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The inaugural Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park

Pegasus at Gulfstream ParkVisiting Gulfstream Park is always a great experience: the weather is perfect, the facility is spectacular, and the racing is superb. This year, with the first running of the now richest horse race in the world, the $12m Pegasus World Cup, there is even more of a buzz in the air. Everywhere, people are talking about how the world's best horses are here: California Chrome and Arrogate, the 2015 Queen's Plate winner, Shaman's Ghost, and the stakes-winning Eragon from Argentina, to name but a few.
 
The race is aptly named -- after the new statue at the track entrance of Pegasus slaying a fire-breathing dragon. Five years in the making, the 100ft (30m) bronze sculpture is a testament to the vision of Gulfstream’s owner, Frank Stronach, who has said it represents the victory of good over evil.
 
Deciding to host an event like this, with this caliber of horses, and then delivering on it is no mean feat -- even “complicated” is too simple a word to use. Credit goes to Frank Stronach who conceived of the idea, and never let it go, and to his team at The Stronach Group. His daughter, Belinda, has done a masterful job at marketing and promotion and others such as Tim Ritvo and Mike Rogers have tackled many challenges and traveled the world to get the race ready to run on January 28th.
 
"We purposely put the race in a spot so that we didn't conflict with Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai World Cup,” Rogers said. 
 
"This was very important to the Chairman, Mr. Frank Stronach" said Ritvo. "The Pegasus had to be -- like everything Frank does -- an amenity to racing.”
 
The timing also had to be conscious of stallion retirement plans as well as the most effective time slot on television.
 
“So, we fell right between the playoff game and the Super Bowl," Ritvo said. "And, the only thing we missed was the Chinese New Year but we'll get that next year.”
 
Attracting world class horses to the Pegasus was another challenge.
 
"We took a trip to Japan to get more horses from overseas," Rogers said. "And, we would have been successful but the timeline to pull it off was a little bit tight for this year. In future years, I think we'll see more of an international flare to the race. Still, we're delighted to have Argentina's highest ranked horse here to run." 
 
Even with a relatively short timeline, it is clear that The Stronach Group has tried to think of everything. 

Gulfstream Park

"One of our greatest struggles was pricing the Pegasus tickets," said Ritvo. "In past years, we've tried to help the fans by offering free parking and free admission. We want to give everyone who comes to Gulfstream Park a great racing experience. We hope we are not alienating some of our everyday fans but, with that said, when you think about $100 for an entry fee to watch two of the greatest horses in the world, in any other sport, that would be a great deal.”
 
“Also, Belinda Stronach, who is really behind the initiative and the marketing, wants to make sure that the VIP experience is at the highest level. In order to do that, we need to control the different areas and to have the price point where we have it. We believe everyone is going to enjoy the day and the high-end customers are going to have an unbelievable experience with entertainment, and food & beverage by far better than any other racing jurisdiction anywhere else.”
 
“We'll learn a lot from this first time,” he continued. “And we’ll get better at it. Practice makes perfect."
 
Rogers agreed, while also noting that “if Frank didn't come up with this idea, this great rematch between California Chrome and Arrogate wouldn’t be happening.”
 
And, within the horse industry, Ritvo said the Pegasus has got everyone talking.
 
“Maybe they don't retire a horse at 3 or 4 anymore," he said. "Maybe super horses stay in the game for a longer period of time. And, in this, Frank is once again shown as the visionary he is. For Frank, the Pegasus is about the sport and the industry, about the horses and the fans."
 
“I know some people don’t see it that way but this is about prolonging a horse's career and about the fans getting to see spectacular horses for as long as possible. To think about the 12 horses in this race, 6 or 7 Gr 1 winners, a couple of Breeder's Cup champions and to have 9 horses in an undercard, along with 21 handicap horses in one location, at this time of year, is unheard of. Frank, again, shows us all his passion for the game -- me and Mike, we work for him so it's easy for us, we know how much he loves it. Frank is truly invested in horse racing because he believes this sport can be as big as any other.
 
“When Frank first came up with this idea,” said Rogers, “We were at dinner and a lot of us were thinking that this might be a bit difficult to pull off. We definitely had some sleepless nights, but in typical Frank style, he kept pushing. And, this is so important to say about Frank -- he's not scared to fail. The Pegasus is really all him -- he never let the idea go and here we are.”
 
“It's easy for management to continue to operate the same way we always operate," agreed Ritvo. "But Frank is always wanting to try new things. At first, you go, ‘Oh, that's really going out on a limb’ but he keeps pushing to try new things. And, then we get races like this that could really do a lot for horse racing.”
 
And, said Rogers, "As racing fans ourselves, we're super excited!"

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