HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) This was the scenario that Gun Runner’s connections envisioned a year ago: Get a perfect ride at Gulfstream Park, and win the sport’s richest race.
They didn’t get the chance last year.
The wait was most certainly worthwhile.
Gun Runner went into retirement as not only the reigning Horse of the Year, but now a winner of the biggest paycheck in the game. Gun Runner pulled away from West Coast in the stretch to win the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday, taking home $7 million of the $16 million purse and ending his career on a five-race winning streak – all of them Grade 1 tests.
”Just so proud of the horse,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. ”What a dream come true he is.”
Gun Runner started from the No. 10 post in a 12-horse field, and typically at Gulfstream starting that far from the rail can prove to be a tough challenge to overcome. But jockey Florent Geroux eliminated the problem masterfully and quickly, getting Gun Runner to settle in behind only Collected very early in the race.
And from there, Geroux merely bided his time for when to ask the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner for his best stride.
The move came with about three furlongs to go. Gun Runner poked his head to the front, and he was gone. West Coast stayed within 2 1/2 lengths for second, and Gunnevera was third – albeit more than 13 lengths behind the winner. Gun Runner returned $4.20 for the win, finishing the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 47.41 seconds.
For his career, Gun Runner raced 19 times, winning 12, finishing second three times and third twice.
”He’s improved with every opportunity that he got,” Asmussen said. ”Even when he didn’t have success, he moved forward from it. He’s just a special individual and we’re so blessed to be in his presence.”
Gun Runner will retire with nearly $16 million in earnings. Only the now-retired Arrogate – Gun Runner’s top rival in 2017 and the winner of the inaugural Pegasus a year ago – won more money in his career.
”There’s no other horse like him,” Geroux said.
The win caps an emotional time for Geroux as well.
Geroux’s father was seriously injured on Christmas Eve and died five days later. Meanwhile, Geroux – who has lived in the U.S. for a decade – was waiting to hear when he would be given the chance to take his U.S. citizenship test. It ultimately was scheduled for Friday in Chicago, one day before the Pegasus.
Geroux passed that test.
He and Gun Runner passed with flying colors on Saturday as well.