With another Pegasus in the books, Stronach looks ahead

January 30th, 2022

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — The Pegasus World Cup will continue. It may even expand.

Planning is underway for the next Pegasus, now that the day headlined by Gulfstream Park playing host to one of the biggest-money races in North America is complete for another year. And one idea on the table is adding a West Coast element to Pegasus days, with 1/ST — the group that owns and operates Gulfstream — potentially looking to bring Santa Anita, another of its tracks in Southern California, into the mix.

“Stay tuned on that,” said Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of 1/ST. “It’s coming.”

There has now been six editions of the Pegasus, a race day that was met with skepticism when plans for it were first revealed in the mid-2010s. The format has changed almost annually; the purse structure for the Pegasus World Cup no longer requires owners to put up $1 million apiece for a spot in the starting gate for what was, at its birth, the world’s richest race at as much as $16 million.ADVERTISING

Saturday’s headline race won by Life Is Good featured a $3 million purse, much smaller than the earlier Pegasus runnings but still quite significant considering only two Breeders’ Cup races last year offered bigger purses at a U.S. track.

A Pegasus turf race was eventually added, a second turf race was added this year, and the last two versions of Pegasus day — when Gulfstream marries racing with a celebrity vibe, some tickets going for upward of $1,000 just to get into the track — have been pulled off during a pandemic.

Stronach and her group are always looking for the next big thing. And growth — which she’s sought for some time when discussing the Pegasus brand — might not be far off.

“We’re going to continue to do Pegasus,” Stronach said. “We’re going to continue to innovate around the platform. But we have some amazing properties and amazing tracks. Let’s curate our racing content in a way that Gulfstream Park isn’t running over Santa Anita, curate it properly, build some interesting themes around the East Coast and West Coast.”Advertisement

And part of that might include changing the way some people bet.

“Just make it fun and exciting,” she said.

Racing has had the same sorts of wagers forever — win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and the like. Not every visitor to a track understands how they work, and even fewer understand all the data that horseplayers pore over while handicapping a race.

But now, with Stronach’s group working on developing high-tech info like never before, the sort that can churn out 50,000 data points from each horse during every race, even novice horseplayers may be able to play with an app and get a better understanding of what’s happening. It’s simple math: Get more people feeling comfortable betting, handle will rise, purses will rise and racing would see needed growth.

“One of the things we always ask ourselves is how do we get more eyeballs onto our sport, and that I think means simplification in terms of wagering,” Stronach said. “The handicapping can be very intimidating. So, we’re looking at simplification and we’ve made some strides there. … It’s not far off. It’s not far off.”