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Gulfstream Park owner set for glitzy Pegasus day, with more on tap at Santa Anita this fall

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert experiences things like post times, post positions and post parades on a daily basis. And sometimes, he even sees rapper and singer Post Malone.

Such is the charm of the Pegasus World Cup.

It's an event like none other at Gulfstream Park, with a red carpet-type entrance for celebrities, Baccarat crystal trophies, top tickets going for more than $1,500 apiece — they all sold out at a track where admission is usually free — and post-race concerts featuring big names.

And soon, Pegasus will have a sister event. Belinda Stronach, the Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of 1/ST — the racing and wagering company that operates Gulfstream — said Friday that the inaugural California Crown, a Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds and bridging the gap between the summer months and Breeders' Cup, will debut at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

The Stronach Group, which does business as 1/ST, operates Santa Anita and several other thoroughbred tracks in North America.

“Pegasus is here in Miami. It’s very Miami-centric. It’s part of the cultural fabric of Miami now and a must-attend event,” Stronach said Friday at Gulfstream. "We want to do the same thing at Santa Anita. We have the most gorgeous venue built in 1934, and it doesn’t have a marquee, special-event date. So we are, launching California Crown. It’ll be the richest day of racing in California, and we’re doing it with amazing partners.”

The purse for the California Crown — a marquee event that Stronach and 1/ST has wanted to add for years — is still unknown. Much like the Pegasus, it'll be a day that fuses music, fashion, food, celebrities and drink with racing, all with a “nod to old Hollywood glamour.” The day will be presented in partnership with h.wood Group, a Los Angeles-based hospitality company.

The race will be run at 1 1/8 miles, and the hope is to draw horses from the spring's Triple Crown trail and summer races like the Travers on what basically is a break in the 3-year-old schedule before the Breeders' Cup.

“Santa Anita is such a beautiful venue and it has such historical significance," Stronach said. "It’s so important to the North American ecosystem. And so, we’re very proud to get rolling on California Crown.”

The three Pegasus World Cup races — with a combined purse of $4.5 million — will be run on Saturday at Gulfstream, with the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on dirt, the $1 million Pegasus World Cup turf and $500,000 Pegasus filly and mare turf.

“They put on a great show,” said Baffert, who’ll look for his third Pegasus World Cup Invitational win when he sends favored National Treasure, last year’s Preakness winner, to the post on Saturday. “You’ve got the Triple Crown series, the Breeders’ Cup and it’s good to have something like this to kick it off.”

Baffert said days like Pegasus day are vital to racing and attracting new eyeballs to the sport.

“I remember once going down there, I got beat, I ran second and Post Malone was there,” said Baffert, the only trainer who has won the Pegasus World Cup Invitational twice. “It’s always been a great party, good atmosphere. Racing’s cool. It’s a cool sport and I think that’s what they’re trying to get across."

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports