The good news for fans of grade I winner Gun Runner is that the son of Candy Ride is officially targeting the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), Winchell Thoroughbreds manager David Fiske confirmed Jan. 3
The bad news is that logistics, not form, is the biggest threat to the chestnut colt's potential participation in the world's richest test at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28.
Since his breakout victory over older foes in the Nov. 25 Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs, Gun Runner has been at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots with trainer Steve Asmussen's string preparing for his 4-year-old debut. With the entire Fair Grounds backstretch currently under quarantine due to an EHV-1 outbreak, no horses are permitted to ship in or out of the track—an issue that could complicate both potential deals with shareholders to get Gun Runner into the Pegasus and his ability to arrive in South Florida in time for the race.
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, which own Gun Runner in partnership, currently do not own one of the 12 buy-in slots for the Pegasus World Cup.
"We're just kind of monitoring the quarantine as it seems to change day by day," Fiske said. "We keep getting inquiries and proposals from (Pegasus) gate owners but they're all aware of the situation now, too, so they're kind of apprehensive. I just talked to Steve a little while ago trying to get a sense of when our drop dead date (for the Pegasus) would be but I'm not sure we've gotten there yet.
"We're still preparing him like he's going to go. Unless some state vet or someone tells us we're not going, we're kind of thinking that we are. If the quarantine thing works out and if we can work out a deal with somebody that makes some sense— which is a lot harder than you would think—he'll go. But there are a lot of question marks still."
The only thing Gun Runner's connections can control regarding the Fair Grounds situation is making sure the chestnut runner is ready when and if they get the go-ahead to leave New Orleans. To that end, he has turned in two works since his Clark win with his return to the tab coming Dec. 24 and his most recent move being a five-furlong drill in 1:00 4/5 Dec. 31.
"That's why he's working. If he wasn't going to Miami, he would just be spinning his wheels," Fiske said. "But he's doing great. So, we're just kind of treading water, monitoring the situation and hoping we can make a deal and, if we do, hoping we can get out of town."
Bred by Besilu Stables, Gun Runner comes into 2017 off a consistent sophomore campaign that saw him emerge as the iron horse of the 3-year-old male division. In addition to his Clark victory, Gun Runner notched wins in the Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) en route to finishing third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
Where all last year's classic winners ended up retired prior the 2016 Breeders' Cup World Championships, Gun Runner showed up to run second in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) before capturing the Clark by 2 3/4 lengths for his first grade 1 score in 12 career starts.