“For him to go on to his next career on this note, it's a fairy tale ending.” The speaker is Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen summing up Gun Runner's 2-1/2-length win in the $16 million, Grade 1 Pegasus Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.
The “next career” an emotional Asmussen referred to is that of a stallion standing at Goncolo Borges Torrealba's Three Chimneys Farm at Midway, Ky.
Torrealba and his partner, Ron Winchell, were so anxious to get the mighty Gun Runner to Midway to begin his new career they chartered a private plane to carry the champion from South Florida to Central Kentucky the next morning morning.
The brilliant chestnut horse took with him a record of 12 wins from 19 trips to the starting gate and purse earnings of a few bucks under $16 million. The Horse-of-the-Year's trophy, a gold statuette of Eclipse that was presented to Winchell and Torrealba at ceremonies on Jan. 25, was also headed northwest with the horse.
The second running of the Pegasus left little doubt about Gun Runner's superiority over his classmates.
Just as the field broke from the gate in the start of the mile and a furlong contest, regular rider Florent Geroux sent his charge toward the leaders from the Number 10 stall.
They took up a position just outside the pace setting Collected and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith and stayed there through the first half mile that was run in 46.61 seconds.
Gun Runner wrested the lead from Collected, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner, three furlongs out.
At that point, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's 'other' horse, West Coast, the winner of the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga and the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, took up the chase of Gun Runner.
The newly inducted Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano admitted, “I tried to surprise him.”
That tactic came a cropper when Geroux used his hands to urge Gun Runner for more — and he got it.
After a couple of judicious swats from the rider's whip at the head of the lane, Gun Runner moved away to a 2-1/2-length win as an 11 to 10 favorite should.
The teletimer stopped in 1:47.41 seconds just missing the record of 1:46.83 set by Juddmonte's champion Arrogate in the initial Pegasus last year.
Gunnevera, who was second to West Coast in the Travers, finished third 10-1/2 lengths behind West Coast and a half length to the good of the 74 to 1 long shot Fear the Cowboy whose last graded stake win came in Gulfstream's Grade 3 Skipaway in March last year.
The remainder of the field finished in this order: Seeking the Soul, the mare Stellar Wind, the pace setting Collected, Sharp Azteca, Giant Expectations, War Story, Singing Bullet and the runner up from the 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic, Toast of New York, who was making only his second start since his 2014 trip to Santa Anita.
After the race, Asmussen acknowledged the Number 10 stall in Gulfstream's starting gate was of one of the biggest problems for Gun Runner and Geroux to solve.
“We thought it was very important to break sharply from that draw,” the trainer said. “He got over and was then going as comfortable as in a work. Everybody is aware of the lack of success from the outside going a mile and eighth here. But, it's not what number it is, it's who you put in that number,” he concluded.
Gun Runner’s Career At A Glance
Here's the now retired Gun Runner's record leading up to and culminating with the Pegasus.
2nd Running Pegasus World Cup Invitational
Value: $16.3 million
Winner's Purse: $7 million
Guarantee: All starters receive a minimum of $650,000.
(Also Eligibles Game Over and Giuseppe the Great scratched)
Fractional Times: :23.41, 46.61, 1:10.21, 1:34.28 and 1:41.41.
Weights: 124 pounds for all but the mare Stellar Wind, 121.
Breeder: Besilu Stables
Sire: Candy Ride (Argentina)
Dam: Quiet Giant
Dam Sire: Quiet Causeway
Career Record: 19-12-3-2
Career Winnings: $15,988,500
No. 10, Gun Runner, $4.20, $3.00, $2.80; No. 2, West Coast, $4.00, $3.20; No. 6, Gunnevera, $4.80
$2 Exacta (10-2), $17.20
$1 Trifecta (10-2-6), $55.50
$0.10 Superfecta (10-2-6-7), $114.27
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