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Mucho Gusto has been invited back to defend his crown in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, later this month.
Mucho Gusto and Charlatan, both trained by Bob Baffert, headline the field of invitees that was released Sunday for the $3 million race being held at Gulfstream on Jan. 23. Mucho Gusto has raced only twice since winning the Pegasus in January 2020; he was fourth in the Saudi Cup in February and fourth in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
Charlatan was dominant in the Arkansas Derby last May, crossing the line first by six lengths, but was disqualified because of a medication violation. An ankle injury kept him off the track until Dec. 26 as well, when he was an easy winner in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.
''My hat's off to Bob and his whole crew to get this horse ready off an eight-month layoff. ... I always thought he was a special horse,'' jockey Mike Smith said after the Malibu win.
Other Grade 1 winners who were among the 12 preferred invitees for the Pegasus were Code of Honor (trained by Shug McGaughey), Breeders' Cup dirt mile winner Knicks Go (trained by Brad Cox) and True Timber (trained by Jack Sisterson).
Other horses on that preferred-invitee list were 2020 Pegasus runner-up Mr Freeze, Harpers First Ride, Jesus' Team, Kiss Today Goodbye, Sharp Samurai, Sleepy Eyes Todd and Tax.
The also-eligibles, in Gulfstream's order of preference: Anothertwistafate, Math Wizard, King Guillermo and Idol.
The Pegasus is run at 1 1/8 miles.
The Jan. 23 card also has the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, another Grade 1 offering, to be run at 1 3/16 miles.
Todd Pletcher has a trio of trainees invited to the Pegasus Turf, including Colonel Liam, Largent and Social Paranoia. Also given prioritized invites were Anothertwistafate, Breaking the Rules, Cross Border, Doswell, Flavius, North Dakota, Pixelate, Say the Word, Sharp Samurai and Storm the Court.
If any of those 12 turf invitees do not enter, the next four invited, in order, are Next Shares, Field Pass, Analyze It and Greyes Creek.