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Gun Runner draws challenge for swan song

Ron Flatter  
VSiN.com

January 24, 2018 11:20 AM

LAS VEGAS--The good news for Gun Runner: He did not draw the 12 hole for Saturday’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

The bad news: He still drew outside at post 10.

Statistically, that may be a kiss of death for the likely 2017 Horse of the Year as he is prepared for his only race of 2018 before going off to stud.

“It wouldn’t have been our choice,” Gun Runner’s trainer Steve Asmussen told reporters in Florida after Wednesday morning’s draw at Gulfstream Park. “You don’t know to complain about a post position until after the race is run. It might work out perfectly for me.”

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The problem at Gulfstream is the short, 150-yard run to the first turn in a nine-furlong race. It is historically a bad setup for horses drawn outside post 8. Just this winter only 1 of 32 starters in posts 9-12 have won at a mile or more on the main track.

Nevertheless, Gun Runner (4-5) was installed the favorite to win the second running of the world’s richest race. If there was any solace in his draw, it was the fact that the other two horses bringing early speed to the race – Sharp Azteca (6-1) and Collected (8-1) – drew posts 4 and 5, respectively. If the others in between fall back in the pack early, it could give jockey Florent Geroux and Gun Runner a cleaner path to the clubhouse turn.

“I actually was surprised he was on the lead in the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic,” Asmussen said. “It’s just how sharp he was and Florent getting along with him. Those were taxing fractions on a racetrack that speed wasn’t holding, and it worked out well. We’ll let him run his race and see where he ends up with it.”

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After turning in a 49-second, four-furlong breeze Monday at Gulfstream, Gun Runner will be bidding for his fifth consecutive win – all in Grade 1 races – before heading to a breeding career this spring at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.

The morning line written by Gulfstream Park handicapper Jay Stone differed from the futures book at the Wynn Las Vegas most notably with the second choice of Sharp Azteca, which still carried value of 8-1 at Johnny Avello’s race book.

The scheduled post time for Saturday’s Pegasus is 5:40 p.m. EST, although since NBC is carrying the race, it is likely to be later than that. A cloudy, windy day is forecast with a high temperature of 74 and an east wind of 20 mph blowing from the Gulfstream backstretch to the grandstand.

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