Gettysburg (front) and Gun Runner at Fair Grounds Race Course

Gettysburg (front) and Gun Runner at Fair Grounds Race Course

Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir

Gettysburg Earns Keep as Gun Runner's Perfect Partner

Workmate of Gun Runner the unsung hero for Pegasus favorite.

Gettysburg is a 5-year-old horse who has one win from 13 lifetime outings, lost his past two starts by a combined 31 3/4 lengths, and in 2017 made a total of $1,768.

His value to owners Three Chimneys Farm and Winchell Thoroughbreds? 

Incalculable.

Since Gettysburg was purchased privately last fall to serve as the designated workmate to Gun Runner , the likely Horse of the Year and favorite in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park has won the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, was announced as having a $70,000 stud fee for the 2018 breeding season, and will earn another $7 million if he concludes his career with a victory in the Pegasus World Cup.

The silver-gray Gettysburg has proven golden in helping to make a champion.

Whatever his problems in the afternoon, Gettysburg can display brilliance in morning workouts—and the constitution to keep at it. As Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen marveled, few horses have the physical ability and fortitude to repeatedly and effectively work with a horse such as Gun Runner—"and keep eating," he laughed—ensuring his famous teammate gets tested enough in training to have him at his best for the Pegasus off a three-month layoff.

"It's one of those things a lot of casual observers don't realize, that if you want to work Gun Runner in company with somebody, there is not that much company out there that can hang with him very long, or wants to," said David Fiske, Winchell Racing's veteran racing and bloodstock manager. "They get discouraged pretty easily."

Think of Gettysburg as Swen Nater, who helped UCLA to a pair of NCAA titles while playing backup to Bill Walton with the primary mission of developing the All-American and Hall of Fame center in practice.

"He's a great work horse, that's why we've got him for the job," Asmussen said on New Year's Eve after Gettysburg went toe-to-toe with Gun Runner in 1:10 3/5—faster than all but a few six-furlong races at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots during the current winter meet. "He knows what it is and he's fine with it. He's just a horse that has a really high rhythm, and that's ideal for works like this. He can shade 12s in the middle, and I think that's the rhythm we like Gun Runner in, and that was the difference in him that 4-year-old year."

Having been Gun Runner's sparring partner the past four workouts at Fair Grounds, Gettysburg gets a reprieve with the Breeders' Cup Classic winner heading to Gulfstream, where the Pegasus favorite's final tune-up will be an easy half-mile by himself the week of the race. 

And Gettysburg? Asmussen will look for an entry-level allowance race for the 5-year-old's first race in more than four months.

"They are monitoring his health and well-being as (closely) as they are Gun Runner," Three Chimneys' chief operating officer Chris Baker said this winter, before joking, "In the weeks when he's not working with Gun Runner, maybe Steve is working him with the stable pony and letting him beat up on him to get his ego built.

"When you need to really tighten the screws on one," he added, "having somebody to go with them and look them in the eye is critical to getting the preparation right."

Whatever his future holds as a racehorse, Gettysburg will have played an important role for two grade 1 winners trained by Asmussen.

Originally owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, Gettysburg took three tries to break his maiden and ran second in the 2016 Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes behind future grade 1 winner Collected, who also is running in the Pegasus. Gettysburg followed that performance with a fifth-place finish after setting the pace in the Arkansas Derby (G1), won by WinStar's Asmussen-trained Creator.

WinStar wanted to ensure a legitimate pace for the late-running Creator in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1) that summer, so they ran Gettysburg, moving him to Asmussen's barn. Gettysburg rattled off 12-second furlongs throughout the Belmont and Creator took advantage of the pace to win the Triple Crown finale as Gettysburg faded to eighth.

For whatever reason, Gettysburg has yet to get over the hump as a racehorse. WinStar and co-owner SF Racing sold him in the weeks before the 2017 Breeders' Cup. 

Asmussen said Gettysburg is reminiscent of another Winchell horse, Gold Hawk, who helped prepare Untapable for her 2014 championship season that included winning the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1). The well-bred Gold Hawk won his first two races and looked like a possible contender for the American classics. A well-beaten third in the 2014 Lecomte Stakes (G3) was as close as he got, but he earned his keep in a supporting role.

"Gettysburg reminded me of Gold Hawk in his work pattern, how he worked, how he galloped out, just the rhythm," Asmussen said. "I thought Gold Hawk did a tremendous amount for Untapable."

Asked what Gettysburg got out of the works with Gun Runner, Asmussen said, "A lot media attention. He is without a doubt my most talked-about (allowance horse) I've ever had. 

"He's a very talented horse or he would not be an effective workmate. He became available, and he was the perfect horse at the right time for Gun Runner going to California," he added. "Mr. (Ron) Winchell and Mr. (Goncalo) Torrealba stepped up and saw him as a necessary tool to get done what Gun Runner did, which is the Breeders' Cup Classic and most likely the Horse of the Year. The Pegasus being Gun Runner's last race, it's similar circumstances as going into the Classic—a lot on the line over one race off the layoff."