By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Pegasus World Cup favourite Charlatan is set to bypass the $3 million event in favour of going straight to the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup in Riyadh on February 20,
The one-time Kentucky Derby favourite returned to action with a brilliant 4½-length victory in the G1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on December 26, after which he was made ante-post favourite for the Pegasus by British bookmakers.
However, trainer Bob Baffert said Charlatan is likely to miss the Gulfstream Park race on January 23 with the Saudi Cup in mind.
“That’s the plan right now,” said Baffert, speaking to the Santa Anita media team.
“I’ve got another week to make up my mind, but he’d be coming back a little quick for the other race off a long layoff, and he ran so hard, I worry about that.
“The thing I like about the Saudi race is it’s a one-turn mile-and-an-eighth and Charlatan is so fast. It’s a challenge, but it’s $20m. That’s a lot of money.”
Charlatan had his first workout on Saturday since the Malibu, going 4f in 49.80s. His likely absence from the Pegasus is merely the latest in a spate of high-profile withdrawals since Christmas following the retirements of Mucho Gusto, his Baffert-trained stablemate, and Belmont Stakes hero Tiz The Law.
In their absence, Breeders’ Cup Dirt MIle winner Knicks Go is likely to be the No.1 contender, while G1 winner Math Wizard and Tampa Bay Derby scorer King Guillermo now move into the main body of the Pegasus field from the also-eligible list.