News & Resources
Jan 15, 2023

Zipse: Horse for course White Abarrio is a Pegasus contender

Winless in his last five races, White Abarrio will not be one of the favorites for Gulfstream Park’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) in a few weeks. As a horse for course, however, he must not be discounted.

We’ve all seen them. Horses who just love a particular racetrack and run better there than anywhere else. Fourstardave, for example, made a career out of his summers at Saratoga.

It takes several races to prove that a horse moves up at their favorite track, but when discovered, it can be a powerful handicapping tool.

Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. and owned by C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable, White Abarrio appears to be right at home at Gulfstream Park. It’s not only his home base but it’s also where he has enjoyed all of his career victories.

The son of Race Day has a startling career mark of 4-for-4 at Gulfstream and 0-for-6 everywhere else. It might not be as cut and dried as that record suggests, but one thing is for sure: White Abarrio really likes Gulfstream Park.

A $40,000 bargain as a 2-year-old in training purchase in Florida, White Abarrio won his first two career starts impressively. The 6 1/2-furlong maiden race and one-mile race at Gulfstream Park pointed him out as a horse to watch.

A third-place run in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs was not a bad effort to end his juvenile season, but things would quickly turn for the better when he returned to South Florida.

In both a 4 1/2-length romp in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) in February and a 1 1/4-length win in the Florida Derby (G1) in April, White Abarrio was not only winning at Gulfstream Park, but he was running with plenty of space between races.

In a poor stretch of racing for the millionaire gray – a 16th in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Ohio Derby (G3) and seventh in the Haskell Stakes (G1) – he was not afforded the same kind of rest between starts, and of course, he was far away from his favorite track.

Given a little more time between starts, White Abarrio showed improved efforts when fifth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), and then a very good third in the Cigar Mile (G1).

Those performances, especially the last one where he was beaten under a length, would seem to have him pointed in the right direction, both figuratively and literally.

That direction would be as a Grade 1 winner coming back as a 4-year-old in good form and a more mature racehorse. For White Abarrio, that direction is also due south.

Back at home, White Abarrio is working wonderfully. He turned in another strong move over the Gulfstream Park main track on Friday morning, breezing five furlongs in 59.24 seconds. Thriving at his beloved base, this could be bad news for his opposition on Jan. 28.

And let’s face it, as far as $3 million races go, this edition of the Pegasus World Cup is less than strong. Cyberknife, making his final career start and coming off a close miss in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) nearly three months ago, looks like a deserving favorite but is far from unbeatable.

Proxy and Defunded each are coming off nice graded-stakes victories, but each have significantly more losses in their respective careers than wins.

White Abarrio’s two Joseph-trained stablemates are in with a shot, but neither Skippylongstocking, last year’s third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes and winner of the recent Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream, and the Chilean Group 1 winner O’Connor, are going to strike fear into the hearts of their competition.

Unlike previous editions of the rich Pegasus World Cup, there is no standout in 2023. This race would seem ripe for the taking. So why not the horse for course?

White Abarrio has good tactical speed, which should help in the expected big field. He is working great and has had time since his last race. Most of all, though, he loves Gulfstream Park, and that could be enough to see him return to his winning ways in this $3 million race.

By Brian Zipse
Zipse At The Trac