December 7, 2021

Gun Runner breezes at Saratoga for Whitney

Gun Runner and jockey Florent Geroux easily win the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) by seven lengths at Churchill Downs on Friday, June 16, 2017 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Multiple Grade 1 hero Gun Runner breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.01 over Saratoga’s fast main track on Sunday in readiness for the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (G1) going nine furlongs on August 5.

Regular rider Florent Geroux was aboard as the four-year-old son of Candy Ride worked in company, clocking splits of :24.20, :36.20 and :48 before galloping out three-quarters in 1:12.60 and seven furlongs in 1:26.20.

“He looked very good working this morning,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He’s trained brilliantly all year long and it looked like more of the same to me. Florent had him nice and relaxed off (his workmate) early and he took over around the turn and finished through the wire really well.”

It was the third straight bullet breeze at Saratoga for Gun Runner, who most recently dominated the July 17 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs by seven lengths. That was the chestnut’s first start since finishing second behind Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) at Meydan on March 25.

The Dubai World Cup snapped a two-race win streak that saw the Kentucky-bred close out his sophomore campaign with a 2 3/4-length wire score in last November’s Clark Handicap (G1) and open 2017 with a 5 3/4-length wire romp in the Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park on February 20.

Gun Runner also captured the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star Stakes (G2) en route to last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), where he faded to third after holding the lead in the lane. He exited the Triple Crown trail, winning the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) next out at Churchill Downs, before suffering his only unplaced run of 2016 when fifth in the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park.

“We’ve always been extremely high on him,” Asmussen noted. “Derby week, we thought we had a pretty good chance of winning the Derby. Horses of that quality are very special to begin with and I thought he ran some solid races last year. He did achieve his first Grade 1 win in the Clark last year, and I do think that with a little break and some spacing this year, he’s just a little faster horse.”

Prior to ending his three-year-old season on a winning note in the Clark, Gun Runner finished third in the Travers Stakes (G1) and second in both the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) to go 9-4-2-2 in 2016.

“He was a very nice horse as a three-year-old and reached a different level this year and hopefully it’ll continue,” Asmussen said. “Obviously, we have very big plans for him and we were very happy to see him win the Foster for his first race off the layoff.”

Also working on Sunday at Saratoga was Grade 2 victress Paid Up Subscriber, who finished only a length behind multiple champion Songbird in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) last out on June 10 at Belmont.

The Chad Brown trainee breezed a bullet four furlongs over the fast main track in :47.89, best of 116 other workers at that distance on the day.

Paid Up Subscriber is targeting the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (G3) going 1 1/8 miles on July 30 at the Spa.

“She worked terrific,” Brown stated. “Her final work was this morning and she’s on target for the Shuvee.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out a contingent on Sunday as well, including Grade 1-placed winners Neolithic and Syndergaard, who worked in company over Saratoga’s fast Oklahoma dirt training track.

The workmates were caught breezing a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.10.

Neolithic has yet to score against stakes company but did finish third in both the Dubai World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in his past pair. Syndergaard captured the Funny Cide Stakes last August at Saratoga in his second career start before just missing by a nose in the Champagne Stakes (G1). He is exiting a runner-up effort in the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park on May 29.

“I thought they both looked good this morning,” Pletcher said, though he didn’t mention what’s next for the duo. “They’ve been up here for a little while. Neolithic went to WinStar for a little freshening after he came back from Dubai, and once he came into full training he came here and is doing well.”