It is three weeks to the inaugural running of the G1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park in Florida, a race billed as unique in the modern racing environment.
A total of $12m prizemoney is up for grabs with the proceeds being made available by the sale of what amounts to 12 shares in the whole event, each for $1m.
The purchaser is then able to trade that share, or lease it, to any other party or use it to run his or her own horse. Additionally, the shareholders have a slice of the betting handle, media and sponsorship rights.
One factor that makes this different to ‘normal’ races, in which entry fees form a major part of the prize, is that the make-up of the final field will effectively be decided by the business acumen of the shareholders, combined with the desire of owners of suitable horses to participate.
Historians claim that horse racing of some description took place as far back as 1,900 years ago. In their time, the Romans were into racing in a big way (though, possibly, the chariots were a forerunner to harness racing), and English aristocrats, two or three centuries ago, liked to challenge individually, one man’s horse against another.
Winner-take-all matches were common, with no provision or necessity for spectators.
Just how far has racing developed since those times? That is a valid question, particularly when the Pegasus shareholders shape the field — and the race being run at Gulfstream, with its confined facilities, spectators will also find themselves fighting for their space with the slots stalwarts, who have taken up residence there for the winter.
The revelation of figures for the handle and the true value of media rights and sponsorship will eventually be made public so, all in all, the Pegasus venture may well prove a watershed for racing, a chance for a reality-check.
California Chrome arrived at Gulfstream this weekend following an impressive gallop at his base at Los Alamitos. Arrogate, who defeated him in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, secured a place in the Pegasus line-up after owners Juddmonte purchased a berth from Coolmore.
It has also been announced that Neolithic, the nine-length winner of an allowance race at Gulfstream, is to run. A high class field will be vying for the huge prize later in the month.