Pegasus: Grade 1 Winner Proxy Becoming 'The Horse We Thought He Could Be' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Pegasus: Grade 1 Winner Proxy Becoming ‘The Horse We Thought He Could Be’

Proxy, outside, en route to victory over West Will Power in the G1 Clark

Godolphin LLC can win big even before running its homebred Proxy in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed's international racing and breeding operation will be in the spotlight before the Pegasus program as Godolphin is heavily favored to repeat as the Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder when North America's 2022 champions are announced Thursday evening at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

The 1 1/8-mile Pegasus is America's richest race for older horses on dirt outside of the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). It's part of a blockbuster 13-race program featuring nine stakes, seven graded, worth $5.4 million in purses that includes the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and $500,000 TAA Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3).

Saturday's first post is 10:50 a.m., with the Pegasus carded as Race 13 with a 5:40 p.m. post time. NBC will provide live national coverage from 4:30 to 6 p.m. All times are EST.

Godolphin has won the owner Eclipse four prior times and the breeder award twice. The operation easily led all owners in purse earnings in $16.3 million last year, including four Breeders' Cup victories at Keeneland. The big season kicked off last Pegasus Day when Speaker's Corner captured the Fred Hooper (G3) and ended on a high note when Proxy gave Godolphin its 13th Grade 1 triumph in 2022 in Churchill Downs' Clark.

The 5-year-old Proxy is the headliner of Godolphin's lineup at Gulfstream that includes Famed in the $200,000 Inside Information (G2) presented by Brightline, Adventuring in the $150,000 La Prevoyante (G3) presented by Don Julio and Prevalence in the $150,000 Fred Hooper (G3) at a mile. Godolphin's day starts with Paratus in the fifth race, a turf allowance.

Godolphin and trainer Mike Stidham thought all along that Proxy was the type of talent who could make noise on the 2021 Triple Crown trail. A pair of fourth places in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Lexington (G3) dashed those hopes, and Proxy didn't race again for 10 1/2 months. That day he won a Fair Grounds allowance race and had two seconds and two thirds in four subsequent stakes attempts.

“He's run well, but then it seemed he'd disengage in a race and then would come rolling down the stretch and give himself too much to do,” said Michael Banahan, Godolphin America's Lexington-based director of bloodstock. “He's a very late foal, a May foal. He's a big, tall horse. Maybe he just needed to mature into a full horse now. I think he's just now coming around to being the horse we thought he could be. He was running against good horses, and just hadn't put it all together and figured out how to be a professional racehorse.”

After finishing third behind eventual Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Olympiad in the Stephen Foster (G2), Proxy was given another hiatus with Godolphin's rehab and pre-training head Johnny Burke until returning almost five months later to win his first stakes in the Clark. The Pegasus will be his first start since that Nov. 25 triumph.

“We just rehabbed him back here at the farm, gave him a bit of time,” Banahan said. “Johnny Burke did a great job getting him back on track again and turned him over to Mike Stidham. He's never taken a backward step since then.

“He got a little bit of a break after the Clark and has trained very well since at the Fair Grounds. His last couple of works have been as good as you'd want to have. We're going into this race pretty optimistic,” he added. “It's a tough race and a tough field, and he's going to have to have his running shoes on. We're hoping he can step up again from his win in the Clark and be a contender in the top handicap races in the states this year.”

Proxy will break from the rail under Joel Rosario in the Pegasus.

“He is a late-charging horse in most of his races,” Banahan said. “Hopefully there will be enough speed in there. He's going to have to break well and get himself into a decent position, but hopefully he'll be able to do that.”

Adventuring is the only graded-stakes winner in the La Prevoyante, at 1 1/2 miles on turf, and a four-time stakes winner overall. Famed comes into the Inside Information off of a dominating victory in the She's All In at Remington Park as the 4-year-old filly seeks her first graded-stakes victory. Both horses are trained by Brad Cox.

Godolphin's 5-year-old Prevalence will try to return to his winning says in the one-mile Hooper. The Brendan Walsh trainee most recently was seventh in Gulfstream's Mr. Prospector (G3). A repeat of his performance in last spring's Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland puts him in the hunt in his third start off a 5 1/2-month layoff.

“I think we're going there with some very nice horses that will have really good chances,” Banahan said. “Fingers crossed that we might have a big day.”

Or week, since first up is Thursday's Eclipse Awards.

“It means the world to us,” Banahan said of being in position to be recognized as both outstanding owner and breeder two years in a row. “With everyone involved — the guys on the farm who foal out the mares, the yearling people who raise them, to where we get them broken and then on to the trainers —there are a lot of people who deserve credit.”

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