Updated with Quotes / Workouts That May Just Work Out for You: Christmas Eve Focus on Santa, Gun Runner and Seeking the Soul

(Photo of the great Gun Runner working at Churchill Downs, and then working at the Fair Grounds this morning with stablemate Gettysburg / that photo courtesy of Churchill Downs and Coady Photography)

The best work of the day will be reserved for this evening when the man in the red silks takes out his steeds for their annual breeze. But until we see them work in company, we will have to go with these (Did that rhyme?):

Every day, we scour the work tabs at racetracks and training facilities all over North America searching for the horses that appear to be peaking at just the right time for a prime afternoon performance. Some of the horses that we watch and track, you will recognize. Others, though, you may not know — yet. Here is a closer look at today’s morning glories:

  1. Gun Runner, the champion of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and the definitive Champion of the World right now, got another prep in this morning for the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January. The big chestnut son of Candy Ride rolled through his 5-furlong work in a time of 1:01 flat, which was the 5th best time out of 56.  The best time of the day was turned in by Gun Runner’s stablemate and younger understudy, Tap Daddy, who grilled the distance and stop watches in a brisk 1:00.80. According to all, the work went perfectly for Gun Runner and all his connections — trainer Steve Asmussen and the Winchell Throughbreds LLC, led by racing manager David Fiske. Gun Runner worked in company with stablemate Gettysburg. Gun Runner sat chilly behind his work pal, who set the fractions of :12.3, :25, :37 and :49.2 before galloping out in 1:14. It was the big guy’s fourth breeze at the Fair Grounds since his win at Del Mar. “He worked nice,” said Scott Blasi, the assistant for Asmussen and the make in charge on the grounds. “(He) relaxed well off of Gettysburg and he galloped out well. We’re very happy with him.”
  2. Seeking the Soul, who captured the G1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in his last start and will make the starting gate next in the Pegasus World Championships at Gulfstream Park in January, tuned up at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans this morning. He breezed a half mile for trainer Dallas Stewart in an easy :49 flat, which was the 21st best time out of 106 to go the distance. Owned by Charles Fipke, who also considered running his top mare Unbridled Forever in the Pegasus as well before settling on the colt instead, Seeking the Soul is a 4YO by Perfect Soul.  He has 8 starts this year, with a total of three wins. After starting the season off here on Jan. 21 with a 7th place finish, Seeking the Soul went to Churchill Downs and in May ran another 7th. But after that, the guy really kicked it into high gear. He ran third at Belmont Park in June and then won at Saratoga in July. Since then he has run third in the G3 Lukas Stakes at Churchill Downs and then put together back-to-back wins. He will have to have his running shoes on full bore, though, to challenge the great Gun Runner in the Pegasus. “He worked great,” said Dallas Stewart. “It was awesome. Couldn’t be happier with him.”
  3. Givemeaminit, the Louisiana-bred by Star Guitar who ran 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, was on the track this morning at The Fair Grounds for trainer Dallas Stewart. He breezed a half mile in :50.60, in a pure maintenance move. That was the 74th best time out of 106 to go the distance. This guy has run in 4 Graded Stakes events out of his 5 career starts, including a 5th in the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and a 3rd in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. The only time he faced Maidens, he was second at Saratoga. He is now entered in the Louisiana Futurity at FG on New Year’s Eve. That is a 6-furlong event just for LA-breds — the first time he will be in restricted company. Keep an eye out for this guy. He will be ridden by James Graham and has drawn the 4 hole.
  4. Lionite, a 2YO colt by Quality Road who is owned by the Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing, worked this a.m. in New Orleans. He breezed an easy half mile in 51.60 for the barn of Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi. That was the 96th best time out of the 106.  Winchell purchased this guy for $330,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016 is still a maiden, but did run a game 4th behind Free Drop Billy in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity back in October. He was given a break after that performance and this was his first work back. Keep an eye on this guy. Should improve as a 3YO.
  5. Mr. Misunderstood, who is still undefeated on grass for trainer Brad Cox and has put together a record of 6 wins in 7 starts this year, worked an easy half-mile in :49.20 this morning in New Orleans. That was the 28th best time. But it was his final prep for the Woodchopper Stakes here on Dec. 30. Mr. Misunderstood drew perfectly into the #5 hole, and will get Florent Geroux up for that Stakes event. It will be a stern test for Mr. Misunderstood. Also in the field are Tom Proctor’s pair of Big Bend and Caribou Club; Brad Cox’s other top grass horse Cowboy Culture, and others. Mr. Misunderstood goes in with 4 wins in a row, including an easy triumph in the G3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11 in his last try.

Going to the three-eighths pole, I went to go around Javier [Castellano, aboard New Money Honey, No. 3] and he went out so I had to travel a little bit wider from the five-sixteenths pole to the quarter-pole,” said Velazquez. “It cost me a little bit down the lane to get her back into rhythm. She switched leads late but when she final did, she gave me that spur down the lane to get down there in time. She’s a very good filly. She just has to put it together at the start and break better, but she’s definitely talented.”

John Velazquez, Rider of the winner Sistercharlie
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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