Gun Runner Takes the Spotlight in Foster

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Gun Runner | Sherackatthetrack

By Ben Massam

In addition to being Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg})’s home base for the majority of the year, Churchill Downs has served as a checkpoint for various stages of the chestnut’s career. It was the site where he graduated from the maiden ranks at first asking in September 2015, the site where one year ago he posted an authoritative victory in the GIII Matt Winn S. and the site where he became a Grade I winner and defeated older horses for the first time in the GI Clark H. Nov. 25. The latter triumph was a coming out party of sorts for the Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm colorbearer, who up until that point was known for his remarkable consistency in chasing top members of his class home in the Classics.

Gun Runner recently delivered a career-best effort when completing the exacta behind North America’s all-time richest Thoroughbred, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song), in the Mar. 25 G1 Dubai World Cup. Saturday night, he goes postward as the main attraction and heavy favorite in the GI Stephen Foster H. back home at Churchill Downs.

“Gun Runner was a completely different horse last year during his 3-year-old campaign,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen told the Churchill notes team. “He has physically developed into a different animal. We knew with his type of running style and pedigree that he would keep getting better over time…We gave him a break after he ran in Dubai and he’s been training smoothly ever since.”

One potential complicating factor for front-running Gun Runner is the presence of two likely pace rivals in Bird Song (Unbridled’s Song) and Stanford (Malibu Moon). Bird Song has notched two graded stakes successes in wire-to-wire fashion this year, most recently annexing the May 6 GII Alysheba S. over a rain-soaked strip to run his Churchill Downs record to three-for-four. The classy Stanford, meanwhile, did not find a wet track to his liking when fifth as the favorite in the Apr. 22 GII Charles Town Classic.

Honorable Duty (Distorted Humor) enjoyed an impressive three-race win streak at the Fair Grounds this winter, culminating with a tally in the GII New Orleans H. Apr. 1, and the bay recently crossed the wire second behind Bird Song in the Alysheba. The Brendan Walsh trainee could be an off-the-pace threat beneath Hall of Fame electee Javier Castellano. Breaking Lucky (Lookin At Lucky) was a neck second behind Honorable Duty in the New Orleans, and further back, a strong runner-up behind Gun Runner in the Clark. Excluding his tries over wet tracks, the 5-year-old has run a number of races that would make him competitive against this group.

 

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