Bouncing back with a vengeance from his first career loss in the February 20 San Vicente S. (G2), PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus) spread-eagled what looked like a competitive field in Saturday's $250,000 San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita. A homebred owned and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, Premier Pegasus unleashed a monstrous closing kick to romp by a stakes-record 7 3/4 lengths over 2-1 favorite Jaycito (Victory Gallop), stating his case as the leading Kentucky Derby (G1) contender on the West Coast.
The stretch-out to two turns, and removing blinkers, proved a mighty combination for the 7-1 shot, who settled much farther back than usual in the early going. As Premier Pegasus relaxed kindly in midpack for regular rider Alonso Quinonez, a torrid pace battle was erupting between Runflatout (Flatter) and Albergatti (Unbridled's Song). Both stepping up off sprint maiden wins, Runflatout and Albergatti hooked up in a speed duel through fractions of :21 3/5 and :44 2/5.
Comma to the Top (Bwana Charlie) stalked in third until the far turn. When Albergatti first gave way, and Runflatout was spent soon after, Comma to the Top was on the premises to take over through six furlongs in 1:08 4/5. Meanwhile, Premier Pegasus was commencing an eye-catching move and making rapid headway.
Although Comma to the Top was leading the way into the stretch, Premier Pegasus had much more momentum. He inhaled the rubber-legged Comma to the Top, and in a matter of strides, rocketed three lengths clear. Jaycito, who had been unhurried at the tail of the field, steadily improved his position and worked his way into second, but the favorite was no match for the resounding winner.
Indeed, Premier Pegasus widened his advantage over Jaycito in deep stretch. His winning margin of 7 3/4 lengths was a stakes record, eclipsing Consolidator's 6 1/2-length win over Giacomo in the 2005 San Felipe. Premier Pegasus sped 1 1/16 miles on the fast track in 1:41 1/5 and rewarded his backers with mutuels of $16.60, $7.20 and $5 as the fourth choice in the 10-horse field.
"We took the blinkers off because we were thinking it would make him relax a little bit more," Cho said, through his son Raxon. "We didn't want him to sprint out with all these speed horses. He's a smart horse, so we knew that he'd be ready to run without blinkers.
"There was no concern (about finishing third in the San Vicente). He came back strong, he came back ready, and he had a great workout and he looked great."
Premier Pegasus' win ended a 69-race losing streak endured by Quinonez, whose last visit to the winner's circle came February 13.
"If you cry, nobody is going to listen," Quinonez said of the month-long drought. "I've had a couple slumps before, but this has been a tough one. This is the race you want to win to start again though.
"I want to say thank you to Mr. Cho for giving me the opportunity," Quinonez said. "I have to thank Maria (Ayala, Cho's assistant). She does all the work and she knows what she's doing.
"We knew he was going to run a lot better this time. It is always good to win this kind of race. The horses were flying on the lead during the first part of the race and I knew they were going to come back to the field. I was just hoping to make a move at the right time, and he did. He waited for me until I asked him.
"At the three-eighths pole he switched leads and grabbed the bridle. I didn't hold his intentions back, I just let him go. He knew it was time to go because he is a very special horse. I'm happy with the horse and hopefully we have a good future with him."
Jaycito had 1 1/4 lengths to spare over Bench Points (Benchmark), another deep closer. Comma to the Top, who was drifting out markedly down the lane, checked in another half-length back in fourth. Quail Hill (Candy Ride [Arg]), Awesome Patriot (Awesome Again), Surrey Star (Ire) (Dubawi), Jakesam (Smoke Glacken), and the eased pair of Albergatti and Runflatout rounded out the order under the wire.
The trainers of Jaycito and Comma to the Top looked on the bright side of their efforts in defeat.
"He did good," Bob Baffert said of Jaycito. "He was way back there. The horse learned a lot today, so we'll go step by step."
"I'm very happy with his race," Peter Miller said of Comma to the Top. "The fractions were ridiculous, suicidal. He was wide the whole way and he put those two away (Runflatout and Albergatti) and kind of gave a little bit of a spurt and then he threw his ears up. He kind of pulled himself up for a little bit there, which he had never done before. I'm really happy with the race, and he hung in there very well and he wasn't beaten far for second. We're keeping all of our options open. We just don't want to hook a race where it's ridiculous fractions like this."
Premier Pegasus' third career stakes score improved his mark to 5-4-0-1, $293,400. After a debut win at Del Mar on July 24, the dark bay returned about three months later to post a front-running victory in the October 23 Jack Goodman S. at Oak Tree at Hollywood Park. Premier Pegasus again used his early foot to lethal effect in the November 20 Hollywood Prevue S. (G3) going seven furlongs. He reappeared at that same distance in the San Vicente, running rather evenly for third behind The Factor (War Front) and Sway Away (Afleet Alex).
Out of the Grade 3-placed Squall Linda (Summer Squall), Premier Pegasus is a half-brother to 2008 Norfolk S. (G1) victor Street Hero (Street Cry [Ire]), who ran third in that same year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and Del Mar Futurity (G1). The mare also has an unnamed juvenile colt by Bob and John as well as a full yearling brother to Street Hero.
Premier Pegasus' second dam is stakes winner Glimmer Glass (The Axe II), who is responsible for Grade 1-placed multiple stakes king Kohen Witha K. (Kings Lake) as well as the dam of 2002 Martha Washington S. heroine Miss City Halo (Carson City). Glimmer Glass is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 scorer Trojan Bronze (*Tobin Bronze) and the winning Clystalla (Pia Star), from whom descend the likes of Australian champion and group stakes producer November Rain (Estaminet), New Zealand highweight San Luis (Flying Spur) and Group 1 star Race Master (Bluebird).
Cho indicated that Premier Pegasus would make his next start in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1).