I returned to Gulfstream the morning of the Pegasus World Cup, eager to see workouts at the lovely setting. I enjoyed being in the Florida warmth in January, the first time I’d ever been anywhere warm in winter, and also seeing the palm trees around the track and paddock. The track and its environs are a lovely setting for photos, and the atmosphere the day of the Pegasus World Cup was a lot of fun, with an amazing live band that loaned even more of a tropical feel to the day.
La Prevoyante Handicap
Race 4, maiden special weight
Race 5, a maiden special weight
Won by Neepawa (not pictured)
Ladies’ Turf Sprint Stakes
Fred W. Hooper Stakes
W.L. McKnight Handicap
Hurricane Bertie Stakes
Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Handicap
won by Rainbow Heir
Pegasus World Cup
This was the race I came for, to see Gun Runner’s swan song as well, after thrilling to his Stephen Foster victory and its large margin of victory and his season-ending Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as every race in between. I don’t often travel that far to see a particular horse race, but he was one that I wanted to do that for.
I didn’t know what the atmosphere surrounding this race would be, given its recent beginning, and of course having never been to it. The anticipation waiting for the horses to enter the paddock felt every bit as strong as that I’ve felt at any Derby I’ve been to, and the people thronging the paddock and in it increased markedly preceding the World Cup, just as it does for the Derby. While the crowd was understandably smaller than at the Kentucky Derby, it did still grow in numbers of attendees right before this race, just as at the Derby.
Gun Runner looked magnificent, calm, and collected as always. He had been going through his workouts prior to the race looking as strong as he had during his whole multi-race win streak. I was as confident as one could be that he’d close out his career with an emphatic victory, even given the vagaries surrounding racing and trying to assess ahead of time what a particular horse may do in a race.
Before, I had thought it was a little bittersweet to know this was Gun Runner’s last race and his last works–bitter because sometimes you just don’t want to see a good run end, even knowing something being finite makes it all the sweeter, ultimately; and sweet because there was one more opportunity to see Gun Runner do what he has done so well, and hopefully delight in another victory.
He entered the saddling area wearing his Breeders’ Cup Classic blanket, embroidered with his name. He didn’t walk around that area like several of the other horses, so I didn’t get another look at him until he entered the walking ring.
I was grateful to Gulfstream for creating a ticket option that limited access directly around the rail at the walking ring, so I had a chance to see Gun Runner and the other contenders up close without having to contend with finding a spot with everyone who had purchased general admission.
I had planned to watch the race by the grandstand, but since I had bought the ticket that allowed me rail access to the walking ring, I chose to see Gun Runner as much as possible there and then watched the race on the screen instead of fighting through crowds at the rail by the track. I did go over to be part of the celebration once he won, though and it was a thrill to celebrate his victory as it is anytime your favored horse wins, but even more fun surrounded by racing enthusiasts. I had thought I wouldn’t want to come all this way and still watch it on a screen, but since I got to see him beforehand and was still surrounded by excited people, it didn’t diminish the experience at all. There was a large group in the walking ring who celebrated wildly and I was so happy to see him win one more time and applaud the effort of a top-notch horse.
It was even better to get to see him up close and all the acclaim he received as he reached the grandstand again. It made the whole trip and being there personally worth it. It didn’t even feel bittersweet. It was just exultation and soaking in all that goes along with seeing an incredible runner win brilliantly and easily once more.