Robert Baker and William Mack's Pegasus Wind, third in Belmont Park's Champagne (gr. I) in his most recent outing, continued to train strongly toward a scheduled run in the $2 million Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) as he worked a mile on Monday at Churchill Downs.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of 2000 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus covered the distance in 1:44.20 over a "fast" track shortly after the historic one-mile course opened for training at 6 a.m. (EDT). Exercise rider Stacey Pryor was in the saddle for the move, which was the day's only work at the distance.The one-mile breeze by his lone contender for the 23rd Breeders'
Cup World Championships was out of character for the leading trainer in the history of the event.
"That's unusual for me," said Lukas of the mile work. "But I'm not trying to get him fit. He's plenty fit. I just want to get him settled into his high cruising speed."
A victory by Pegasus Wind in the Juvenile would give Lukas his sixth victory in that Breeders' Cup race. Lukas is the all-time leader in victories (18) and total earnings ($19,645,520) in the 22-year history of the Breeders' Cup.
Pegasus Wind, who was bred by a partnership that includes Hall of Fame jockey Steve Cauthen, moved into the ranks of serious contenders for the Juvenile with his strong effort in the Champagne, in which gave way to the victorious Scat Daddy and the highly regarded Nobiz Like Shobiz in the final yards. He was beaten by just 1 ¼-lengths and justified the strong faith Lukas has professed in the colt since early spring. The four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer was so impressed by Pegasus Wind that he launched the colt's racing career in Churchill Downs' Bashford Manor, a race in which he finished fifth and was beaten 3 ½-lengths by Circular Quay, the eventual winner of the Hopeful (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher.Lukas said Pegasus Wind's run in the Champagne was a back-up plan. He had originally planned to run Pegasus Wind in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland, but decided to ship his young star to New York after he took the colt to Lexington for a pair of works over Keeneland's new Polytrack surface."I just didn't think he looked real good," said Lukas. "He looked good for the first part of the work, but then he seemed like his head got lower and lower, and he was struggling with it. He was blowing, and I know he's fit, so I said let's go to the Champagne. Then he caught a loose, sandy track in the Champagne that I don't think he cared for."Lukas said his original plan called for a run in the Breeders' Futurity because he wants to run Pegasus Wind at a two-turn distance. He will finally get that opportunity in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4."I feel real good about him here," said Lukas. "This is his home field now. I've said it from back in May that I don't think we'll see the best of him until we go two turns. I think two turns is his cup of tea. He's got such a high cruising speed. I mean he really cruises here."The record-shattering trainer will be the least surprised person under the Twin Spires if Pegasus Wind wins the Juvenile. But if Nov. 4 is not the colt's day, Lukas clearly believes he possesses the potential to provide many other memorable afternoons."I've always felt this horse was special," he said. "I think this is some kind of nice horse. I'm looking forward to not only this one, but the next one in May, too."The deadline for pre-entries was Monday, with the complete list to be released at 10 a.m. (Eastern) Wednesday. The list and accompanying articles about the pre-entries will be posted at bloodhorse.com at 10 a.m.