01/23/2017 2:50PM

Gun Runner denied entry in Pegasus World Cup

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Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Gun Runner wins the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 25.

The connections of Grade 1 winner Gun Runner on Monday submitted an entry for the horse in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, but the entry was rejected by Gulfstream Park officials, a representative of the connections said.

David Fiske, the racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds, which co-owns Gun Runner with Three Chimneys Farm, said that Gulfstream officials rejected the entry because the horse had not been tested for the equine herpesvirus through a nasal swab. Gulfstream officials had insisted that Gun Runner test negative for the highly contagious disease through both a blood test and a nasal swab, but the horse’s connections had refused to do so, citing the possibility of a false positive from the nasal swab landing the horse in an extended quarantine.

On Sunday, representatives of Gulfstream and Gun Runner had both said they had failed to find common ground on the necessity of a negative nasal-swab test as a condition of entry in the race, and both sides said they were disappointed that they could not come to an agreement. A blood test on the horse was negative for the disease, the two sides confirmed.

Gun Runner has been stabled this winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where two horses tested positive for the neuropathogenic strain of the equine herpesvirus late last year. A quarantine of most of the barns on the backstretch was lifted last Saturday, including on the barn where Gun Runner was stabled.

Gulfstream Park officials did not immediately return calls.

Fiske said the connections decided to enter the horse for Saturday’s race as a “kind of Hail Mary, 11th-hour thing” in case Gulfstream officials changed their minds about the nasal swab between Monday morning and the draw for the Pegasus, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday. He said the connections made the decision in part under the belief that Gulfstream did not apply the same dual-test standards to horses based at nearby Payson Park last year when the training center was briefly quarantined.

News reports of the lifting of the Payson Park quarantine did not include details about whether horses there tested negative in both blood and nasal-swab tests.

Gun Runner’s connections reached a deal last week to start the horse in the Pegasus with Mick Ruis Sr., a California-based former trainer who bought a slot in the Pegasus for $1 million, along with 11 other slot buyers. Gun Runner likely would have been a distant third choice in the race behind the one-two finishers in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Arrogate and California Chrome.

When asked whether the connections of Gun Runner had entered the horse in order to create an actionable basis for a lawsuit by forcing Gulfstream to reject the entry, Fiske said, “Not to my knowledge. Ron [Winchell, the owner of Winchell Thoroughbreds] is not really a litigious guy, and I don’t think Mick is either.”

Ruis did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Gulfstream Park is owned by The Stronach Group, which is controlled by Frank Stronach, who purchased a slot in the Pegasus as well. Stronach plans to start his homebred Shaman Ghost.