Gun Runner Leaves No Doubt in Classic; Arrogate 5th

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12th at DMR, Gr. Stk, $6 millionGI Breeders' Cup Classic (1 1/4m)Winner: Gun Runner, c, 4 by Candy Ride (Arg)

Gun Runner | Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

Saturday evening’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic was billed as the final showdown between defending race winner Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) and streaking familiar foe Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}). The latter showed up and produced his best effort, but rather than doing battle with the much too far back Arrogate, he instead fended off a stiff challenge from that one’s stablemate Collected (City Zip) to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths and seal up Horse of the Year honors. West Coast (Flatter) completed a two-three finish for the Bob Baffert barn, but the Hall of Famer’s stable star Arrogate broke awkwardly, never quite seemed to be gripping the racetrack and could only manage a non-threatening sixth before galloping out in front.

Tugging his way to the front without much encouragement from Florent Geroux, Gun Runner seized the early advantage from wide-drawn Collected and put up an opening quarter in a swift :22.50. He got the half in :46.31 with his closest pursuer glued to his right flank as West Coast got the run of the race and Arrogate remained far back. Arrogate started to pick it up behind six panels in 1:10.50, but Gun Runner and Collected were several lengths in front passing the quarter pole and seemed to have the race all to themselves. Gun Runner shook free when Geroux asked him to empty the tank, and he left no doubt as to his superiority on the day or his ability to get 10 panels, a trip he had never previously won at.

“Me and Florent talked earlier in the day after a few races, and we felt that we follow the pattern that got us here,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who saddled Curlin to victory in the 2007 Classic, said of the decision to go right to the front. “We wanted him away from the gates cleanly; into a nice rhythm. The confidence that Florent has in the horse, the way the horse has been training coming into this race, I think letting him be who he is has put him on this stage and made him undoubtedly the Horse of the Year.”

When asked what he was thinking heading down the backside, Geroux said, “I was feeling pretty good, honestly. My horse was very comfortable right there, and flopping his hair back and forth, it shows a sign that he was relaxing nicely for me while going quick. But he’s just a fast horse. From there I just tried to keep him as happy as I could. At the quarter pole it was just a two-horse race between me and Collected, and from there, we just went on, and the best horse won the race.”

Saturday, Del Mar
BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC-GI, $5,520,000, DMR, 11-4, 3yo/up, 1 1/4m, 2:01.29, ft.
1–GUN RUNNER, 126, c, 4, by Candy Ride (Arg)
1st Dam: Quiet Giant (GSW, $405,389), by Giant’s Causeway
2nd Dam: Quiet Dance, by Quiet American
3rd Dam: Misty Dancer, by Lyphard
O-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC & Three Chimneys Farm;
B-Besilu Stables, LLC (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen; J-Florent
Geroux. $3,300,000. Lifetime Record: 18-11-3-2, $8,988,500.
Werk Nick Rating: A+++.
*Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.2–Collected, 126, c, 4, City Zip–Helena Bay (GB), by
Johannesburg. ($150,000 Ylg ’14 KEESEP; $170,000 2yo ’15
OBSMAR). O-Speedway Stable LLC; B-Runnymede Farm Inc. &
Peter J. Callahan (KY); T-Bob Baffert. $1,020,000.3–West Coast, 122, c, 3, Flatter–Caressing, by Honour and
Glory. ($425,000 Ylg ’15 KEESEP). O-Gary & Mary West; B-CFP
Thoroughbreds LLC (KY); T-Bob Baffert. $540,000.Margins: 2 1/4, 1 1/4, HF. Odds: 2.40, 5.90, 4.20.
Also Ran: War Story, Gunnevera, Arrogate, Churchill (Ire), Mubtaahij (Ire), War Decree, Pavel, Win the Space. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

A three-time graded stakes winner last year at three, Gun Runner was third in the GI Kentucky Derby and filled the same slot behind a 13 1/2-length romper Arrogate in the GI Travers S. He was second in last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but foreshadowed a potentially very productive 4-year-old campaign when he dominated the GI Clark H. at Churchill some 11 months ago. Unable to contest Gulfstream Park’s lucrative

GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational–won, of course, by Arrogate–due to an equine herpesvirus outbreak at Fair Grounds, he was rerouted to Oaklawn, where he made short work of the GIII Razorback H. The G1 Dubai World Cup in March looked briefly like his race to lose when Arrogate completely missed the break, but the highest-rated horse in the world put in an improbable run to defeat Gun Runner by 2 1/4 lengths.

Since returning to the States, it had been nothing but trips to the winner’s circle for Gun Runner. He aired by seven lengths in Churchill’s GI Stephen Foster H. June 17, and had last been seen book-ending the Saratoga meet with open-length successes in the GI Whitney S. Aug. 5 and GI Woodward S. Sept. 2.

“The year started off with being denied going to the Pegasus through the quarantine in New Orleans,” noted Asmussen. “Plan B was to give him a race in the Razorback at Oaklawn previous to going to Dubai. And his works–his last race last year winning the Clark was impressive, but his works this year coming back were special.

“He obviously is bigger, stronger [this year], everything that his pedigree indicated would happen. Being a Candy Ride out of Giant’s Causeway half to St. Liam, who was best as an older horse, had to obviously come to fruition. And he’s a bigger, stronger, better version.”

Gun Runner’s connections had previously indicated that the Pegasus World Cup in early 2018 would be under consideration after the Breeders’ Cup, and said Saturday that they would wait to decide about future plans, including whether or not a potential Pegasus try would lead to a full campaign next year or be a final start before heading off to stud at Three Chimneys.

“I want to start out and say Steve’s done a phenomenal job, and that’s an understatement,” said co-owner Ron Winchell, whose family’s maroon and white silks have been carried by Asmussen standouts such as fellow Breeders’ Cup winners Untapable (Tapit) and Tapizar (Tapit). “He mentioned getting into a rhythm, and what gave me confidence coming into this race is, like Steve mentioned, a rhythm. This horse has been in such a great rhythm that he gives you confidence.

“I think after the last race, the Woodward, where he won by 10-plus lengths, I went back to the barn right after, and the horse had a ton of energy like he didn’t run, like he hadn’t ran. So I had a lot of confidence in the horse and Steve coming into this race. So it’s a special moment for all of us.”

PEDIGREE NOTES

Gun Runner was bred on the same Candy Ride/Storm Cat cross that is responsible for fellow Grade I winners Shared Belief, Evita Argentina, Sidney’s Candy, Mastery and Capt. Candymancan. His dam Quiet Giant, an Edward Evans homebred, concluded her career with a victory in the 2011 GII Molly Pitcher S. for trainer Todd Pletcher and was sold to Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables for $3 million at that year’s Keeneland November sale as part of the blockbuster Ned Evans dispersal. Gun Runner was acquired as a yearling when the Borges Torrealba family’s Three Chimneys purchased a majority interest in Leon’s bloodstock holdings.

Out of SW & GSP Quiet Dance (Quiet American), Quiet Giant is a half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam (Saint Ballado), GSW Congressionalhonor (Forestry), SW Dance Quietly (A.P. Indy) and SW & MGISP Miss Besilu (Medaglia d’Oro).

Gun Runner is the first foal out of the 10-year-old mare, whose now 2-year-old filly by Tapit summoned $1.4 million from Mandy Pope at last term’s Keeneland September sale. Quiet Giant produced another Tapit filly in 2016 and foaled a full-brother to Gun Runner May 17 of this year.

ARROGATE OFF TO STUD

As previously announced, TDN Rising StarArrogate will now head off to Stud at Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky.

“My horses ran well,” said Bob Baffert, who also sent out Mubtahij (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) in addition to the aforementioned trio. “Arrogate… I don’t know. He just can’t find the plate. He’s like a pitcher who can’t find the plate. Gun Runner is a really good horse and he ran a great race. My other horses ran great. I hate to make any excuses for the big horse (Arrogate), but he’s just not the horse he was. He struggles over this track, but when I got him up to Santa Anita, I thought maybe… When he broke, he broke flat-footed and broke in and he weaved in. He lost a lot of momentum there. We were hoping to really send him away from there. I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t know if it’s this track or what. He’s just losing interest and I think that’s what it is. He’s run so many incredible races that I really think he’s just losing interest. That’s what it is. It’s time [for him to retire].

“But he has done so much. What he accomplished in a short period of time, the Travers win, beating California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) [in the 2016 Classic], winning the Pegasus and the way he won in Dubai. You have to give Gun Runner credit. He laid it down and he took a lot of heat. Collected is a really good horse. We know how good he is.

“West Coast ran really well. He’s a horse that wants to be forwardly placed. It looks like they were just marching around there. They just sort of didn’t change positions. They just stayed the same all the way around there.”

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