Idle since fourth in the Grade III Oklahoma Derby Sept. 29, Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita-based Mucho Gusto ran the race of his life in yesterday’s Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream, winning by 4 ½ lengths while getting a mile and one eighth in 1:48.85.
Ridden for the first time in his 11th career start by recent Eclipse Award winning Jockey Irad Ortiz, Mucho Gusto was hustled from the gate, soon found the rail and had a 2 ½ length advantage turning for home.
“Irad Ortiz did a pretty masterful job,” Baffert, who opted not to travel to Gulfstream, said yesterday from Santa Anita. “He had me a little worried the way he was down inside like that, but he knew what he was doing. When he tilted out at the quarter pole, all I could say was ‘Damn, I wish I would have flown down there.
“I am really happy, I was really surprised because it was a last minute thing,” Baffert told XBTV yesterday at Santa Anita. “I just thought about (the Pegasus) and I was watching the race closely. I gave him a good work and I was going to run him next week in the San Pasqual (Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Feb. 1) and I thought, ‘You know what, he worked so well today (Jan. 16), I think I’ll take a shot at it and he hadn’t gotten an invite from the Saudi Cup…So I thought maybe if he runs well (in the Pegasus), he’ll get an invitation.”
As expected, the Saudi Cup invitation has been extended and Baffert said that both Mucho Gusto and McKinzie would depart from Santa Anita on Feb. 18.
“The race is $20 million at a mile and one eighth on Feb. 29,” he said.