Post position is paramount in Pegasus World Cup

Updated January 25, 2018 - 6:33 pm

Post position is often something of an afterthought in handicapping, but in Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational — the richest horse race in the world — it could well be the deciding factor.

The reason is that Gun Runner, the 4-5 morning line favorite in the $16.3 million race, drew post position 10. That’s a big disadvantage in a 1 1/8-mile race at Gulfstream Park, where the horses enter the first turn almost as soon as they leave the gate.

The outer post in the 12-horse field means that jockey Florent Geroux is going to have to make a critical decision in the initial strides, either gunning his mount to battle for the lead, risking getting caught very wide around the bend, or dropping back to try to move closer to the rail and save ground before trying to mow ’em down late.

The Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker did some research last year after California Chrome drew the even-worse 12 hole in the inaugural running of the Pegasus and found that only one horse — eventual Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown — had won from the 12 post since the rebuilt Gulfstream reopened in 2006.

Gun Runner didn’t draw quite that badly, but the numbers aren’t much better for the 10 hole, as Watchmaker noted: “There have been 223 horses to break from posts 9 through 14 at the same distance over the same period, and only 10 of them won, roughly one-third of the success rate of posts 1 and 3 over the same time frame. And at the current Gulfstream meet, posts 8 through 14 going two turns on the main track are 0 for 25.”

Ed DeRosa, communications director for TwinSpires.com, added to the gloom on Twitter after Wednesday’s post position draw, writing, “The last time a horse won from post 10 going 1 1/8 miles on dirt @GulfstreamPark was Feb. 11, 2012, when Hymn Book won the Donn Handicap.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner is the most talented horse in the race, and he may well win. But given the likely adverse scenarios, I’m seeing this as a situation to either bet against him or simply pass and enjoy the final race of the 5-year-old’s illustrious career before he is retired.

Sunset Station is offering a free handicapping seminar at 6 p.m. Friday in the race book featuring noted handicapping author Steve Davidowitz and former Review-Journal racing columnist Richard Eng. Also, all Station Casinos race books will be offering a $20,000 Twin Q on Saturday.

#RJhorseracing featured races

Making the Pegasus one of our weekly #RJhorseracing handicapping challenge races was a no-brainer, but our crew also tackled the $125,00 South Beach Stakes immediately preceding the main event.

In the South Beach, a turf race for fillies and mares contested at about 7½ furlongs, the crowd handicappers sided with Stormy Victoria (7-2 second choice on the morning line) over Ghostly Presence (8-1) and Celestine (5-2).

With a hot pace projected, I like their top pick as well, but I’ll take a stab with Always Thinking (15-1), who has run some strong races sprinting on the turf and need only be ready to fire fresh.

In the Pegasus, the gang likes Gun Runner to go out a winner, poor post or no, with West Coast (8-1) and Sharp Azteca (6-1) rounding out the trifecta.

I’ll stick to my guns and put a few bucks on West Coast if he stays close to his morning line price, figuring he still has room to improve as a newly turned 4-year-old.

You can get in on the action next week by emailing me or playing along on Twitter (hashtag #RJhorseracing).

Contact Mike Brunker at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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