Pegasus World Cup News and Notes

January 23rd, 2024

D.J. Stable Chasing 1st Grade 1 Turf Win with Webslinger

Senor Buscador Feeling at Home at Gulfstream for Pegasus

Motion Hoping Pegasus F&M Turf Will Be a ‘Mission of Joy’  

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – On its own or in a partnership, D. J. Stable has campaigned 10 graded-stakes winners since 2000, including three millionaires and three Grade 1 winners, and has been represented in two Classics and a year-end champion.

One thing the father and son team of Leonard and Jonathan Green haven’t done in that time is win a Grade 1 on the grass, an achievement they’ll try to cross off their list with Webslinger in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

Webslinger, bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and purchased for just $50,000 as a 2-year-old in training in 2022, represents the Greens’ first foray into a Pegasus World Cup day program that also features the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat and $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G2).

“We’ve never even campaigned in any of the Pegasus races. When we got the invite, we thought about it for all of five seconds because it is a race that is on our bucket list and we feel like we finally have the right horse to compete and to represent our silks,” Jonathan Green said.

“We’re excited about it. I honestly think that the turf race is coming up a little tougher,” he added. “Maybe I’m being biased, but it’s going to be a great card, and it sounds like things are setting up perfectly for Gulfstream and hopefully for us.”

A 4-year-old son of Constitution, winner of the 2014 Florida Derby (G1) and 2015 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream – the latter the forerunner to the Pegasus World Cup – Webslinger has been third or better in eight of 10 career starts with four wins and $1,115,320 in purse earnings.

Webslinger broke his maiden in the 2022 Nownownow at Monmouth Park, his third start and second on the grass, ending his 2-year-old season beaten four lengths at odds of 27-1 when 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Last year Webslinger put together a 3-3-2 record from nine starts, winning the 1 1/16-mile American Turf (G2) on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard and 1 1/8-mile Audubon, both at Churchill Downs. He placed in five other stakes, including seconds in the Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1) and Hollywood Derby (G1) and thirds in the Twilight Derby (G2) and Transylvania (G3), beaten a total of three lengths. He also ran fourth by 1 ½ lengths in the Belmont Derby (G1).

“There’s no way you can expect a horse to break his maiden in a stakes race and then expect him to be in Grade 1 competition throughout his entire 3-year-old year,” Green said. “We weren’t surprised that he won [first time out] but we were impressed with the race that he put in. That really springboarded him through his 3-year-old campaign.”

Webslinger is the latest success story for D. J. Stable, whose top horses include millionaires Jaywalk, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2018 campaigned with Cash is King, and 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Wonder Wheel; and Songandaprayer, who captured the 2001 Fountain of Youth (G1) at Gulfstream and ran 13th in the Kentucky Derby.

D. J. Stable also went to the Derby with Grade 2 winner Helium, who was eighth in 2021, and finished seventh in the 2018 Preakness (G1) with Diamond King, a stakes winner at both 2 and 3 at Laurel Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, Webslinger drew Post 5 in a field of 12 for the Pegasus Turf and will be ridden for the first time by Gulfstream regular Edgard Zayas. They are listed at 15-1 on a morning line topped by multiple Grade 1-winning Irish filly Warm Heart (9-5) and multiple graded-stakes winner Integration (3-1), undefeated in three starts.

“The one thing I can say about Webslinger is, on the good side, he tries every time. On the bad side, he’s got a really difficult running style,” Green said. “He doesn’t really start to get into motion until a half-mile into the race, so you have to hope for the seas to part and for him to have an opening. I think that he’s learning how to be a little closer and he’s maturing as a horse. That’s why we gave him a quick turnaround time, because we just wanted to continue to build on that success.”

Senor Buscador Feeling at Home at Gulfstream for Pegasus

Trainer Todd Fincher is hopeful that Joe Peacock Jr.’s Senor Buscador will enjoy somewhat of a ‘homecourt’ edge in Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Baccarat at Gulfstream Park.

The multiple graded-stakes winner is one of the most well-traveled entrants in the 1 1/8-mile headliner on Saturday’s program with seven graded-stakes, including the $1 million I/ST BET Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) and the $500,000 TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational. Despite having campaigned at 10 racetracks during his 16-race career the New Mexico-based trainer’s stable star certainly will be familiar with his surroundings when he steps onto the Gulfstream Park racetrack Saturday.

Senor Buscador has been on the Gulfstream Park grounds after being shipped directly from Aqueduct following a second-place finish in the Dec. 2 Cigar Mile.

“I like them to feel at home – get to a place and let them settle in.,” Fincher said. “I like to paddock school them a bunch. It’s good that he’s there and settled in. He travels well, but I just like them to feel at home.”

The 6-year-old son of Mineshaft has breezed four times over Gulfstream Park’s main track, over which he will face 11 others in a field of older horses, headed by Preakness Stakes winner National Treasure.

Senor Buscador, who was prepared for his debut at Sunland Park, had to hit the road early in his career.

“We knew how good he was. The problem was the pandemic kind of bit us with tracks closing down. He was ready to run in October and couldn’t get him in a race,” Fincher said. “Sunland always has a nice series for 2-year-old colts and fillies that lead up to the Kentucky Derby preps, but they were shut down and we had to take him on the road.”

Senor Buscador adapted nicely to Remington Park’s surface, scoring a 2 ¼-length maiden special weight win Nov. 6, 2000 before capturing the $200,000 Springboard Mile.

“When I shipped him to Remington to run, I wanted to run him further, but all they had was a 5 ½. He showed us speed that day,” Fincher said. “He’s just a very talented horse.”

The veteran campaigner has won six races, including the 2022 Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs and the 2023 San Diego (G2) at Del Mar, and has amassed earnings of $923,000. He has achieved success with a drop-back, late-kick running style he demonstrated while closing from 12th and last to second behind fellow Pegasus entrant Hoist the Gold in the Cigar Mile/

“He just does things on his own. He just breaks and backs out of it. Riders have tried to force him up in there, and he won’t do it,” Fincher said. “The only time he lay kind of close was in the Ack Ack at Churchill. Other than that, he likes to let them go and then jump into the race 12 lengths behind. I don’t know why he does that but that’s what he’s aways done.”

Junior Alvarado, who rode Senor Buscador for the first time in the Cigar Mile, has the return mount Saturday.

Motion Hoping Pegasus F&M Turf Will Be a Mission of Joy   

Trainer Graham Motion said that Mission of Joy has trained so forwardly this winter in Florida that he decided to enter the 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy filly in the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf (G2) Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Mission of Joy punctuated a strong 2023 season with a solid third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) on Oct. 14 at Keeneland. The QEII was the Ontario-bred’s seventh start in 2023, a campaign that featured wins in the Florida Oaks (G3) and the Regret (G3).

“Then we gave her a little break after that,” Motion said.  “I hadn’t originally planned to run her in this, but she kind of came back quickly and handled the breezes down here pretty well.”

Mission of Joy returned to the worktab on Dec. 31 and has had four breezes at Palm Meadows Training Center, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.

In the Queen Elizabeth II, Mission of Joy was forwardly placed on an inside trip under John Velazquez right behind pacesetter Mawj, winner of the One Thousand Guineas (G1). Lindy made a big late run to pass Mission of Joy near the wire. Mawj won by a half-length and Mission of Joy was another half-length back of Lindy.

“That was a big race,” Motion said. “The winner of that came back and just got beat in the Breeders’ Cup (Mile, by a nose).

Mission of Joy was purchased as a yearling by RyZan Sun Racing for $32,000. She was a non-factor in her first try as a maiden in a sprint on the synthetic surface at Woodbine on Sept. 22.

“I didn’t think that she was going to be this kind of filly early on,” Motion said.

Last winter, running longer on the turf, she won three straight at Tampa Bay Downs. She has competed in stakes at Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Colonial Downs and Keeneland and has earned $355,817. Madaket Stables became a partner after her maiden victory.

Motion said that Mission of Joy has continued to improve with maturity. She drew Post 11, is 10-1 on the morning line and will be ridden again by Velazquez.

“Johnny has been on her the last two times for breezes, so he knows her pretty well now,” Motion said.

The Filly & Mare Turf is an automatic qualifier for the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood in late July. The winner gets an automatic entry into the race and a $25,000 travel stipend.

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