January 17, 2019

Breeders’ Cup Classic Quotes & Transcript

Gun Runner stole the spotlight under jockey Florent Geroux in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4, 2017 (c) Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen (Gun Runner)

“It’s a good team and he’s an incredible horse. Incredible horse.  Everyone is part of the team and they did a phenomenal job. Scott (Blasi, assistant trainer), Angel (Garcia, exercise rider), Florent (Geroux, jockey), the owners… we did the right things at the right time and all that made it special. What an awesome feeling this is. Florent has the ultimate confidence in Gun Runner and he rode Gun Runner. It’s all part of the process. We had discussed what we’d see (in the race) through the day and I told him to ‘ride Gun Runner.’ I’m the lucky trainer of the Horse of the Year.”

Winning jockey Florent Geroux (Gun Runner)

“This (win) means a lot. It’s the biggest win of my career. It’s the big race with Horse of the Year on the line. I’m glad he was the best horse.”

Were you surprised you were in front? 

“No, not really. I think he was the quickest horse in the race from the beginning of the race.

“(Trainer) Steve (Asmussen) was the one who gave me the opportunity to ride this horse. We knew from the beginning he was the real deal. We were so confident going into the Kentucky Derby; we really thought it was his best chance ever to win it.”

(Collected was pressing Gun Runner) “It wasn’t like my horse was going crazy and would lose his chance. I really like (Collected) and I respect him a lot. He was the horse for the course for sure. He showed it today. He was just second best; my horse was the best horse today.”

Bob Baffert (Second with Collected, third with West Coast, fifth with favorite Arrogate and eight with Mubtaahij)

“My horses ran well. 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 (in track and stakes record time), beating California Chrome (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.”

Second-place jockey Martin Garcia (Collected)

“He ran great.  I can’t be sure, of course, but I think if our positions were switched – if I was inside (Gun Runner) and he was out – we might have had a different finish. I wanted to get to the rail and save ground, but I couldn’t.  I’m proud of him, though. He gave me what he had.”

Third-place jockey Javier Castellano (West Coast)

“I thought I was in good position on the far turn, but I just could not catch the top two. I have no complaints. He ran his heart out today.”

Fourth-place trainer Jorge Navarro (War Story)

“What can I say? I’m very happy. The jockey (Jose Ortiz) listened to me and rode a great race. Fourth with a 60-1 shot in this race? Very happy.”

Fourth-place jockey Jose Ortiz (War Story)

“I just followed the instructions Jorge [Navarro]. He told me he doesn’t like horses outside of him. On the first turn, he was traveling well and I was able to put him where Jorge wanted him. He ran a good race.”

Dead-heat fifth-place jockey Mike Smith (Arrogate)

“He just doesn’t like this track. For whatever reason, I hate to say it, he has shown it time and time again and showed it today. (His bad start) is what he’s been doing every time he runs here. When he’s on his A race, he’s one of the fastest horses we have ever seen. He just won’t run over here. I have tried to talk myself into thinking he would. He has just showed me time and time again that he wouldn’t.”

On the bad start

“That’s just what he does over this racetrack. I don’t know what it is. Every time I ride him here, he never seems to get underneath himself.”

Dead-heat fifth-place trainer Antonio Sano (Gunnevera)

“We ran against good horses but my horse ran good. I’m happy. It’s a tough race but he was very good.”

Dead-heat fifth-place jockey Edgard Zayas (Gunnevera)

“I think he had a good trip. It was a very tough race. It seemed like the beginning of the day the horses off the pace were running, but as the day went on the speed was holding. They came out of the gate and kept on running. He ran his race. He just couldn’t get there.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien (Churchill, sixth and War Decree, ninth)

“Churchill has had two or three hard races. We will go back to the turf with him next time. He seems OK after the race and appears relaxed.”

Sixth-place jockey Ryan Moore (Churchill)

“He was going ok, I tried to give him a chance down the backstretch, but he didn’t seem to handle it.”

Eighth-place jockey Drayden Van Dyke (Mubtaahij)

“I had a perfect trip. I was right behind the leaders and it was good.  But then those front two (Gun Runner and Collected) took off and we just couldn’t catch them.”

Ninth-place jockey Seamus Heffernan (War Decree)

“He didn’t handle the surface.”

Tenth-place jockey Mario Gutierrez (Pavel)

“I liked my position early.  I was where I wanted to be. But it just wasn’t there at the end.”

Tenth-place trainer Doug O’Neill (Pavel)

“He appeared to come back healthy. We’ll go over him good when we get him back to the barn. (Jockey) Mario (Gutierrez) said he might have bled. I loved his position for a while, but he didn’t maintain that.”

Eleventh-place trainer George Papaprodromou (Win the Space)

“He never looked comfortable to me. Joe said the same thing. He just never got hold of the track. I guess Santa Anita is best for him.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ron Winchell
Borges Torrealba
Florent Geroux
Steve Asmussen

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is Gun Runner. And we are pleased now to be joined by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. It was his sixth Breeders’ Cup win, second in the Classic. We’re also joined by Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds, co-owners of this horse, along with Three Chimneys Farm who will eventually go to stud.

Steve, congratulations. Caps off a pretty amazing year for Gun Runner. Maybe to start, you could take us through the race as you saw it.

STEVE ASMUSSEN: Well, we all watched races all week, 22 and 3 on the lead on the inside, hasn’t had a lot of success this week, but I guess it wasn’t Gun Runner in that spot on the previous ones.

Q. But Florent knows the horse very well, so with those fractions going up there, especially at the half, your thoughts at that point?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: Well, me and Florent talked earlier in the day after a few races, and we felt that we follow the pattern that got us here. 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.

Q. Can you tell us now a little bit about how this year went? An incredible effort in Dubai, but then just got better after he came back from there. Can you just talk about the campaign overall?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: The year started off with being denied going to the Pegasus through the quarantine in New Orleans. 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, everything that his pedigree indicated would happen. Being a Candy Ride out of Giant’s Causeway he’s half to St. Liam, who is best as an older horse, had to obviously come to fruition. And he’s a bigger, stronger, better version.

The way that he has taken his races, the way that he’s coming out of them, me and Scott were just marveling at him this week how strong he looks schooling this week. That’s a lot of travel this year, lot of fast races, and I think he’s better today than he’s ever been. What a blessing it is to have this horse to share with great people, great team, and great family.

Q. Florent, you made it to the lead pretty easily, but then you got some pressure on the outside from Collected. Can you just tell us when you were going as fast as you were, what you were thinking down the back side?

FLORENT GEROUX: 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. From there, 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.

Q. Florent, were you worried at all? Because throughout the day, actually the last few days, being on the lead has not been the best place to be on the dirt track here.

FLORENT GEROUX: No, definitely, we can often make a — not a game plan with Steve Asmussen, but we wanted to keep him maybe off the fence. The two, three pass we thought the inside was not the place to be. You know, a good horse can make up everything. We were still at the fence, but at the end, I don’t think it would have mattered. He could have been on the fence and won just as easily. But it’s very nice when a plan goes into place.

Q. Same thing for you, Steve. Were you at all worried with the way the races were going earlier? Actually, for the last few days being on the lead hasn’t been the best place to be?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: Right, well, I mean, we watched the races. But, I mean, we let Gun Runner be who he is. I think the amount of success we’ve had with him ever since we quit worrying about who he was in with or where they were going to be, he’s let them adjust around him. I mean, the year that he’s put together, the races that he’s run, the way that he’s come back from them, the way that he trained leading into this race is special. The year that this horse has put together is a little hard to top. I think he’s better today than he’s ever been, and that was the plan all year.

Q. Ron, we’d like to hear from you now. Another major success for you and Steve together. Can you just comment on how you’re feeling today?

RON WINCHELL: Yeah, I think I want to start out and say Steve’s done a phenomenal job, and that’s an understatement. 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 ten-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.

Q. After winning that easily at Saratoga, you probably could have had another prep before this, but you just decided to train up?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: Well, except for the Pegasus and using the Razorback as plan B, every other race has been everything that we intended for the year. The reason that we were in training as a 4-year-old. I mean, it’s a very special thing to have a horse, a Group 1 winner with this horse’s pedigree stay in training as a 4-year-old. The financial risk that these two gentlemen put to allow you the confidence that they do, to allow us to have the 4-year-old year with him that we’ve had.

But me and Scott have talked about it, we could have marked the chart for him for 11 months. He’s just — what fortitude and strength he has to accept what you’re doing, and the way that he responded to things is what has separated him.

The whole team deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that — Gabino, Juan, Angel. I mean, they’re the same every day. Just like him, they’re a perfect fit for him. Scott and his oversight and how well he’s communicated with me, as well as Florent has a lot to do, I think everybody does, in the development of this horse to this point. For him to be at his physical best when it mattered most, everybody gets credit. What a true blessing it is.

Q. Steve, you guys had quite a wait in the paddock. He was incredibly calm, it looked like. I mean, he never looked like he even wanted to leave the stall until the race. Very standard for him? What did you think of how calm he was?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: I mean, he knows who he is, and he accepts it, and he feels up to it all the time. The confidence that he gives you is unbelievable. What is — as you saw him in the paddock, if you’re around the next couple of days, it will amaze you at how playful he is and nippy and just he knows what his job is. When it comes up, he’s dialled in, and I think that’s a testament to who he is and the handlers of him allowing him to be him.

Q. You brought him out to California fairly early and he was at Santa Anita. Just in terms of where you did the training and the preparations for this race, what went into those thoughts and decisions?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: The rhythm we’ve always talked about. Just to have him on the clock. The rhythm. For that look in the paddock, he knows our system, and I think we’re in good rhythm with his. The longer they wait, the bigger delay, the bigger the variable, the bigger advantage for him.

Q. Mr. Torrealba, I know you guys said you’d make a decision on his potential stud career after this. Are you guys leaning out a full campaign for next year as well?

BORGES TORREALBA: We meant after the party.

STEVE ASMUSSEN: Great answer (laughing).

Q. But would the Pegasus still be likely in play regardless?

BORGES TORREALBA: You have to ask Steve, not us.

Q. All right, then we’re asking Steve.

STEVE ASMUSSEN: I’m looking forward to the party right now. I really am. I am. Very much so.

Q. Surprised that Arrogate didn’t give you more of a run today?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: I think that all of our success has been based on paying attention to anything we have control over and worrying about that. I guess you witnessed why we feel the way we do about Gun Runner, and he’s done nothing to make us think any different. He’s up to the challenge, so why wouldn’t we be?

Q. I would like to know the point of view, what you are thinking the trainer, and owners and the jockey, before the final stretch?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: For me, the horse preparation before the race was himself, was away from the gates cleanly. You could tell Florent was very comfortable with what the horse was doing. You know, he was challenged around the far turn by Collected, but Florent was still setting very chilly on him. He came to the wire beautifully as he has all year. I may have celebrated a little early.

Q. Florent, what was your confidence before the final stretch?

FLORENT GEROUX: Yeah, I was confident. The horse was traveling good all the way there. Even in the first quarter it looked like it was a little bit quick, but my horse was very comfortable with where we were. From there, it was just nice to keep him in a nice rhythm. At the top of the stretch, when I called him, he responded present. I knew from there it was just a matter of how many lengths he was going to win.

Q. Florent, Steve and Scott have both been very complimentary of your contribution to Gun Runner’s development. Just between three and four, are there any specific adjustments that come to mind, and can you talk about his maturing?

FLORENT GEROUX: The horse definitely changed. But the team, we never did change from the beginning. And since I’ve been about his first walkout before the first race I ever rode him in the Razorback, it’s got Scott Blasi looking over him like a hawk, Steve training him, same owners, and same exercise rider riding him. It’s very common, and we keep him together, and the horse feels very comfortable like this. We want to make sure we don’t change anything, even me breezing the horse before a race, we don’t want to change anything.

And Steve asked me, you know, when he decide to send the horse to California a little bit earlier, he said, do you think it’s going to be a problem to please the horse if he’s on a Monday schedule? I told him, all I need is just trying to find a flight. Doesn’t matter if I have to ride Sunday at Keeneland or I’m very close for a title or anything like this. The just first priority was Gun Runner. I didn’t have any doubt in mind that he could have won the race like that. I believed in him, and he believed in me also too. The horse, I could feel, he gave me so much confidence, and I just tried to transmit that to him. From that, it’s just an incredible feeling.

I never had a connection like that with another horse before. You know, you ride a thousand horses a year, and this one, there is just something. I don’t know. Just a crazy connection. I’m not a big believer in that, but I do believe that now.

Q. How does it feel just for you personally to win a Breeders’ Cup Classic?

FLORENT GEROUX: I think it’s great for my career. I didn’t do it on my own. Steve Asmussen, and of course the owner, Mr. Winchell, and Mr. Torrealba, gave me the opportunity to ride him. Without them giving the green light, I would have never been on the horse. They didn’t have any doubt in my ability of riding the horse. I rode him, it was my first Kentucky Derby mount, and they thought I was just as good as Mike Smith, was a big jockey for them. Giving me confidence. I can only give back to them.

Q. Steve, more immediately, not as far as racing plans, but just in the immediate, where will he fly from from here and when?

STEVE ASMUSSEN: He is going to fly from here to Louisville on Monday.

Q. Just building off the question before about Arrogate for Florent. Was there any sense that his bad break — are you keeping an eye on him at any time during this race, expecting him to still be able to sneak up on you like it has happened in the past?

FLORENT GEROUX: No, never. I was never looking at him or any other horse in the race. I was just 100% focused on my horse, and not what everybody was doing. I just tried to keep my horse in a nice position, and he was nice and relaxed. From there I just tried to adjust what people throw at me. When I saw Collected, I decided to just sit off me. He didn’t hand it to me very easily. He tried to challenge me, and I showed him where I wanted to be with the horse. From there, you know, Martin adjust the race for me. That’s not a bad thing to throw all the way Gun Runner in. Collected is about to win also on the pace, and I think from him it was a smart move. If he wanted to challenge me earlier and get his chances, he could have been fine. But I don’t think he would have finished second in the end.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports