NEW ORLEANS, LA – With frigid weather looming in New Orleans, trainer Steve Asmussen wanted a little something extra from Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner during his weekly workout Sunday in preparation for Gulfstream Park’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup.
And in the case of Gun Runner, heavy favorite to be likely be feted as North America’s Horse of the Year two days before the January 27 Pegasus, a little extra produces the extraordinary.
In company with his trusty workmate Gettysburg, Gun Runner powered 3/4 of a mile in 1:10 3/5 at the Fair Grounds Race Course on the last day before both horses officially turn 5 years old. To put that time in perspective, out of 78 races conducted at 6 furlongs during the Fair Grounds meet through Saturday, only nine have gone faster than Gun Runner’s work, according to Brisnet.com.
The Fair Grounds clockers timed Gun Runner’s 1/8-mile splits in 12 2/5 seconds for the first furlong, followed by 24 for the 1/4-mile, 35 1/5 for 3/8, 47 3/5 for the 1/2, and 58 1/5 for 5/8, with gallop-out times of 1:24 3/5 for the 7/8 and 1:39 1/5 for the mile.
“He worked amazing. Time to pick it up with him, and obviously he’s very willing,” Asmussen said. “He looked wonderful and cooled out great. He’s just fast.”
Gun Runner’s half-mile split of 47 3/5 was faster than horses working that distance (47 4/5 being the fastest time among that group of 91), his 58 3/5 easily topping the “bullet” for 5/8 of 59 1/5 among 73 at that distance. Regular exercise rider Angel Garcia was on Gun Runner, with jockey Florent Geroux in France because of his father’s death last week.
Asmussen isn’t known for mandating fast times from his horses, so when one uncorks such an eye-popping effort, it’s because that’s just who the horse is, as the trainer likes to say. But Asmussen did want Gun Runner to do more than he might under normal circumstances, given that the temperature is expected to plunge below freezing the next few nights, including a low of 25 degrees Monday.
“We have a little pending weather coming, and we’re most likely going to miss a couple of days,” he said. “I really wanted him to get something out of this, in case the weather lingers around. So we did ask him to pick it up today. I thought he did it nicely. He looked great. If all is perfect, we’ll have two more works here before we go to Gulfstream.”
Gun Runner is scheduled to fly to Florida on January 18. The 1 1/8-mile Pegasus will be Gun Runner’s last race before retiring to a stallion career at Three Chimneys Farm, which co-owns the horse with Winchell Thoroughbreds.