06/01/2017 2:40PM

Paolucci intends to pay to play in 2018 Pegasus World Cup

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Barbara D. Livingston
War Story finished fifth for owner Ron Paolucci in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup.

Owner Ron Paolucci suffered a major blow when Charles Town Classic winner Imperative incurred an injury this week that will keep him out of next Saturday’s Grade 1 Met Mile. But that setback is not going to keep the enigmatic Paolucci from seeking a slot, should one come available, for the 2018 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January.

Paolucci leased one of the 12 slots this past winter in the inaugural Pegasus and ran fifth behind Arrogate with his stakes winner War Story. And he said Thursday he’s poised to put up the $1 million fee necessary to secure a guaranteed starting berth in the second running of the event. The Stronach Group announced last month that the purse for the 2018 Pegasus World Cup has been raised from $12 million to a record $16 million.

“I’m just waiting for a heads-up that there’s a slot open and they want me,” said Paolucci, who will run War Story on Belmont Stakes Day in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational. “I love the concept of the Pegasus. It’s something I can see from an owner’s perspective, a bettor’s perspective, and a fan’s perspective because I’m all three.

“Obviously, you’re handcuffed as an owner trying to go up against a horse like Arrogate. You have to have a gambler’s mentality to do something like that, especially when you are putting up $1 million and face the prospect of losing half of that. But I’m constantly buying horses. I’ve purchased four for over $250,000 over the last two months, with the main goal of winning the Breeders’ Cup or a race like this. And if a spot opens up, I’m planning on taking it.”

Paolucci is not alone in his quest to grab a spot in the world’s richest race. So too is Bill Gallo, who has four horses stabled at Gulfstream with trainer Jena Antonucci. Gallo said he is also prepared to fork over $1 million to join the roster of Pegasus participants.

“I am a businessman who travels extensively throughout the world, and I think The Stronach Group really has it right by thinking global with a concept like the Pegasus,” said Gallo, who runs as Gallo Stables. “Obviously, it’s a big risk, but 85 percent of the owners in this business lose money. And I believe trying to find one quality horse, whether it be from the U.S. or from areas outside the country, which we are seriously considering doing for this race, is a better risk than owning a vast stable of horses.”

Familiar foes in turf sprint

A pair of allowance/optional-claiming races, one on the main track, one on turf, will share top billing on Saturday’s 12-race program.

A field of eight will go five furlongs on grass in the eighth race, a first-level optional $25,000 claimer, with Wine List and Posse Dreamin likely to vie for favoritism. Wine List outlasted Posse Dreaming to register a hard-fought neck decision when the pair met three weeks ago in a similar race. The victory was the second straight for the Louisiana invader trained by Ron Faucheux.

The 10-year-old Bull Dozer is among the eight Florida-breds in the 11th race, a first-level optional $12,500 claimer at six furlongs on dirt. The stretch-running Bull Dozer will need an honest pace to earn his 22nd victory and should get one with Harryhee, second in each of his last two starts, and the improving Mill Hill Place in the lineup.

Mill Hill Place is one of five horses in the race coming off a win, along with likely favorite Express Jet, Wild Good, Equity, and Kantharos’ Image.

:: Get bonus PPs for Saturday's Grade 2 Penn Mile card at Penn National with purchase of any other Saturday PPs