Five Key Takeaways from a Sensational Pegasus Saturday

Racing
Assistant trainer Scott Blasi leads Gun Runner and Florent Geroux into the Pegasus winner’s circle, with trainer Steve Asmussen (right) celebrating alongside. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five major takeaways from the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational run on Saturday at Gulfstream Park:  

OVER EARLY: There were some (my hand is up) who thought post 10 could cause enough early trouble for Gun Runner that it would send him to defeat in this 1 1/8-mile contest, his career finale. Once he shot from the starting gate, secured strong early position during the short run into the first turn and settled comfortably behind front-running Collected, the outcome was hardly in doubt. “We felt wonderful about it,” trainer Steve Asmussen said of how swiftly his horse overcame the poor post. Yet another reminder: That is what champions do.

RECORD HANDLE: Gulfstream Park reported an all-sources handle of $41,983,881, the largest non-Breeders’ Cup handle in the track’s 79-year history and a four percent increase on the inaugural $12 million Pegasus last year. Although the race remains a work in progress – many participants would like to see changes -- The Stronach Group has to be commended for its willingness to think big and to invest so heavily in its determination to make the Pegasus an annual mega-event.

WHIRLWIND FOR GEROUX: It has been a whirlwind couple of days for winning jockey Florent Geroux. On Friday, he was in Chicago to take an oral exam that allowed the French native to become a naturalized United States citizen. One day later, he was in South Florida to provide Gun Runner with the ideal ride, allowing them to combine for their fifth consecutive Grade 1 triumph, all of them decisive. Geroux said of his decision to leave France for the United States in 2008, “This is why I came here, for opportunities like this.”

IMPRESSIVE SECOND: Newly-turned 4-year-old West Coast, fresh from winning the Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading 3-year-old male, gave every indication he is sitting on a big year for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. With Gun Runner retired, the case can be made that he is the most serious horse in training. “I think my horse is really going to step out and become a top, top horse,” said jockey Javier Castellano. No argument here.

ENCOURAGING THIRD: Gunnevera, also looking for a strong 4-year-old campaign, was no match for the top two. But he acquitted himself well in taking third. “I don’t think many people thought he had a chance to win,” said trainer Antonio Sano. “But he showed he’s a very good horse and he ran a big race.” Sano, like Geroux, is pleased to be with his family in the United States. He was kidnapped and held for ransom twice in his native Venezuela. Now, he is a fan favorite in South Florida.

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