Gun Runner Shows Championship Form Pegasus World Cup
Jan 28, 2018
Horse of the Year Closes out Career in Style in World’s Richest Race
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
– Newly crown 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner closed out a stellar career Saturday at Gulfstream Park, dominating a world class field to capture the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) by 2 ½ lengths under jockey Florent Geroux.
Trained by Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, Gun Runner was sent to post in the 1 1/8-mile event as the even-money favorite in a field of 12, and the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride rewarded them by offering one of his most impressive performances to remember him by in the world’s richest race.
“It’s the cherry on the top, this one. This race, the world’s richest horse race after him being named Horse of the year on Thursday night. For him to be able to go out on top and go back to his next career with everybody feeling the way that we have, and it’s built up to this point,” an emotional Asmussen said. “I’m just so proud of the whole team and happy for them. How much love that this team and Florent have for this horse is just a beautiful thing.”
Gun Runner, who is scheduled to enter study duty in Kentucky, moved into second-place in the all-time purse earnings standings behind Arrogate, the 2017 Pegasus World Cup winner who retired with $17,422,600 in the bank. His triumph in the second running of Gulfstream’s thoroughbred spectacular was worth a record $7 million and pushed the son of Candy Ride’s career earnings to $15,988,500, ahead of California Chrome’s $14,752,650.
The gleaming chestnut Kentucky-bred, who was honored as 2017 Horse of the Year Thursday evening during the Eclipse Award ceremony at Gulfstream, broke alertly from the No. 10 post position that was widely viewed as disadvantageous due to the short run to the first turn. That post position didn’t become an issue as Geroux was able to comfortably position his mount just off the shoulder of pacesetter Collected around the first turn and along the backstretch during fractions of 23.41 (seconds), 46.61 and 1:10.21 for the first six furlongs. When asked for his run, Curlin left a tiring Collected behind on the turn into the homestretch but was met with an immediate challenge by Collected’s Bob Baffert-trained stablemate West Coast, who tracked the pace while saving ground into the stretch. Geroux got busy on the favorite, and Gun Runner responded to draw away to his 12 career victory and fifth straight Grade 1 triumph.
“This feeling is hard to describe, it’s a dream come true,” Geroux said. “We wanted the horse to prove that the Breeder’s Cup and all of last year was not a fluke and the horse was there. In only one word, the horse was unbeatable.”
Gary and Mary West’s West Coast, who was honored as the 3-year-old male champion at Thursday’s evening’s Eclipse Awards ceremony, was a clear second, finishing 10 ¾ lengths ahead of Gunnevera, who closed along the rail to prevail over Fear The Cowboy for third money by a half-length.
Gun Runner ran 1 1/18 miles in 1:47.41 in his career finale.
“I’m so impressed for him to come through like he did today, to overcome the draw,” Asmussen said. “I’m just so proud of the horse. What a dream come true.”
A popular winner with the fans at Gulfstream, Gun Runner also received praise from the connections of his rivals, including Javier Castellano, the jockey aboard West Coast.
“I loved my trip and the position I had on the first turn. I saved all the ground and followed the big horse in the race, Gun Runner, every single step of the way. I think he ran a huge race and I’m very proud of my horse and the way he did things today. It was such a great performance from both horses,” Castellano said. “I had every opportunity to beat him and was just second best. The one good thing about this race is I won’t have to deal with (Gun Runner) anymore; he’s retired and I think my horse is really gonna step out and become a top, top horse.”
Baffert, who saddled West Coast and Collected (who faded to seventh) was equally impressed with the winner.
“Turning for home I thought Gun Runner might be a little empty but his tank is so big and he just kept going. He’s just a great horse. He just kept on running,” Baffert said. “I was proud of my horse [West Coast]. He just keeps getting better. I can’t really complain. We just got beat by a really good horse. He was tested the whole way around there. It was a good horse race. I just came up a little short.”
Trainer Antonio Sano expressed satisfaction with the performance of Gunnevera, who won the 2017 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
“I’m so happy and so proud for my horse. The horses that beat him were both champions,” Sano said. “I don’t think many people thought he had a chance to win but he showed he’s a very good horse and he ran a big race.”
His Pegasus World Cup performance was a fitting finish to an impressive body of work as a racehorse.
Gun Runner came into the Pegasus World up with six victories in last seven starts by a combined 33 ¼ lengths. His only loss last year came in a second-place finish in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, finishing 2 ¼ lengths behind Arrogate and five lengths clear of third-place finisher Neolithic.
The Asmussen trainee came back from Dubai better than ever, reeling off overpowering Grade 1 triumphs in the Stephen Foster at Churchill, the Whitney and Woodward at Saratoga, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). In his 2 ¼-length victory in the Classic, Gun Runner was followed, in order, by Collected, West Coast, War Story and Gunnevera (who finished in a dead-heat with Arrogate for fifth) – all four of whom took another fruitless shot at him in the Pegasus World Cup.