What if the Pegasus was run in Mexico City?

Irrelevant question of course, but an interesting one in light of how the Caribbean Classic series has been handled until lately.

The last few runs have taken place at Gulfstream Park, and Pegasus entry Kukulkan won the last one back in December.

Before these last few years, the Classic has been alternated between many Central and South American countries.

This type of rotation has been eventful because some of those locations are at sea level like Gulfstream, but some are at very high altitudes.

When at sea level (33 times) horses shipping in from high altitudes have won 12 of those races. However, when the Clasico has been run at high altitude locations 12 times, 11 winners were from high altitude locales as well.

Why does this matter? Living and training at high altitudes results in the formation of additional red blood cells, which carry oxygen to working muscles. The same effect as beloved American drug EPO causes. Having more RBC doesn’t make a slow horse faster, but it does makes him run slower for a longer time. Don’t tell me this is meaningless – I’ve seen Belmont winners finish the final quarter in 27+ seconds.

Kukulkan races/trains primarily in Mexico City at an attitude of 7500ft above sea level. And did so up until arriving in South Florida last week. The video above shows 7F in 1:27 with a nice gallop out.

If this Pegasus was at a Belmont- like 12F, that EPO like effect from high altitude would be even more pronounced.

Kukulkan’s last GP race was slow, but he won by 10+ lengths and wasn’t asked for much.
With Dettori up for this big one, he’ll certainly be asked for all he’s got at some point. Being the longest shot on the board, finishing in the top half of this race would be an amazing achievement.

But put this field in Mexico City at 7500ft above sea level, and this undefeated Mexican champ is quite possibly going to hit the board.

Of course the two longest shot Kentucky Derby winners in modern history came from high altitude locations; Canonero II and Mine That Bird.

I wrote about this almost 6 years ago here:


Buried in that post is some neat info about South Africa, one of the few (maybe only) countries with lots of training and racing at both low and high altitudes.

Here in the US we had a notable train high/race low winner in the Breeder’s Cup a few years back:



About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on January 24, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting topic Bill. I’ve often wondered why one of the big operations did not have a facility in New Mexico. But then again, performance science, outside of drugs, is not in most horseman’s sphere of influence…

  2. Matthew Chappell

    Watching pro supercross at the moment and they showed a graphic of the leaders heart rate 178bpm compared to 195 for the next few riders.

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