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TrackNotes: The Phantom Zone

Imagery during Wednesday's inaugural festivities set off a lot of triggers for me.

When the Marine pilots set those tires down on the three dots on the South Lawn, I thought Trump didn't deserve that kind of precision.

When Orange Crush and the Cabbage Queen stepped out on that little stubby red carpet . . . stubby . . . fingers . . . and the presidential third leg. Our nation's capital is just so symbolic! Tricky Dick's red carpet went all the way out to the 'copter. Just sayin'.

When the four massive Rolls Royce turbofans finally got DJ Tweetin' Fatass and his extended barnacles up in the air, I naturally thought about the Phantom Zone.

The presidential limo got a lot of screen time. I saw it as up close as you can get once when (hungover?) Bush visited Lou Mitchell's. He helped celebrate Richie's birthday the night before. They overbuilt it of course, but I was glad the massive steel-belted Tiger Paws were able to handle the big quarter-pounder magoo. I called the Secret Service, but they would not comment on whether the springs would dip even just a little bit when he got in.

They said Barron Boy was on the plane to Florida, although he was nowhere to be seen all morning. He looks, poor him, way too much like his old man but just imagine what kind of monster Sergeant Bonespurs and the Slovenian Sensation are creating.

To be fair, those fireworks were the most spectacular fireworks I've ever seen, but they did trigger images of Shock and Awe and Baghdad, to be honest.

Although it was at Arlington National, Clinton, Bush and Obama spoke from what looked like the ancient Amphitheater of Judgement and I thought we sure could use some of that with those guys.

But it's the next day and while Biden must start Presidentin', TrackNotes must start handicappin' the new 2021 racing season.

I'm just not getting the major-race goose, though, with Saturday's fifth Pegasus World Cup Invitational (Grade I, nine furlongs, 1-1/8 miles, four and up, $3,000,000) at Gulfstream Park, Hallandale, Florida.

I tried to find a smart aleck remark related to the origins of the Pegasus mythology, but, man, those wacky Greek cats must have had a lot of time on their hands to come up with that shit.

Like the Peoples' Choice Awards, this race with the ostentatious name just has not held up to its original aspirations and hype. Tuck into your hatband that the race is run on a mismeasured oval with a ridiculously short run to the first turn that severely marginalizes the outside posts.

It started in 2017 with a $12 million purse and a formula that owners could buy entries, trade them, or shares of them, like baseball cards. It was a very Wild West vibe, but owners who put up the hefty entries and didn't score in the race had problems. We had the great California Chrome in the 12-hole, and the race was won by Arrogate in the one-hole. 'Chrome was pulled up. The race had a timing controversy with Gulfstream, naturally, "analyzing" it to a new track record. I hate Gulfstream. Twice a year, this and the Florida Derby is just plenty for me. They'll never get a Breeders' Cup.

With a $16 million purse in 2018, the race didn't fill and track owner Frank Stronach bought the entries and "leased" them to three horses who would share any winnings. We still had West Coast, Gunnevara, Collected, War Story, Toast of New York and Seeking the Soul. Gun Runner won. Class was still hanging on.

In 2019, the purse shrunk to $9 million, partly because of the introduction of the Pegasus Turf. The entries seemed to be descending to second-tier. Bravazo, Accelerate and the up-and-down Seeking the Soul were there. At least recent Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner and overall achiever City of Light won the race.

Last year, Omaha Beach was there, but B-celebrity Mucho Gusto won.

Luckily, there are enough horses in America to fill this year's field, but who are they?

Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver is expected to run this year, but she's not here. Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Authentic is retired. Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law is retired.

There are no great ones this year. Some of them have kept halfway decent company, but you can't say any of them are true Grade I quality. Remember, these are older horses, so we know what they are.

Knicks Go is your 5-2 morning line favorite, based solely on his win in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in November. Since winning the 2018 Grade I Breeders' Futurity at 70-1, he's been on something of a rehabilitation tour. He missed several months last year with an ankle problem and was switched to trainer Brad Cox. He busted out in a couple allowance optional claiming races in the run-up to his track-record score in the Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Remember, he's in the four-post.

Code of Honor, whose claim to fame is a win in the 2019 Grade I Travers, is at 9-2. He last won back in June at the Grade III Westchester in the mud at Belmont. He almost always finishes in the money, but he can't break through in Grade Is, although this is hardly a studded Grade I field.

Jesus' Team has a big chance. He's graded stakes-challenged, but was second in that same Dirt Mile and has been kicking on the door. Post five.

The once-touted Tax is 5-1 on name recognition alone. He does come off a win in the Grade III Harlan's Holiday right here at Gulfstream, but with that 105 Beyer Speed Figure, I look for him to bounce.

Mr. Freeze, 15-1, sticks his nose in again. He won the Grade II Fayette three back and the Gulfstream Park Mile almost a year ago. Post 11.

If Sleepy Eyes Todd, 8-1, can get the lead from the one post and control a moderate pace . . . those are a couple of big ifs.

The Pegasus winner gets an automatic berth in the $12 million Saudi Cup, a month from now.

In the Pegasus Turf (Grade I, 1-3/16th miles turf, four and up, $1,000,000), Colonel Liam is the 7-2 favorite, coming off a win in the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby here at Gulfstream. Largent, 9-2, is your horse for the course, winning the Grade II Fort Lauderdale here last month. Anothertwistafate, 5-1, is on the rise.

I'll be interested in seeing the condition of the Gulfstream turf. If it's not the worst turf, it sure looks like that on TV.

NBC, 3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Remembering Goldlikova
TrackNotes' honey Goldikova died in early January at the age of 16.

She provided thrills galore when she jetted in and won the Breeders' Cup Mile, Grade I turf, three straight years; twice at Santa Anita and once at Churchill Downs. She won 14 Grade I/Group I races, including the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. Her rider was Olivier Peslier, trainer the great Freddy Head.

Watch the little filly fearlessly thread the needle and romp to the win in 2008:

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Watch her, in typical European fashion, come from nearly last, look for room inside on the stretch, kick back out and win by a length in 2009.

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Watch as she endures a less-than-ideal trip to win by more than two in 2020. She faced the great Gio Ponti, Get Stormy and Court Vision in that one.

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Scroll down to the "Grooming Gold" subhead to see her groom demonstrate for the entire world just how exciting Goldikova was.

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Goldikova was a magnetic staple in those early days of TrackNotes. The Irish-bred daughter of the American Anabaa (Danzig) and the dam Born Gold, another American out of damsire Blushing Groom, she was based in France. She won more than $7 million in her career. She took a shot at the Mile again in 2011 and finished third, just a length behind winner Court Vision.

Goldikova's memories burn inside you forever.

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

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