HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — City of Light and Accelerate went head-to-head twice last year, each winning once and setting up what figured to be a showdown in the final race of their careers.
City of Light decided to make it a romp instead.
Going into retirement with an absolute flourish, City of Light ran away from Accelerate and every other challenger down the stretch and rolled to a 5 3/4-length victory in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup on Saturday — the richest race in North America, and the highlight of the $16 million Pegasus Day at Gulfstream Park.
“This horse is a gift,” City of Light trainer Michael McCarthy said. “Amazing.”
Seeking the Soul, a 30-1 long shot, got up for second. Accelerate, the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and runner-up for Horse of the Year, never fired in the stretch run and settled for third. Accelerate ended his career with six wins in eight races — both losses coming to City of Light.
“We’ve enjoyed him for three years,” Accelerate trainer John Sadler said. “We ran a really good race today in tough conditions. … And City of Light is a very good horse also.”
Both caked in mud, a souvenir from the rain-drubbed dirt course, they left the track at roughly the same time and headed to the barn for the final post-race meal of their careers. Late Sunday morning, they’ll be loaded into the same van to start the journey to the farm in Kentucky where they will begin their stud careers next month.
They could have retired after Breeders’ Cup wins last November — Accelerate won the Classic, City of Light won the Mile — but stuck around for a shot at the massive Pegasus payday.
“Nine million reasons,” McCarthy said.
For City of Light, it more than paid off.
City of Light’s connections only get $4 million of the $9 million purse, but that’s certainly nothing to scoff at. City of Light came into the day with career earnings of just under $1.7 million, but Saturday’s big check moved him into the top 50 career money-winners among North American thoroughbreds.
“I think I rode the best horse in the race,” City of Light jockey Javier Castellano said. “Thank God everything worked out.”
City of Light returned $5.80 for the win, $4.20 for place and $3 to show. Seeking the Soul, a 30-1 long shot, paid $19.20 and $8.20. Accelerate, the 3-2 favorite, paid $2.80.
Earlier Saturday, Bricks and Mortar won the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf — the richest grass race ever run in North America. Magic Wand was second, and Delta Prince took third.
The weather was a disaster, with storms throughout the day and darkness hovering over the track by the time City of Light crossed the finish line. But the party raged on, with Pegasus Day being like none other on Gulfstream Park’s annual racing calendar and perhaps like few other days in racing anywhere.
It’s a social scene wrapped around a day of racing, which is exactly what Pegasus organizers envisioned when they came up with the idea three years ago. Celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Evander Holyfield, Dennis Rodman and Mark Ronson were there Saturday, as were thousands of other fans — some paying $75 to watch, some paying more than $1,000 per ticket.
“We want to make it bigger,” said Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group — the brainchild behind Pegasus Day and the group that runs Gulfstream Park.
They made it bigger this year by adding the turf race. The Pegasus World Cup used to be a one-race deal on the dirt, with a $12 million purse in 2017 and a $16 million purse last year. This year, the combined purses were $16 million, with $7 million of that earmarked for the turf race.
The turf win was the sixth victory in eight career starts for Bricks and Mortar, who was ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Chad Brown — the reigning Eclipse Award winners in the jockey and trainer category.
“I’m just so proud of this horse,” Brown said of Bricks and Mortar.
Bricks and Mortar waited patiently to make his move over soft, spongy turf and returned $7.60, $4.20 and $3.20 to his backers. Magic Wand dueled with Bricks and Mortar over the final furlong but settled for second and paid $9 and $6.40, and Delta Prince paid $6.60.
“You don’t win races like this every day,” said William Lawrence, part of the ownership group of Bricks and Mortar.