Pegasus World Cup: Gun Runner Wins on Record Breaking Day

Pegasus World Cup: Gun Runner Wins on Record Breaking Day

Pegasus World Cup: Gun Runner Wins on Record Breaking Day

Gulfstream Park registered an all-sources handle of $41,983,881 Saturday on its second Pegasus World Cup Day, highlighted when Horse of the Year Gun Runner won the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) by 2 ½ lengths over West Coast. Gunnevera finished third.

The $41.983 million handle – a 4 percent increase over last year’s previous Pegasus record handle of $40,217 – is the largest handle in Gulfstream’s 79-year history excluding Breeders’ Cup Days. The day of world-class Thoroughbred racing and entertainment was attended by 16,400.

“The crowd, the entertainment, the fans and of course, our human and equine athletes made this an electric day from early morning into the evening,” said Gulfstream’s General Manager Bill Badgett. “The Stronach Group continues to revolutionize the experience of attending a Thoroughbred race. We want to thank the wonderful fans and horsemen throughout the world. We feel the Pegasus World Cup Invitational will continue to grow, attract and engage even more of the world’s best horses.”

Newly crowned 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.

Winning Time: 1:47.41
Winning Margins: 2 ½, 10 ¾, half
Winning Payoff: $4.20
Order of finish: Gun Runner, West Coast, Gunnevera, Fear the Cowboy, Seeking the Soul, Stellar Wind, Collected, Sharp Azteca, Giant Expectations, War Story, Singing Bullet, Toast of New York.

TRAINER QUOTES

Steve Asmussen (Gun Runner, 1st): “I’m so impressed for him to come through like he did today, to overcome the draw. I’m just so proud of the horse. What a dream come true.”

“He has improved with every opportunity. Even when he didn’t have success, he moved forward from it. So pleased to be in his presence. This memory will be with us forever. To be able to share it with my family, just a wonderful ownership group. What a special horse.”

“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. 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.”

“He has qualities we all wish we had. He doesn’t have to have success to move forward. He never doubts himself. With the success he had this year you try to do exactly the same thing over. He knows what’s up. And how cool and collected he was and laid down and waited for the day. And the 10 post. We’re not capable of dealing with it and he is. We’re just blessed to be in his presence and he just drags us along with him. “

“You’re rooting on him. But when he broke like he did and got in the position that he did, we felt wonderful about it.”

Bob Baffert (West Coast, 2nd; Collected, 7th): “Collected, he was out there and he was in a good spot and [jockey] Mike [Smith] was happy but Gun Runner, he stayed on him. Gun Runner, he was impressive. Unless he took a step back, I knew we couldn’t beat him. He’s just a really good horse. We just got outrun.”

“West Coast, he came with a huge run. I was proud of both of the horses. West Coast, 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. I was proud of my horse. 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.”

Antonio Sano (Gunnevera, 3rd): “I’m so happy and so proud for my horse. The horses that beat him were both champions. 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.”

JOCKEY QUOTES

Florent Geroux (Gun Runner, 1st): “This feeling is hard to describe, it’s a dream come true. 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.”

On becoming a U.S. citizen Friday: “It’s great, you know a little more pressure today than yesterday, but this is why I came here, for opportunities like this. I’m grateful to have become a citizen of the United States.”

Javier Castellano (West Coast, 2nd): “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. 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 going to step out and become a top, top horse.”

Luis Saez (Gunnevera, 3rd): “It was a tough race but he ran well. He tried. When he came to the stretch I saw those horses in front and I knew we were trying for third because Gun Runner is a champion. He can really run. We got third and that’s fine.”

John Velazquez (Seeking the Soul, 5th): “It was good. Obviously I didn’t have any speed so I knew where I was going to be. I saved ground where I could, had a perfect trip and when I got to the quarter pole that was it. He took me to the eighth pole and he was done.”

Joel Rosario (Stellar Wind, 6th): “She broke well and by the 3 ½-furlong pole, I got a little bit unlucky and got pushed in and had to stay to the inside. The nine, Toast of New York, was stopping. I wish it was a better trip than that but sometimes that’s just how it goes.”

Mike Smith (Collected, 7th): “The wind is blowing really hard so it dries that track out a little bit. When Gun Runner kind of pushed me at the half-mile pole, Collected got to struggling. I said, ‘Uh oh, we might be in trouble.’ Gun Runner just ran a tremendous race. Hat’s off to him.

“Collected ran great, he just struggled a bit over this sandy racetrack. He’s not really used to it, never run on one. I was hoping he’d really like it, like Arrogate did. Arrogate actually loved it. Collected runs a little higher, whereas Arrogate got lower, got into it, really got a hold of it. That might have been the difference. And you’ll notice, Gun Runner runs that way, downhill. They get right through that sand, get a hold of it and they’re gone. But he ran well. I was really proud of him until he couldn’t hang in there anymore.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. (Sharp Azteca, 8th): “We broke and I asked him but he just couldn’t make the lead. I put myself in a good position on the first turn. He tried; this wasn’t the trip he really wants and he never stopped trying.”
Jose Ortiz (War Story, 10th): “My horse broke really well, but Gun Runner broke best. They went super fast and they just never came back. When we got to the quarter pole we just couldn’t keep up.”

Frankie Dettori (Toast of New York, 12th): “A mile and one (eighth) is too sharp for him. I was always on my back foot chasing the pace. He got tired.”

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S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D. Funds Manager at HEFFX holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.

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