Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam, two-time defending champion in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), is set to launch his comeback at Gulfstream Park.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher entered the 5-year-old son of Liam’s Map in an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds up scheduled for 7 ½ furlongs on the grass Thursday, where he is the first of three also-eligibles in an overflow field of 15.
Colonel Liam has not raced since finishing ninth in the March 26 Dubai Turf (G1). The $1.8 million earner returned to the work tab Nov. 6 at Palm Beach Downs, Pletcher’s South Florida base, most recently breezing a half-mile in 50.31 seconds Dec. 9.
“He’s had a nice work tab. He worked really well the other day,” Pletcher said. “I think he’s come back in good order.”
Over his career Colonel Liam has raced five times at Gulfstream with four wins, including an April 2020 debut triumph and the December 2020 Tropical Park Derby. Other stakes wins have come in the 2021 Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs and Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds.
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First Repeater of Turf
Colonel Liam in January became the first horse to repeat as a winner on the Pegasus World Cup program and helped Pletcher complete a sweep of Gulfstream’s richest races that included Life Is Good’s triumph in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1).
The inaugural winner of the Pegasus Turf, Bricks and Mortar, went on to complete an undefeated season and be named 2019 Horse of the Year. This year’s race, for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, is one of seven graded-stakes worth $5.2 million in purses Jan. 28, 2023.
Should Colonel Liam not draw into Thursday’s race, Pletcher mentioned the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G3) for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on the grass Dec. 31 at Gulfstream as a backup plan.
Also in Thursday’s race is stablemate Never Surprised, the 2022 Pegasus Turf runner-up that has not started since running fifth as the favorite in the March 5 Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream. Owned by Repole Stable, the 4-year-old Constitution colt has been working steadily since late September at Palm Beach Downs for his return.
Never Surprised, first or second in each of his first eight starts including stakes wins in the 2021 Tropical Park Derby and Gio Ponti and 2020 Central Park, is also being pointed to a return in the Pegasus Turf.
“Colonel Liam is trying for the three-peat in the Pegasus Turf. He hasn’t run in a while, since he went to Dubai, so we’re looking to get a race into him. If he doesn’t draw into this allowance race then we’ll go in the Fort Lauderdale,” Pletcher said. “I’m hoping to get a start into both of them before hopefully coming back in the Pegasus turf.”