Gun Runner

Gun Runner

Alexander Barkoff

Gun Runner Set for Thursday Flight to Florida

Gun Runner expected to be favored in world's richest race.

Gun Runner  came out of his impressive Jan. 14 workout at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in fine order and now awaits a Jan. 18 flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

The Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner, expected to be named Horse of the Year later this month, powered six furlongs in 1:11 in his final major Pegasus workout while cruising away from his reliable workmate Gettysburg. Equally impressive was his gallop out, going seven-eighths of a mile in 1:23 4/5 and the mile in 1:37 under jockey Florent Geroux.

"I expected nothing less from him, and I expected him to do it as easy as he did it," trainer Steve Asmussen said of the work Monday morning. "Since last winter in New Orleans, he was doing that. It was like, 'OK, this is who I am.' "

Gun Runner went five-for-five in the United States in 2017, also taking the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Whitney Stakes (G1) and Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1). His only defeat was in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) to 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic winner and inaugural Pegasus winner Arrogate , whom Gun Runner defeated in November's Breeders' Cup Classic.

The Pegasus will be Gun Runner's last race before retiring to a stallion career at Three Chimneys Farm, the breeding operation near Lexington that owns the horse in partnership with Winchell Thoroughbreds.

As important for Asmussen was that Gun Runner came out of the work in typical Gun Runner fashion: eating his dinner and ready to resume daily training Tuesday after Monday's walk day. Asmussen said the 5-year-old horse came out of the work "like he does. He's ready. He's Gun Runner.

"He's an amazing horse that's about to be asked to do an amazing thing," Asmussen said, referencing the Jan. 27 Pegasus. "It's going to be a very fast race. Nothing but respect for the competition. They'll be ready, so we need to be ready also. We all know it's scheduled to be his last race, and I want nothing more than for him to go out on top, and I want everybody to feel as great about him as the barn does, as we do. Just the respect we all have for who Gun Runner is physically, mentally. Just very proud of who he is and want to have the opportunity for him to go out on top as we feel he deserves."