Gun Runner's bad luck with regard to the Pegasus World Cup got better this year.
It's still not good.
The likely 2017 Horse of the Year is the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the $16 million race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, but he drew one of the outside posts in the 12-horse field, which is a low-percentage position from which to win nine-furlong races on the dirt at Gulfstream.
The way his 2017 season went, Gun Runner certainly is good enough to overcome that in what will be his swan song; he will retire to stud after the Pegasus World Cup.
The start of that campaign was delayed when he missed this race last January, when horses from Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where Gun Runner was stabled, were barred from shipping to Gulfstream because of an outbreak of the contagious and sometimes fatal equine herpesvirus 1.
Arrogate went on to win the Pegasus, but Gun Runner closed 2017 with wins in the Whitney and Woodward at Saratoga Race Course and the Breeders' Cup Classic to stake his claim to Horse of the Year, which will be announced on Thursday.
"Wouldn't have been our first choice ... [but] we drew better than last year," trainer Steve Asmussen quipped to the Daily Racing Form, after Gun Runner drew post No. 10 for the Pegasus.
The race will be shown live on NBC during a broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m.
Among the 12 runners are four who finished behind Gun Runner in the BC Classic — Collected, Travers winner West Coast, War Story and Gunnevera, but not Arrogate, who was retired to stud after a fifth in the Classic.
The field, in post-position order, with jockeys: Singing Bullet (Robby Albarado); West Coast (Javier Castellano); Stellar Wind (Joel Rosario); Sharp Azteca (Irad Ortiz Jr.); Collected (Mike Smith); Gunnevera (Luis Saez); Fear the Cowboy (Tyler Gaffalione); War Story (Jose Ortiz); Toast of New York (Frankie Dettori); Gun Runner (Florent Geroux); Seeking the Soul (John Velazquez); and the New York-bred Giant Expectations (Gary Stevens).
Stellar Wind, the only female in the race, is trained by Mechanicville's Chad Brown.
The Pegasus World Cup, for which teams of shareholders post $1 million each to get their horse in the starting gate, carries the richest purse of any thoroughbred race in the world.
Despite the poor post position, Asmussen is looking forward to seeing what Gun Runner can do on Saturday, especially in light of last year's circumstances.
"You feel a little loss, of lack of opportunity to run him in it last year," he said during a national teleconference on Tuesday. "Hopefully, this puts us in position to correct that. We've had a lot of success letting Gun Runner decide where he wants to be [in a race], and we'll continue that."
After Wednesday's draw, he told the TVG Network: "Everything concerns you. Hopefully, he's away from there cleanly and is allowed to show who he is."