Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The Pegasus World Cup program in Florida and the biggest weekend of preps for the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse share the limelight in weekend horse racing action.
Winners at Gulfstream Park can be expected earn consideration for both Dubai's big night at the end of March and the intervening Saudi Cup program in Riyadh at the end of February.
In other action, Sam Houston Race Park in Texas has a five-stakes program Saturday with two of the events graded. Oaklawn Park, Turfway Park, Laurel Park and Aqueduct are among the tracks trying to bounce back from weather-related cancellations.
Off the track, there were no surprises at Thursday night's Eclipse Awards ceremony in Florida. Cody's Wish, whose connection with disabled teen Cody Dorman caught the imagination of observers well beyond the usual ranks of racing fans, was named Horse of the Year. The division winners were largely predictable.
On to the show ...
Saturday's $3 million Pegasus World Cup is the anchor leg of a massive day of stakes racing on both dirt and grass at Gulfstream Park.
The Grade I event, contested at 1 1/8 miles, features National Treasure, the 2023 Preakness winner who almost derailed the emotional highlight of November's Breeders' Cup when he came within a nose of upsetting Cody's Wish in the Dirt Mile.
Trainer Bob Baffert noted National Treasure is a rarity, still running at age 4 after competing in the Triple Crown races.
"I think he's the only one left that ran in those [Triple Crown] series," Baffert said. "We've taken our time. We've spotted him right. I've let him really mature on his own. This is a perfect scenario for him, a perfect spot to come back."
Also in the Pegasus field are the third-place horse from that Dirt Mile, Skippylongstocking, and a host of other graded stakes winners from around the country.
The $1 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf has an absolutely fascinating mix arguably starting with Warm Heart, a 4-year-old Galileo filly last seen finishing a decent third in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase.
Also on the program:
Star Fortress makes her second U.S. start for trainer Cherie DeVaux in the $500,000 Grade II Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf Invitational at 1 1/16 miles after blitzing the field by 10 lengths in the Grade III Cardinal at Churchill Downs in November.
Maryquitecontrary and Intrepid Daydream top the morning line for the $200,000 Grade II Inside Information Stakes for fillies and mares at 7 furlongs. Bob Baffert brings Hijazi along to take the favorite's role in the $150,000 Grade III Fred W. Hooper.
Chad Brown saddles the two morning-line favorites in the $200,000 Grade III William L. McKnight at 1 1/2 miles on the grass -- Francesco Clemente and Stone Age. Fillies and mares go the same trip in the $150,000 Grade III La Prevoyante with Romagna Mia and R Kalli Kim sharing the limelight.
The Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge at 1,900 meters on the dirt, a prep for the World Cup itself, has a field as international as you please.
Trainer Chad Summers has Clapton, last seen trailing home next-last in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Kabirkhan, a Kentucky-bred, but Russian-raced son of 2016 World Cup winner California Chrome, returns from a romping victory in a local handicap.
There's a 4-year-old filly, Mimi Kakushi, an 8-year-old gelding, Everfast, and others bred in Uruguay and Chile.
The other Group 1 event, the 1,800-meters Jebel Hatta, is a rehearsal for the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night.
Godolphin looks to dominate, primarily with world traveler Mawj, winner last year of the Group 1 Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. She finished second to Master of the Seas in the Breeders' Cup Mile in her latest start.
The Group 3 UAE 2,000 Guineas is a prep for the Group 2 UAE Derby. Eight are in with Oasis Boy, winner of two of three starts in his native Argentina, highest-rated.
Also on the dirt are the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes, a prep for the the Group 2 Golphin Mile, and the Group 3 Al Shinadgha Sprint at 1,200 meters, an audition for the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
On the turf, the supporting events are the Group 2 Blue Point Sprint at 1,000 meters and the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, either or both of which could be used to prepare for the 1,200 meters of the Al Quoz Sprint on the World Cup undercard.
Lucky Sweynesse, the world's top-rated sprinter, gets another go in Sunday's Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse with 7-year-old Wellington looking to reverse a series of six straight losses to that rival.
Wellington has finished behind Lucky Sweyness six straight times but trainer Jamie Richards remains optimistic, reporting the gelding has done well since a spell at the Conghua training center on the Chinese mainland.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Sam Houston's Saturday card features the $300,000 Grade III Houston Ladies Classic at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt and the $200,000 Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles on the greensward.
Oaklawn Park's rescheduled $150,000 Fifth Season at 1 mile is set for Saturday with New York raider Durante as the morning-line pick.
The Baffert-trained duo of Mr Fisk and Newgate and Phil D'Amato charge Newgrange are closely bunched atop the morning line for the $200,000 Grade II San Pasqual at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Aqueduct's weekend features are Saturday's $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes with 3-year-olds going 6 furlongs and the rescheduled 7-furlongs Interborough Stakes for fillies and mares.