Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Gun Runner picked up the pace in his Dec. 17 workout at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, motoring five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 in his preparation for the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park. The time matched the second-fastest of 64 works.
According to the Fair Grounds' clockers, the Candy Ride colt started off with a leisurely first eighth-mile in :13 1/5, going the next eighth-mile in :12 1/5 for a :25 2/5 quarter-mile. He went his next quarter-mile in a flat :24 for a :49 2/5 half-mile, and his final eighth-mile in :11 2/5. He was timed galloping out to six furlongs in 1:14 3/5 under exercise rider Angel Garcia.
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner worked the same distance last week in 1:02 4/5 in his second timed workout since winning the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
"Like expected, he is picking it up nicely," Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said. "Angel said he felt wonderful and was happy with him. I do expect to work him in company with Gettysburg next week.
"I think the gallop-out will pick up because of company, because of competition. I actually don't think next week's work will be faster than today. The difference will be company, and we're right on schedule... Being off in :13, :25 (to start the work) is what I was looking for, and letting him be who he is from there."
The Pegasus will be Gun Runner's last start before retiring to stud at Three Chimneys near Lexington.
"He's a very special horse," Asmussen said. "I think how he has responded to work, races, everything is what has separated him. Having tremendous talent is one part of the equation of a champion, which I believe he's proved to be."
Gun Runner is the prohibitive favorite to be crowned as Horse of the Year and champion older male at the Eclipse Awards Jan. 25 at Gulfstream.
Acquiring a Pegasus spot has been a different experience for the colt's connections this year. After he beat older horses last year to win the Clark Handicap (G1), a stream of offers flowed in from Pegasus investors pursuing a deal to run Gun Runner using their starting spots, which had quickly sold out. Gun Runner ultimately was not able to run in the Pegasus because of administrative complications arising from a quarantine situation at the Fair Grounds.
"It made more sense for us to buy one this year than last year," said David Fiske, Winchell Thoroughbreds' racing and bloodstock manager.
Asked if they actively sought a spot-holder to team with last year, Fiske said, "We didn't even have to look around. I don't think he had even cooled out from winning the Clark last year, and Ron and I were getting text messages and phone calls, people contacting us about running in the Pegasus.
"It provided a lot of entertainment through the winter, talking to people, new people we'd never talked to before, listening to everybody's pitches. The deals changed every week. They were only limited by your imagination."
Also posting a work for the Pegasus Sunday was Charles Fipke's Seeking the Soul.
The homebred son of Perfect Soul worked an easy half-mile in :49 2/5 under exercise rider Emerson Chavez. The move was the 19th fastest among 96 at the distance.
"Just a maintenance work," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "Just very, very good. Keeping him sharp. He looked good."
Fipke purchased one spot in the Pegasus, which will be used for this year's Clark Handicap winner. Fipke also discussed running Forever Unbridled right after she won the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), but since indicated he'd run only one horse. John Velazquez, who rode Forever Unbridled in the Breeders' Cup and Seeking the Soul in the Clark, has committed to riding Seeking the Soul in the Pegasus, according to Stewart.
"We're looking at it with Seeking the Soul right now," Stewart said. "It was (Fipke's) decision. He wants to run Seeking the Soul, so that's what we're doing. We think he's got a big shot. A lot of things went into (the) decision, and his final decision was just to run one. And John Velazquez was very happy to have Seeking the Soul, as I understand, running in the race. He wants to ride him. He likes the horse. I think that was probably a big selling factor."
Other possible Pegasus starters working Sunday include War Story, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 at Gulfstream Park West for owners Loooch Racing Stables, Glenn Ellis, and Imaginary Stables; and champion Stellar Wind, who clocked four furlongs in :49 4/5 at Palm Meadows Training Center.