Gun Runner rates best but eying others for Pegasus World Cup

Gun Runner rates best but eying others for Pegasus World Cup

January 23, 2018 3:00 AM
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Gulfstream Park certainly is trying to cast a giant shadow on the 2018 racing season.

This coming Saturday – just the 27th day of 2018, GP will present the richest horse race in the world, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup along with seven other stakes worth an additional $1.25 million.

The 1-1/8 mile Pegasus will be the final career start for the 5-year-old Gun Runner, a cinch to be named 2017 Horse of the Year and the probable short-priced betting favorite for Saturday’s race.

To date, Gun Runner has earned close to $9 million from 11 wins in 18 career starts, including 5 of 7 at the nine-furlong distance. He also owns the two best Beyer Speed Figures in the field – a 115 and 117 in his last two starts. Yet, it also is true Gun Runner has never raced at Gulfstream, which could be an issue.

Frankly, that fact is a mere slice of the kind of negative information horseplayers must confront every day at every level of competition. It also is the reason why I rarely take a short price on a horse, even when said horse seems to be the best in the field. Experience says there are just too many subtle things that can go wrong; too many reasons why a horse can lose its best form without notice.

Of equal import, if a player decides to ignore a potentially negative issue, the payoff invariably will be less than we deserve when such a flawed short-priced selection actually wins!

That said, I know I may wind up with egg on my face if such an obvious favorite as Gun Runner easily wins the Pegasus. But as you will see in my selections below, I am going against Gun Runner in the Pegasus for reasons hinted at in the positive credentials I’ve listed for a few members of this excellent field.

Because post positions have yet to be drawn, you will note my horse-by-horse-analysis appears in alphabetical order, followed by my 1-2-3 selections. While I will lock into my published selections right here, I will save my Pegasus wagering strategies for this Friday evening (6 p.m.) at my Sunset Station racebook seminar, where I will be joined by Chuck Esposito, Richard Eng and Brian Blessing.

Yet, before I share my Pegasus analysis, I feel compelled to reinforce the first point I raised about this very rich day of racing.

In future years, if the Pegasus were to be scheduled for September or early October, I believe it would provide a great target race for America’s best horses while also boosting mid-season attention toward the Breeders’ Cup. In other words, Gulfstream Park probably will benefit briefly from offering the Pegasus this Saturday, but I believe the event is being offered way too early to benefit racing as a whole.

The Pegasus Field:

Collected: Bob Baffert trainee is two for two at 1-1/8 miles, seven for nine on dirt and four for six last year. Also was 2nd to Gun Runner in the 2017 BC Classic but never has raced at GP and recently went poorly at 3-10 odds.

Fear the Cowboy: E. Loza, Jr. trainee is four for six at GP but only one for five at 1-1/8 miles; meeting much tougher here.

Giant Expectations: Trained by Peter Eurton; was four for seven in 2017 and did win a recent 1-1/16 mile race with a 106 Beyer Figure, with Collected 3rd.

Giuseppe the Great: Trained by Nick Zito; is one for three at GP, zero for three at 1-1/8 miles; seems overmatched.

Gunnevera: Antonio Sano-trained stretch threat with a 109 Beyer Figure; is three for seven at GP but zero for one at 1-1/8 miles.

Gun Runner: Steve Asmussen trainee makes his GP debut but is five for seven at 1-1/8 and won the BC Classic. Also owns excellent 115 and 117 Beyer Figures.

Singing Bullet: Trained by Dale Romans; is zero for one at GP with no 1-1/8 mile races and below par Figures.

Seeking the Gold: Dallas Stewart-trained longshot has no GP races but is two for five at 1-1/8 miles; must improve sharply.

Sharp Azteca: Joseph Navarro trainee is an excellent three for five at GP with no 1-1/8 mile races; Yet, he scored 112 and 115 Figures in NY.

Stellar Wind: John Sadler-trained 6-year-old mare has no GP races but is one for four at 1-1/8; earned a 110 Figure vs. fillies in Oct.

Toast of New York: James Osborne longshot is four for nine lifetime. Finished sharp 2nd in the 2014 BCup Classic with a 113 Figure and won his only 2017 start last month. The distance suits.

War Story: Jorge Navarro’s other Pegasus horse was a fair 4th in the 2017 BCup Classic but is zero for two at GP.

West Coast: Baffert’s other Pegasus runner is two for two at 1-1/8 miles and had a 112 Beyer when 3rd in last month’s BC Classic.

My Selections

I like Sharp Azteca to upset and I rank the longshot British invader Toast of New York 2nd and favored Gun Runner, 3rd.

See you at the Sunset Station Seminar.