Ivan Rodriguez’s Sharp Azteca, regarded as a potential runner in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), the world’s richest Thoroughbred race Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park, turned heads with a five-furlong breeze in 59 seconds Sunday morning over Gulfstream Park West’s main track.
It was the first work for Sharp Azteca since his commanding 5 ¼-length victory in the Cigar Mile (G1) Dec. 2 at Aqueduct. The Cigar Mile was the first Grade 1, fifth career graded triumph and sixth stakes win overall for the millionaire son of Freud who turns 5 Jan. 1.
“After [seeing] this video, I think somebody’s going to jump on this horse,” trainer Jorge Navarro said.
Video of Sharp Azteca: click here.
“Yes, it was fast, but he has come out of the race so good I can’t be mad at the workout. He did it easy. The kid was just sitting on him,” Navarro said. “That’s the way he’s training. He wants to do something.”
Sharp Azteca has drawn attention as a strong contender for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. He has won three of five lifetime races at Gulfstream, including the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in February.
Also working Sunday at Gulfstream Park West for Navarro was War Story. The winner of the Brooklyn Invitational (G2) in June went five furlongs in 1:01.20.
“This is what you’re going to see in the morning from him,” Navarro said. “He goes out there and does his job. He’s a professional. He knows what he’s doing.”
War Story finished fifth behind Arrogate in the inaugural running of the Pegasus. Fourth in the Whitney (G1), Woodward (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) since the Brooklyn, he is a confirmed starter in next month’s race for stakeholder Ron Paolucci and Ashley Quartarolo.
“When I had him for the Pegasus last year I only had him for four weeks. I got a phone call and I had to get him ready for that race,” Navarro said. “Eddie Nunez was getting on him to work him. This year, Nunez said he is a different horse.
“When he came to my barn he was a bad child. He was mean, wanted to kick,” he added. “I met the racing manager at the Breeders’ Cup and he asked my wife, ‘What has your husband done to this horse? He’s a sweetheart now.’ It’s just keeping him happy with these kinds of workouts. He knows what he’s doing already.”
Navarro said Sharp Azteca and War Story will maintain their Sunday work schedule leading up to the Pegasus. Navarro has expressed an interest in bringing Sharp Azteca back to Dubai for the Godolphin Mile (G1) in March, a race where he finished third in 2017.
The $125,000 Fred Hooper (G3) at one mile on the Pegasus undercard could be used as a springboard to Dubai if Sharp Azteca doesn’t wind up in the main event, Navarro said.
“We have a prep at the end of the month if we don’t decide to go to the Pegasus,” he said. “We’re sitting on the mile from last year and we’re sitting on the [Pegasus]. We’ve got good plans for the horse.”