Presumptive Horse of the Year Gun Runner, sure to be favored in his swan song in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) January 27, got right into his routine on his first morning at Gulfstream Park.
His Thursday flight from Fair Grounds was subject to a New Orleans weather delay, pushing his Gulfstream arrival into the evening, but that didn’t affect the timetable for his Friday morning exercise. The Steve Asmussen trainee was out and about for a pre-dawn stroll around the Hallandale Beach, Florida, circuit.
“Just had an easy day, going straight off a mile,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi told Gulfstream publicity.
“He’s in such good condition right now, and he’s so fit, when you get him off that van, off an airplane, he knows where he’s at and what he’s getting ready to do.”
Last seen wiring the November 4 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, Gun Runner brings a four-race winning streak into the Pegasus, including the Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs and the Whitney (G1)/Woodward (G1) double at Saratoga.
The five-year-old has bankrolled $8,988,500 from a career mark of 18-11-3-2, his only unplaced efforts coming in the slop. During his sophomore campaign in 2016, Gun Runner captured the Clark (G1), Louisiana Derby (G2), Risen Star (G2) and Matt Winn (G3) and placed in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Travers (G1), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and Pennsylvania Derby (G2). He opened 2017 with a romp in the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn and a second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1), his lone loss in his past seven starts.
“He’s just such a champion,” Blasi observed. “He takes everything in stride. Never had a problem shipping, I think this is his 12th or 13th (actually 11th) different racetrack he’s run at. It’s kind of old news to him. It’s probably more stressful on us than him.
“We expect him to settle in and train, get a little work over the racetrack, and school in the paddock a time or two.”
Gun Runner has another item in his datebook on Pegasus Week – the January 25 Eclipse Awards gala at Gulfstream, where he’s a certainty to be honored as 2017 Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male. In that respect he’ll emulate his “uncle,” Saint Liam, the 2005 Horse of the Year.
By Candy Ride and out of Saint Liam’s Grade 2-winning half-sister, Quiet Giant, Gun Runner is due to retire to co-owner Three Chimneys Farm for stud duty following the Pegasus.