Multiple Grade 1 hero and presumptive 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner continued his preparations for the $16 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) on January 27 at Gulfstream Park with a five-furlong move at Fair Grounds Sunday.
The Candy Ride four-year-old had regular exercise rider Angel Garcia in the irons as he breezed five-eighths in 1:00.80, the second-best of 64 other moves at that distance over Fair Grounds’ fast main track Sunday.
According to the track’s clockers, Gun Runner started off with an eighth in :13.20, recorded the next furlong in :12.20 for a :25.40 quarter-mile, and posted his next half in :24 for a :49.40 half-mile. The colt turned his final eighth in :11.40 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.60.
Co-owner Winchell Thoroughbreds provided video of the work to Jennie Rees, who posted it to YouTube:
“Like expected, he is picking it up nicely,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “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 (to start the work) is what I was looking for, and letting him be who he is from there.”
Gun Runner will enter the Pegasus riding a Grade 1 win streak comprised of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Woodward, Whitney and Stephen Foster Handicap. The chestnut’s only loss of 2017 came when second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) on March 25, which followed a romping wire victory in the Razorback Handicap (G3) in late February to kick off his 2017 campaign. He closed out his sophomore season with another wire job in the Clark Handicap (G1).
“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 was a candidate for this year’s inaugural Pegasus World Cup but administrative complications arising from a quarantine situation at the Fair Grounds stopped his owners from making the race.
“It made more sense for us to buy (a spot) 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 (Winchell) 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.”
In other Pegasus news, this year’s Clark Handicap winner Seeking the Soul clocked a half-mile in :49.40 for trainer Dallas Stewart. The Perfect Soul four-year-old is now considered likely to try the 1 1/8-mile contest after earlier being in the running along with Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) queen Forever Unbridled. Both horses are Charles Fipke homebreds trained by Stewart.
“We’re looking at it with Seeking the Soul right now,” Stewart told The Blood-Horse. “It was (Fipke’s) decision. He wants to run Seeking the Soul, so that’s what we’re doing. We think he’s got a big shot. A lot of things went into (the) decision, and his final decision was just to run one. And John Velazquez was very happy to have Seeking the Soul, as I understand, running in the race. He wants to ride him. He likes the horse. I think that was probably a big selling factor.”
Gunnevera breezed five furlongs in 1:02 over Gulfstream Park West’s fast main track on Saturday for the Pegasus with jockey Edgard Zayas was aboard for the move.
“He went easy,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “We didn’t want him to do too much. The Pegasus is still six weeks away.”
Gunnevera secured a berth in the Pegasus World Cup after a deal was struck between his owner, Margoth’s Salomon Del-Valle, and stakeholder William Gallo of Gallo Stables and Bella Inizio Farm. Part of the agreement was that the Dialed In chestnut would skip Saturday’s Harlan’s Holiday Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park and train up to the Pegasus.
Fear the Cowboy is now under consideration for the Pegasus following his 2 1/4-length triumph in the Harlan’s Holiday.
“(The Pegasus World Cup) is a tough race, but we are open to probably taking a chance, because on this track he runs well,” said trainer Efren Loza Jr., indicating that Fear the Cowboy may be made available to a Pegasus Word Cup stakeholder looking for a horse.
“He has a big heart; he always tries,” the horseman added. “We’re happy to have a horse like him.”