INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Through the final quarter-mile of Sunday's $250,000 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship, Champ Pegasus's chances of winning went from dim to glowing.
He was seventh with two furlongs remaining, seemingly going nowhere. Then, as he settled into the stretch, Champ Pegasus launched a rally that carried him to the front of the Grade 1 race over 1 1/4 miles on turf.
"We planned the whole thing that way," trainer Richard Mandella deadpanned in the winner's circle.
The Clement Hirsch Turf Championship was part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In program, giving Champ Pegasus an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
Mandella indicated that Champ Pegasus would make the trip.
"He keeps improving as we go," Mandella said. "We'll have to improve to get better for the Breeders' Cup, but we'll try it."
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Champ Pegasus ($5.40) was timed in 2:01.21 in the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship. Sixth on the backstretch, Champ Pegasus was seventh with a quarter-mile remaining, trailing pacesetter Marlang by six lengths. Champ Pegasus had moved into fourth with a furlong remaining, trailing Marlang by four lengths. He rallied wide to win by three-quarters of a length over Where's the Remote, who was last in the field of eight as deep into the race as the eighth pole.
Bourbon Bay, making his first start since winning the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita in April, finished third, followed by Marlang, Falcon Rock, Unusual Suspect, Worth Repeating, and Buenos Dias.
Where's the Remote and Bourbon Bay are likely to make their next starts in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles here Nov. 13.
Champ Pegasus has won two consecutive stakes. He won the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf Aug. 29 with a similar late-running style that he displayed in the Clement Hirsch.
"He showed that style at Del Mar, like he believed in himself," Mandella said.
Owned by Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing and Arturo Vargas, Champ Pegasus has won 4 of 8 starts. A 4-year-old colt by Fusaichi Pegasus, Champ Pegasus has earned $358,520.