Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Gun Runner picked up the pace — especially the late pace — in Sunday's workout at the Fair Grounds, motoring five-eighths of a mile in1:00 4/5 in his preparation for Gulfstream Park's $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Saturday, Jan. 27. The time matched the second-fastest of 64 works.
According to the Fair Grounds' clockers, Gun Runner started off with a leisurely first eighth-mile in 13 1/5 seconds, going the next eighth-mile in 12 1/5 for a 25 2/5 quarter-mile. He went his next half in a flat 24 seconds for 49 2/5 half-mile, and his final eighth-mile in 11 2/5 seconds. He was timed galloping out six furlongs in 1:14 3/5 under exercise rider Angel Garcia.
Gun Runner worked the same distance the week before in 1:02 4/5 in his second timed workout since winning the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
“Like expected, he is picking it up nicely,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said by phone. “Angel said he felt wonderful and was happy with him. I do expect to work him in company with Gettysburg next week.
“I think the gallop-out will pick up because of company, because of competition. I actually don't think next week's work will be faster than today. The difference will be company, and we're right on schedule… Being off in 13, 25 (seconds to start the work) is what I was looking for, and letting him be who he is from there.”
Gun Runner has been admirably consistent and durable through three seasons of racing, with the Pegasus his career finale before retiring to a stallion career at co-owner Three Chimneys Farm near Lexington, Ky. The horse won his five U.S. starts in 2017, along with a second in the Dubai World Cup (G1). Overall Gun Runner has gone 11-3-2 in 18 career races, earning $8,988,500.
“He's a very special horse,” Asmussen said. “I think how he has responded to work, races, everything is what has separated him. Having tremendous talent is one part of the equation of a champion, which I believe he's proved to be.”
Gun Runner is the prohibitive favorite to be crowned as Horse of the Year and champion older male at the 47th Eclipse Awards ceremony Jan. 25 at Gulfstream.
Acquiring a Pegasus spot has been a different experience for Gun Runner's owners this year. After the colt beat older horses last year to win the Clark Handicap (G1) the day after Thanksgiving, a stream of offers flowed in from Pegasus investors pursuing a deal to run Gun Runner using their starting spots, which had quickly sold out. Gun Runner ultimately was not able to run in the Pegasus because of administrative complications arising from a quarantine situation at the Fair Grounds.
“It made more sense for us to buy one this year than last year,” said David Fiske, Winchell Thoroughbreds' long-time racing and bloodstock manager.
Asked if they actively sought a spot-holder to team with last year, Fiske said, “We didn't even have to look around. I don't think he had even cooled out from winning the Clark last year and Ron and I were getting text messages and phone calls, people contacting us about running in the Pegasus.
“It provided a lot of entertainment through the winter, talking to people, new people we'd never talked to before, listening to everybody's pitches. The deals changed every week. They were only limited by your imagination.”
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