September 22, 2021

Gun Runner, American Gal exit Whitney, Test romps in good order

Gun Runner and jockey Florent Geroux win the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday, August 5, 2017 (c) Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos

Gun Runner was doing well one day after a dominating 5 1/4-length triumph in Saturday’s Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, according to trainer Steve Asmussen.

“He’s fabulous, happy with himself, came back great,” Asmussen reported.

Gun Runner carried the highweight of 124 pounds against six rivals in the Whitney, most of which was taken up by jockey Florent Geroux. However, the chestnut son of Candy Ride picked up some extra weight during the running of the race when stablemate and rabbit Cautious Giant lost a horseshoe that became entangled in Gun Runner’s tail.

“(I only noticed it) once he slowed down,” Asmussen said. “We watched the tape repeatedly, repeatedly, and if you never seen anything before, just wait around.

“Can you believe that? I mean if we tried to throw one and stick in one’s tail as he was standing, still we’d go 0-for-1,000 – let alone at a run, let alone Gun Runner, let alone in the Whitney – and it stayed.

“(With) how fast he was going, it was held out from him, when he slowed down to walk, then it came into him. We were obviously unaware of it until he came back to the winner’s circle, but not a nick on him. I mean, there’s still nails in it.”

The horseshoe was removed from Gun Runner’s tail after the race and initially discarded, but assistant trainer Scott Blasi went back to retrieve it. A racing fan, who had picked up the horseshoe after it had been removed, ended up earning $100 for the piece of metal.

“My kids took it home,” Asmussen said. “They were going to put a shadow box around it. They said that they literally have a rabbit’s foot since it came off the horse that was the rabbit.”

The trainer added that Gun Runner is now on target to make one more start before going in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar on November 4. The Kentucky-bred chestnut earned an automatic start in that contest thanks to the Whitney being part of the “Win & You’re In” Challenge series.

Asmussen said the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) on September 2, closing weekend at Saratoga, would be “ideal” for Gun Runner’s other race.

“It seems very probable with him running over the racetrack here (and) not having to travel again,” the trainer said. “It would be ideal.”

Gun Runner has now captured four of his last five racings, including the June 17 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) and last November’s Clark Handicap (G1), both at Churchill Downs. His one loss during those five starts came via a second behind Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) on March 25 at Meydan.

American Gal and jockey Jose Ortiz win the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday, August 5, 2017 (c) Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos

Trainer Simon Callaghan also gave a positive report on Saturday’s Test Stakes (G1) winner, American Gal, who posted a four-length victory in her second start of the year.

“She came out of the race great,” Callaghan said. “Her legs were nice and cold this morning and she looks really happy. She jogged sound, so she couldn’t be better.”

American Gal captured her initial two starts as a juvenile, including the Anoakia Stakes, before closing out 2016 with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and runner-up effort in the Starlet Stakes (G1). She is now two-for-two as a sophomore having opened the year with a 4 3/4-length score in the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park on July 9.

“Watching the replay again, I think it was a huge performance,” Callagan said of the Test. “Going wide her whole trip, and the way she drew away at the end, I think it was really special.”

The conditioner believes seven furlongs is American Gal’s ideal distance and is mapping out a path to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar on November 4.

“There’s lots of options that we could choose between now and then so we’re just going to get our heads together when we get her back to California and figure out where to go next but the Breeders’ Cup is the ultimate goal,” Callaghan said.

American Gal is scheduled to ship back to California on Tuesday.