The Monday Special – Jan. 29

- -

The second Pegasus World Cup Invitational went into the history books Saturday, along with the brilliant career of Gun Runner. Last year’s Horse of the Year made quick work of the $16 million Pegasus, rolling home to beat 2017 champion 3-year-old West Coast to highlight the weekend of January. 

To commemorate Gun Runner’s victory – and to give This Is Horse Racing a bit of a jolt to start the week – we’re bringing back our Monday morning recap. The Monday Special will look back at some of the weekend’s best races and events, some obvious and others not so obvious, in our usual style and with license to point out what we did right and what we did wrong. Consider it a recap without the regurgitation of an Equibase chart and the tediousness of the typical game story. Here’s the first edition. Enjoy. 

Star of the Weekend
Steve Asmussen said it way back in August.

“He’s the perfect weapon.”

Gun Runner was the perfect weapon then and again Saturday when the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride crafted a perfect bookend to his $15.9 career by dominating the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.

Detractors warned that he couldn’t overcome the 10 post going 9 furlongs at Gulfstream. Guess, they didn’t know that he was the perfect weapon. Under Florent Geroux, Gun Runner placed himself in the sweet spot of yet another race, strolled to the lead when asked, powered through the stretch, swapped his lead late (again) and blazed off the stage.

The Pegasus, an invitational race that’s billed as the richest race in the world, has some questions and some detractors but it has provided crescendos the past two Januarys, with Arrogate last year and Gun Runner this year. A bonus, it offered fans one last chance to see Gun Runner at his best. Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, the 12-time winner shipped to Three Chimneys the day after the Pegasus.

Job done.

We wrote about Gun Runner a few times last summer in The Saratoga Special. Check out these stories:
Punching The Clock
Gun Blazing

The Local

Maryland-based conditioner Tim Keefe has a runner. Still Having Fun won the Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes at Laurel Park Saturday, with a polished, inside-move to win on his own. Co-bred by Keefe, the son of Old Fashioned began his career with Keefe’s longtime owners, Terp Racing, then added the far-reaching partnership of Gary Barber and Wachtel Racing after a maiden win. He’s now 2-for-3 and going places. 

The Next AP
You heard it here first, Jonjo O’Neill Jr. is on the cusp of greatness.

He’s described modestly on his father’s website.

Jonjo Jr has been part of the team at Jackdaws from the very beginning, riding out whenever time allowed, and now school is behind him, he is setting out on what he hopes will prove to be his first steps towards a successful career in Jump racing. With extensive experience already banked including several years on the Pony Racing circuit, Jonjo will be working full time with his father and riding as an amateur whenever opportunities arise.

The opportunities will arise. Tidy as a gift-wrapped watch, the apprentice jockey finishes like a flat jockey. He’s won 15 races so far.

Only 4,343 to go. 

Steeplechase Quote of the Week
“I have a room full of stuff in South Carolina, a room full of stuff in Pennsylvania and a room full of stuff in Maryland. I’d buy a caravan before I’d buy a house.” – Champion steeplechase jockey Darren Nagle when asked where he lives.

Steeplechase Quote of the Week II
“Connor got into horses because I was into horses. If I was playing golf, he would be playing golf today. And then it develops into something else.” – Owner Mike Hankin, referring to his son Connor, while explaining the organic development of steeplechasing

Writing Advice
“You’ve got to be the God of your story.” Sports Illustrated’s S. L. Price on the Sunday Long Read podcast.

Name of the Weekend
Daltrey. HRH Princess Haya of Jordan’s 3-year-old colt is out of Roger Sez.

Save of the Weekend
Irish jockey Paul Townend on Kemboy, who mistook the last fence for a billow of smoke, clouting the fence and launching Townend to the back seat. Horse shocked jockey. Horse saved jockey. Horse and jockey won.

The Best of The Saturday Special
We wrote – Cheltenham. Race 3. 8:50. Breath of fresh air? Bryony Frost has been a hurricane of fresh air this season. She’s talented, she’s energetic and she keeps her season on the crest with Frodon in the Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase.

Frost slipped highweight Frodon through on the inside and won comfortably. She’s a star, just as her brother, Haddon, realized when his career was fading and hers was burgeoning.”

The Worst of The Saturday Special
We wrote – Cheltenham. Race 2. 8:15. The Tizzard train needs to come to life. Sizing Tennessee stokes it here.

The train is still in the station as Sizing Tennessee came up empty, continuing a frustrating season for Tizzard.

Tweet of the Week
From Mark @ShamIAmNot:

News of another Spiral Stakes name change broke today. Here are my predictions for how the race will be named in the future:

2018 Jeff Ruby Steaks

2019 Jeff Ruby Steaks

2020 [race canceled due to nuclear war]

2021 Trump Steaks

2022 MySpace Spiral Stakes

2023 RadioShack Spiral Stakes

2024 Vanilla Ice For President Spiral Stakes

2025 Big Baller Brand Spiral Stakes

2026 Joe’s Mini Mart, 423 Madison St, Florence KY Spiral Stakes

2027 Bring Chrome Home Spiral Stakes

2028 Your Name Here Spiral Stakes

2029 1-877-Kars4Kids Spiral Stakes

2030 #SongbirdWon Super PAC Spiral Stakes

2031 Martha, will you marry me? Love, Greg Spiral Stakes

2032 Post Malone for President Spiral Stakes

2033 License Plate XBR582, Your Lights Are On Spiral Stakes

2034 Please Someone Sponsor This Spiral Stakes

2035 Navarro Brand Vegetable Juice (™) Spiral Stakes

2036 Fast and Accurate Stakes

2037 Fast and Accurate Stakes

2038 Fast and Accurate Stakes

2039 Fast and Accurate Stakes

Stable Tour Archives
On Saturday, we wrote, Remember our man Nessy? We wrote about him in Ian Wilkes’ Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour last summer at Saratoga and in the recap of the Grade 3 Sycamore last fall at Keeneland. He’s in with a solid chance in Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Handicap going 12 furlongs on the grass.

Nessy ran hard to finish second.

And we leave you with the saddest story in racing
Richard Woollacott, a 40-year-old British trainer, succumbed to suicide last week.

His wife, Kayley, penned the following. Tough reading, but necessary reading.

I’ve lost my husband, best friend and the father of our child. It’s too late for us, he has gone but it’s not too late to speak out and do more to help others from becoming lost.

Richard was a wonderful husband and father to his three children, as well as a truly talented trainer who achieved many amazing things despite battling mental health problems for many years.

The happy, enthusiastic, determined, and social person that everyone has paid such beautiful tributes to, is the man I love and married, but unfortunately we also struggled with many hidden issues behind closed doors, which ultimately carried a very tragic price.

Horse racing was our life, a life we chose and one we loved, but it can be an unforgiving and demanding game, that delivers incredible highs and lows as demonstrated in many of his emotional television interviews.

I am incredibly proud of Richard and, although he may have never felt or admitted it himself, he was hugely successful. He was a National Champion Point To Point jockey, having trained the majority of the winners he rode, and a Grade 2 Winning National Hunt trainer. I am just devastated that we were unable to make him believe in himself in the same way we all did.

Suicide is the single biggest cause of death of men between 18-45. We must DO more.

Click here to read more and donate.