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Gun Runner ran a great race in winning the second Pegasus World Championship Invitational on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Bad post? Ain't no thang, as Gun Runner proved he was the best horse in the race and one of the nicest in the world.
As NBC analyst Randy Moss exclaimed, "Gun Runner always gets the great trips because he always makes his own luck."
I'm not going full-metal superlative on Gun Runner. Only West Coast did any running behind him, and Collected ran half a race for the nine furlongs, continuing a concerning downward trend for him. Some of these horses, the stars at least, hadn't run since the November 4 Breeders' Cup.
One of those, Gun Runner, crafted his perfect trip from the get-go, Florent Geroux dashing him up to tuck into second on the first turn, post position be damned, engaging Collected through the backstretch. He ran beautifully the only scenario available to him to win. He worked harder than 2-1/4 lengths to win by that margin, and being so visually impressive, the word "great" will inevitably be applied. Make up your own mind.
Tale of the tape: Gun Runner finished in 1:47.41, just off the 1:46.83 by Arrogate in last year's inaugural Pegasus. At 6-5, he paid $4.20/ $3.00/$2.80; the exacta paid $17.20 and the trifecta $111.00 for two dollars.
As the pack of Gun Runner, Collected, Great Expectations and West Coast separated from the rest, Gun Runner downshifted on the turn and we saw his big head and long neck extend from behind Collected. It was over, right then and there, before the quarter pole.
When NBC's Britney Eurton asked trainer Steve Asmussen, who also trained Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, how he says goodbye to Gun Runner, this being his last race, he just said, "We're not saying goodbye."
Clearly under instructions from trainer Jorge Navarro, Irad Ortiz obviously took back Sharp Azteca, who figured to go to the lead, perhaps never to be caught. Into the backstretch, in fifth, 'Azteca dueled with West Coast, who dropped a bit more inside, and then tailgated up on Great Expectations' butt as the first four then pulled away from him. It was a screw-up of monumental proportions, and If I owned him I'd switch trainers and Ortiz's first ride on him would be his last. Paco Lopez, with two recent wins on 'Azteca, was in the house. Go figure.
I was impressed with Fear the Cowboy, who probably ran the race of his life for fourth, and Great Expectations. He was in the thick of it most of the way, but finished an exhausted ninth from post 12. Gary Stevens was right about him.
Levels Of Hell
Gulfstream Park is a frickin' disaster and a slap to horseplayers' faces, and anyone who knows a horseshoe from a bit can see it.
The casino/mall-centric operation took its late post times to new levels of hell. As long as I have been playing the horses, GP has been notorious at extending post parades, ostensibly to leave the pools open. Five, 10 minutes? Routine. Yesterday? The middle of the card races before national TV were going off a full 22 minutes late from the published posts.
Wagering on the full card was up four percent.
I know a conspiracy when I see one. Both of my betting services stayed open until the bell. Used to be, at least one of them would have closed the race based on the published post. Not yesterday. The time was made up on the first of two NBC races. Before GP going national, the knuckleheads at TVG, who see this every day, didn't say a thing.
Gulfstream has also been known to lollygag its post parade and then, when another track loads for its feature, GP hurries up to open its gates at the same time.
* The Pegasus is not an invitational. It's a buy-in. It's not a world championship, by any means. There were no international horses in the field, except for Toast of New York, who has run on both sides of the Atlantic. It's only nine furlongs instead of the classic 10. It's all hype. Please remind me of all this Gulfstream BS when the Florida Derby rolls around.
* The turf course looked like shag carpeting with bald spots. Some years ago, Churchill Downs Inc. abandoned its role in racing at its Calder CASINO AND Race Track in Miami. Gulfstream took on the Calder dates and runs what it calls the Gulfstream Park West meet there, but most of the dates are run at Gulfstream. It shows.
* I don't know about you, but driving past that statue on a regular basis would give me the willies.
NBC: Rust everywhere. Almost all indoor, apron and rail camera shots were tight, to hide the fact actually watching the races at Gulfstream is tough to do.
* When Moss and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey start bickering about Collected, let them go. Bailey let out a pffft! and completely tossed the horse. Moss argued that Collected, one of the three 6-1 horses, would be near the lead, be safe and then close. Bailey's half-bald dome turned red and he just said, "No chance!" Moss copped out: "I didn't say he was going to win. Just that he would get his trip." Clearly calling out Moss as a wiseguy, Bailey caught himself and stopped, he was so steamed. Would have loved to see it play out.
* Bad Stat. On the crawl, NBC informed us Arrogate holds the Pegasus record of 1:48.83, set in 2017. This being the second running, you think?
* Eurton needs to get much better. Sure, this wasn't the time or place for such complexities, but when racing has ancient problems like race day medications, wagering integrity, race fixing and even uncoordinated post times, ask Stronach Group's Belinda Stronach what she means by taking racing to the "next level." Where's Jeannine Edwards when you need her?
* Gun Runner is a beautiful horse and you can't help but wish he'd run another year. Being the son of proven sire Candy Ride, this race will most definitely boost his stud fees. Reading Bailey's and Moss's minds too, we all know that ship in this game has sailed.
* TVG, televising before NBC, had a gimmick going where you play eight races over Saturday and Sunday. The cost to play would be your sign-up bonus, or something. Todd "Lily Von" Schrupp and "Sir" Simon Bray, with modest racing bones and that English accent, proceeded to berate viewers who wouldn't sign up. "Unfortunately, they invented this word in my home country, but don't be a DUMMKOPF. You gotta play. It's free!" Playing Lou Costello, Bray said "Yeah, don't be a dummkopf," kindling memories of Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson. Was Schrupp apologizing for Hogan's Heroes? The SS?
Gun Runner's jock, Frenchman Florent Geroux, whose father died after a riding accident in late December, popped up to Chicago last week and passed his U.S. citizenship examination.
He was beaming, almost walking on air. All I could think of is what would happen if the horse's ass in the White House snuck up behind Gun Runner, which you know he would do
Previously: Pegasus Preview.
1. From Scott Kennedy:
Guflstream is pretty and I don't mind walking through the casino to get to the track, largely because the paddock is such a sight to see, but the tote board royally sucks. It's very small and it's way in the center of the infield, not the near side like usual.
I was at the Florida Derby last year and I couldn't read the board. I had to use an app on my phone because I couldn't see the board. Also, on big days they could use a few more betting windows. There were even long lines to the automated machines.