City of Light, 5-2, Javier Castellano. City' necked Accelerate in the Oaklawn Handicap in April and Accelerate returned the favor by nearly six in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita next out. Rubber match. Michael McCarthy was sweating when, as City Light was pushed back in the draw to a chance between the three-post and the outside 12-hole, got the three. Outside in this gate? Castellano might just as well have gone straight to the tables.

Triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures are scattered throughout, like sprinkles in a donut shop, chocolate frosted Accelerate and City Light hogging them.

We've got D. Wayne Lukas's lovable Bravazo, who has run in the biggest races America has to offer, but hasn't won since February. Seeking the Soul, who in the up-and-down cycle points up for this one, though he's not a Grade I horse. Gunnevera, an in-the-money runner whose last win was an optional claimer at Gulfstream in August! Audible, a name who isn't really fast enough, though Audible is the closest thing to a horse for the course, so Place and Show seems logical, at no less than a 12-1 flyer. Chad Brown's Patternrecognition needs the lead, but he's never gone this far and is in the dreaded 12-hole. Selfless pace sacrifice?

Through no acuity by me, and you know who you are, the nine horse, Kukulkan, a Mexican-bred was made known to me. With grandpappies Point Given and Bernardini, he's unbeaten over 14 races! Running in Mexico City, he's won the Futurity Mexicano, Stakes Jockey Club Mexicano and Derby Mexicano. Those sound important to me. Last month, he won the Caribbean Classic at Gulfstream by more than 10 (OK, an anemic 70 Beyer), just like the open lengths he has always won by. And he's got Frankie Dettori up. No respect, he's 30-1, but as Apollo's Trainer told The Champ, he might just think it's a damn fight!

Again, Mike Watchmaker first made the argument for this one, but I'll also include Tom's d'Etat, 20-1.

While the NFL has become the unbettable television studio show we all thought it would, the hook you'll hear all day is that Tom's d'Etat is primarily owned by Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints. And that winning this race would soothe sweet sorrows after the injustices thrust upon her and Whodat Nation. Thankfully, the horse knows nothing from a bizarre cartel of curiously wealthy people that can't even conduct a good game of American football.

But being named after the Mardi Gras parade Krewe d'Etat is kind of cool. What would the Beachwood horse be named? DeepDish? Noitalianbeefwityou? Green River? Eddiensolisatthewire?

Like Watchmaker, I see it too with this son of Smart Strike out of a Giant's Causeway mare. At 6-years-old, he's only raced nine times, but he's 6-1. While winning by open lengths most recently, he will have to run faster, but we hope he's the tactical, in-the-mix closer he appears to be. From the six-hole, he should be able to decide just what he wants, with a scrum in front of him to exploit. He really does deserve to be 18- or 20-1, so let's hope the Saints don't go marching in and ruin it for the rest of us.

In the race just prior, the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (Grade I, 1-3/16 miles, 9.5 furlongs, Turf, $7,000,000), you'll eyeball Japan's Yoshida, a decent fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He impressed in the Woodward last September. Jose Ortiz up. Catapult, 7-2 with Rosario riding, should be fine with the distance, being out of Kitten's Joy. Don't discount Aidan O'Brien's Magic Wand, 9-2. O'Brien goes where the money is and he and his Irish filly can cash in.

It's 50-50 for rain. You'll tune in to The Peacock, NBC5 in these parts.

It won't be the greatest race of the year, despite what Floridians want or demand you believe.

But from safely up here in Chicago, it should be pretty good.


Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.


1. From Steve Rhodes, who once lived in Florida working as a newspaper reporter for 18 months before couldn't take it any longer:

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