July 16, 2024

Gun Runner breezes bullet five furlongs

Gun Runner breezes a bullet five furlongs in :59.80 under jockey Florent Geroux outside of workmate Gettysburg (1:00.20) at Churchill Downs on Sunday, September 24, 2017 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Multiple Grade 1 winner and $5 million earner Gun Runner recorded his final move under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs on Sunday, one day before he’s scheduled to fly to California for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar on November 4.

Under regular rider Florent Geroux, the four-year-old chestnut began the work two lengths behind stakes runner-up and fellow Steve Asmussen trainee Gettysburg. Posting splits of :24.40 and :35.60, Gun Runner drew even with Gettysburg to finish up five furlongs in a bullet :59.80 over the fast main track, fastest of 47 other move at that distance on the day. Gettysburg clocked 1:00.20.

Gun Runner galloped out three-quarters in 1:13 and seven furlongs in 1:27.80, according to Churchill Downs’ clocker John Nichols.

“He felt great,” Geroux said. “He worked with a nice horse and did everything perfectly. He typically doesn’t do anything fancy in his works and today was no different. He did everything on his own and I just wanted to keep him happy.

“He’s really turned into a faster and stronger horse this year,” the reinsman added. “I think back last year and he acted like a teenager and this year he’s grown into a man. When I’m on his back I feel like I don’t have to help him as much because he does everything so well on his own.”

Gun Runner currently boasts a 4-1-0 mark from five starts this year, including wins in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Whitney Stakes (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1) in his past three. In fact, the Candy Ride colt’s only loss this season came as a nice second behind Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) in late March.

“Forecasting in the horse business is like dreaming, so you end up taking it one race at a time,” said Three Chimney Farm’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Baker, who co-owns Gun Runner with Winchell Thoroughbreds. “We’ve always believed the potential was there but he’s really stepped up this year.

“There’s a fine line of being prepared and over prepared,” he added. “(Trainer) Steve (Asmussen) and his team have done a masterful job at keeping him in the right spot his entire career, especially this year.”

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Racing Manager David Fiske joined Baker Sunday morning to watch Gun Runner’s final breeze beneath the Twin Spires.

“I’ve told Steve before you can put a green screen behind Gun Runner and he’d work the same on any racetrack in the country,” Fiske said. “He has his workmate Gettysburg and they seem to be a well-matched pair. Everything went according to plan and we’ll see how he comes out of the workout.

“He’s scheduled to fly to Santa Anita (on Monday). Steve’s had a fair amount of success flying out to California early. So, it’s pretty much standard. He’ll train up to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Gun Runner will enter the Breeders’ Cup Classic having not competed in two months. His last win in the Woodward came on September 2 at Saratoga.

“I think it was partly the schedule that all of the races fall into and partly that he runs well fresh,” Fiske explained. “He’s a good workhorse and puts a lot into his works. So, from that standpoint he’s pretty easy to nudge into fitness. I think working him up to the race gives Steve a bit more control than putting him into another race.”

Gun Runner, who placed in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), is no stranger to winning off extended breaks. The chestnut closed out his sophomore campaign with a front-running score in the Clark Handicap (G1) on November 25 and returned three months later to take the February 20 Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

The Kentucky-bred then shipped overseas to Meydan for the Dubai World Cap on March 25 and wouldn’t be seen in competition again until beginning his current three-race win streak in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17.

Also working on Sunday under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs was the Dale Romans-trained Free Drop Billy, who is readying for the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland on October 7.

The chestnut son of Union Rags breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80.

“He looked really good this morning,” Romans said. “As of right now we’re thinking the Breeders’ Futurity for him.”

Free Drop Billy, campaigned by Albaugh Family Stables, will be seeking his first stakes triumph in the Breeders’ Futurity. The Kentucky-bred juvenile broke his maiden at first asking on June 15 at Churchill Downs by three lengths before shipping to Saratoga, where he ran second in both the Sanford Stakes (G3) and Hopeful Stakes (G1).

“I thought he ran a winning race that day,” Romans remarked, speaking of Free Drop Billy’s neck second in the Hopeful last out on September 4. “The Albaughs are loaded with potential two-year-old talent so hopefully we can get some luck to end their year and continue as three-year-olds.”

The Breeders’ Futurity is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races, with points being awarded to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

“The ultimate goal is to obviously win the Kentucky Derby,” Romans said. “We’re a long way out but like I always say, ‘every horse in my barn is a Derby horse until they prove me otherwise.’”

An upcoming expected addition to the Romans barn is a Curlin half-brother to Free Drop Billy, whom the Albaugh Family recently purchased at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $800,000.