An All-Encompassing Entertainment Experience

In the post-race press conference for the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Gulfstream Park track announcer Pete Aiello characterized Saturday’s event as “innovative and exciting,” and anyone in attendance for the 12-race card would be hard-pressed to refute that assertion. While the richest race in the world is a novel concept in its own right, the on-site experience at the Hallandale Beach oval provided ample entertainment options for racegoers to accompany a thrilling afternoon of racing. By the end of the day, Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg})’s victory in the Pegasus to cap off his spectacular career provided a fitting conclusion to a memorable day in South Florida.

The crowd arrived early and was enthusiastic throughout the afternoon, creating the impression that it contained a blend of both veteran racing fans and weekend thrill-seekers participating in the unique experience. The Pegasus trophy was on display near the winner’s circle and fans stopped to enjoy the photo opportunity while contributing a donation to the nearby Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Despite some typical Florida weather that saw brief periods of clouds and mist early in the day, there was ample sunshine to keep the crowd engaged on the track apron and in the paddock area. As was the case with the inaugural Pegasus in 2017, there seemed to be a place and an experience for everyone.

The distinctively Miami atmosphere at Gulfstream not surprisingly stood in sharp contrast to big days at storied venues such as Saratoga or Keeneland. Trackside speakers pumped in music up until post-time, providing constant action for patrons. Celebrities, from Lenny Kravitz to Rick Pitino, filed in on a red carpet adjacent to the trackside V.I.P. cabana prior to the race, while rappers Ludacris and Post Malone took to a concert stage near the top of the stretch.

The day provided a fitting build-up to the main event, with the crowd growing increasingly loud in the races leading up to the Pegasus. As the time for the race finally arrived and the sun descended low in the sky, people climbed on top of pillars and benches to get a close look at Gun Runner and others. Drones buzzed over the starting gate as the runners loaded and the crowd gave a large cheer when the latches were opened. As Gun Runner rebuffed a brave bid from West Coast (Flatter) in upper stretch and strode home a decisive winner, spectators gave a roar of approval and an equally warm round of applause when he returned to be unsaddled.

Taken as a whole, in its second year of existence, the Pegasus has seemingly succeeded in bridging the gap between Thoroughbred racing and pop culture, introducing a new demographic of customers to the game at its highest level.