Prohibitive Horse of the Year favorite Gun Runner had another methodical work on his march to Gulfstream Park’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), motoring three-quarters of a mile in 1:13 1/5 with his faithful workmate Gettysburg Sunday morning at the Fair Grounds.
Starting off a couple of lengths behind his fellow newly-turned 5-year-old, Gun Runner went splits in 12 1/5 seconds, 24 2/5 seconds, 36 2/6 and 49 1/5, going the final quarter-mile in 24 seconds before completing the six furlongs in 1:13 1/5, galloping out seven-eighths of a mile in a strong 1:25 4/5 and the mile in 1:39 4/5. Gun Runner was on Gettysburg’s hip through the stretch before striding out in front coming to the wire with minimal encouragement from jockey Florent Geroux.
The workout came a week after Gun Runner and Gettysburg powered six furlongs in a race-worthy 1:10 3/5, a more resolute training move in anticipation of below-freezing temperatures in New Orleans.
“They worked head-and-head last week, and this week we chose to back him off Gettysburg early and just let him settle,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said by phone. “I thought he handled it really nicely and galloped out really good. It wasn’t as intense of a work as last week, and I feel good about it…. He was probably two or three (lengths) off of Gettysburg away from the pole, engaged him probably by the three-eighths pole and Gettysburg carried him to almost the sixteenth pole.”
The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner is expected to be asked for more in next Sunday’s work, his final at the Fair Grounds before flying out Jan. 18 to Fort Lauderdale and Gulfstream Park. If the Asmussen training pattern holds, Gun Runner will have an easy half-mile at Gulfstream to conclude preparation for his career finale before starting a stallion career at Three Chimneys Farm, the breeding operation near Lexington that owns Gun Runner with Winchell Thoroughbreds.
Seeking the Soul Continues Working for Pegasus
Charles Fipke’s Pegasus contender Seeking the Soul, winner of the Clark Handicap (G1) in his last start, had a leisurely five-eighths of a mile work in 1:03 1/5 under Emerson Chavez also Sunday at Fair Grounds. It was the 29th fastest out of 54 at the distance.
Trainer Dallas Stewart said he wanted to slow down the work after the 5-year-old went a half-mile in a resolute 48 seconds the week before, the fourth-fastest that day of 94 workouts at the distance.
“Just a little bit easier today, came back good and looked great,” Stewart said. “So we’ll have two more works; we’re on schedule.”
Seeking the Soul will be on the same Jan. 18 Tex Sutton equine charter that brings the California horses to Florida, the flight stopping in New Orleans.
“That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing,” Stewart said, adding of a work over the track where he’ll race, “I just don’t think it’s necessary. I’m happy with him here. We’ll go down there and be ready to rock and roll…. The best horses in America are in the race. This is a freaking nice race. Maybe Gun Runner is in a class by himself right now. But when you get down to it, it’s a horse race. He’s got to go around there and run.”
Loooch Racing Stables’ Ron Paolucci is seeking to work out a deal to lease Sharp Azteca with the intent to start the brilliant Grade 1 stakes winner in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 27.
Paolucci, who is already pointing War Story (and possibly Game Over) toward the second running of the world’s richest race, has had ongoing discussions with Sharp Azteca’s owner Ivan Rodriguez.
“The last couple days I’ve been trying to work a deal with Ivan, who owns Sharp Azteca, to see if we can get him into the spot that I bought,” Paolucci said.
A deal that would give the brilliant Sharp Azteca a spot in the Pegasus World Cup starting gate could be imminent.
“I think if a deal with Sharp Azteca comes about it will come about in the next day or two,” Paolucci said.
Sharp Azteca, who captured the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in February, is coming off a dazzling 5 ½-length triumph in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct Nov. 12. Trained by Jorge Navarro, who also trains War Story and Game Over, Sharp Azteca finished second in a photo finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 3 after winning the Monmouth Cup (G3) at Monmouth Park and Kelso Handicap (G2) at Belmont. The son of Freud also finished second in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont and the Godolphin Mile (G3) in Dubai last year.
Paolucci said he has his reasons for pursuing a deal to lease Sharp Azteca.
“Sixteen million reasons,” Paolucci said, ‘and the prestige that would go with winning the race. I try to compete at the highest level, but I don’t always have the highest money to be able to compete at that level. When you get an opportunity like that with a War Story and a Game Over, and maybe you can rent a horse and try to get a horse in the spot, it’s a race you want to win. Everybody’s watching the race.”
Sharp Azteca, as well as War Story, breezed at Gulfstream Park West Sunday morning. Sharp Azteca breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 under Javier Castellano with a strong gallop out.
Sharp Azteca work: click here for video.
“It looked like to me he got stronger as he went. Javier was trying to pull him up a little on the backside and he wanted to keep going.” Paolucci said. “It’s a great sign if you’re going a mile and an eighth.”
War Story, who finished fifth in last year’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational, breezed an easy 1:03.40. The son of Northern Afleet most recently finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 4.
Stellar Wind Has ‘Serious’ Work Sunday for Pegasus
Stellar Wind, the champion sophomore filly of 2015 and a six-time Grade 1 winner, breezed for the first time as a 6-year-old Sunday morning as she continued preparations for an historic start in the Pegasus World Cup.
Expected to become the first female to race in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus, Stellar Wind went five furlongs in 1:01.50 in company with Grade 3-winning 5-year-old Shagaf at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
Stellar Wind work: click here for video.
“She worked terrific. She worked with Shagaf, a horse who’s on the comeback trail and who’s a nice horse, and I thought she did really well,” trainer Chad Brown said. “She particularly galloped out super. So, right now we’re on target for the Pegasus.”
Sunday’s work was the fifth since joining Brown at Palm Meadows after being purchased for $6 million by Coolmore out of Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale. Initially bought as a broodmare prospect, the ownership partners decided to return her to training for 2018.
“We’re just going to keep moving forward,” Brown said. “She had a serious work today and she’ll probably have a similar work next week to be sure we know where we’re at with her. So far I like what I see.”
Stellar Wind, a chestnut daughter of Hall of Famer Curlin, won the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Summertime Oaks (G2), Santa Ysabel (G3) and Torrey Pines (G3) and was beaten a neck when second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) during her championship season for Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler.
She won the Clement Hirsch (G1) and Zenyatta (G1) and was fourth in the BC Distaff in 2016, and last year won the Apple Blossom (G1), Beholder Mile (G1) and repeated the Clement Hirsch before finishing eighth in the BC Distaff.
Following the sale Stellar Wind was turned over to Brown, who worked her in company with the promising colt Mask, a bay son of prominent sire Tapit that romped to a 6 ¼-length victory in the Mucho Macho Man Jan. 6 in his 3-year-old debut to make him a perfect 2-0.
“They worked together a couple of times. I thought they would be a good matchup,” Brown said. “They both got a lot out of it and, as you saw, Mask got a lot out of those works. Hopefully she does as well.”