Owner Ron Paolucci, who races as Loooch Racing Stable, has worked out a deal to run Ivan Rodriguez's Sharp Azteca and his co-owned War Story in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
Paolucci said that with one of The Stronach Group-owned Pegasus starting spots still open, of the total 12 spots offered in the race, he would like to run his grade 3-placed Game Over as well.
"It's financial. It's all about the money," Paolucci said of his decision to work a deal with Rodriguez for Sharp Azteca. "I have two partners on War Story and it just seems like after his Breeders' Cup race to take the best deal we could with the least risk financially. So I decided to put him in that spot and I have my own spot.
"When the deal fell through with a couple of other people who were looking to put him (Sharp Azteca) in their spot, I did the math, and got aggressive, and figured it was a good back up to War Story. It's all monetary, there's nothing else."
Grade 1 winner Sharp Azteca will run in the Pegasus starting spot that Paolucci purchased, while War Story, who is co-owned with Glenn Ellis and Imaginary Stables, will run in one of the remaining spots.
"War Story is going to run in one of the three spots that were not purchased that Stronach is leasing out," Paolucci said.
Sharp Azteca enters off a score in the Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) and a narrow second in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), while grade 2 winner War Story has finished fourth in his last three runs, all at the top-level, including the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). The 6-year-old gelding ran fifth in last year's Pegasus.
As for Game Over, Paolucci said he expects something to be worked out in the next couple of days for the remaining spots as the race day quickly approaches.
"Stronach has a spot that he actually purchased that's still kind of up in the air and Coolmore's spot with Stellar Wind may be up in the air—nobody knows if she's actually going to run—and there's one Stronach spot left of the three. If I could get him (Game Over) in one of those three spots, I would put him in," he said.
"I bought the spot with him (Game Over) in mind, and then when Sharp Azteca became available, I just thought it made financial sense to back my money up, seeing as he's going to be the second favorite in the race, and I jumped at it.
"They want 12 horses in the gate, so there's some speculation on the also-eligible horses in case one doesn't make it. ... I'm not sure if they'd want me to have three spots—because it's one guy, there's 12 horses, and he's got three spots. Although, realistically, Sharp Azteca is not my horse. I own the spot, I don't own the horse. So if Game Over got in, I'd realistically have two, the way I look at it."
The owner also thinks that having more speed horses in the field could help the chances of a closer like War Story.
"I think Sharp Azteca in the race actually helps War Story," he said. "It's kind of win-win for me. Obviously the favorite (Gun Runner ) is a speed horse, the third favorite Collected is a speed horse, and West Coast is a speed horse. So the thought process behind it is, the more speed, the better chance War Story has, the faster they go up front. So I think Sharp Azteca will actually help War Story in the race."