Gun Runner delivered another superstar performance in the 34th edition of the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, capping a Horse of the Year season with a wire-to-wire victory in the $6 million Classic (G1). The four-year-old brought grand form into the 1 1/4-mile race, capturing his three previous starts by a combined 22 1/4 lengths, and the bright chestnut backed it up with a 2 1/4-length decision on the biggest stage.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, Gun Runner provided Steve Asmussen with his second Classic victory. The Hall of Fame trainer also captured the 2007 Classic at Monmouth Park with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
Regular rider Florent Geroux sent his mount straight to the lead at the break, establishing splits in :22.50, :46.31, 1:10.50 and 1:35.03 on a short lead. Collected chased the 2-1 second choice from the start and nearly drew even rounding the far turn, but Gun Runner had more to offer in the stretch and gradually edged away from his rival in the latter stages.
Winless from three previous attempts at 10 furlongs, Gun Runner erased any distance concerns in front of a crowd of 37,692 and the son of Candy Ride stopped the teletimer in 2:01.29.
“This (win) means a lot,” Geroux said. “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.”
“What an awesome feeling this is,” added Asmussen. “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.”
Pacific Classic (G1) hero Collected, the 5-1 fourth choice, easily held second by 1 1/4 lengths over West Coast, who enjoyed a perfect stalking trip just behind the early leaders but failed to make a late impact at 4-1. It was another half-length back to 56-1 outsider War Story in fourth.
Arrogate, the 2016 Classic winner and an earner of more than $17 million, was favored at 2-1 but broke inward at the start from his rail post and never got seriously involved while racing well off the pace, 10th of 11 runners after the opening half-mile. He got up in the final strides to dead-heat for fifth with the late-running Gunnevera, who left the starting gate at 15-1.
Churchill came next under the wire in seventh and was followed by Mubtaahij, War Decree, Pavel and Win the Space.
Bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, Gun Runner hails from the Grade 2-winning Giant’s Causeway mare Quiet Giant, a half-sister to 2005 Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam. Gun Runner’s immediate female family is filled with graded stakes winners.
Winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2) early in his three-year-old season, Gun Runner also placed in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Travers (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2) before concluding his sophomore campaign with a convincing triumph over elder in the Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs.
He took things to another level this year, opening his four-year-old season with an easy win in the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park. A clear second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Gun Runner returned from a near four-month freshening with a seven-length tally in the Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs. The classy colt was exiting a pair of smashing victories at Saratoga, taking the Whitney (G1) by 5 1/4 lengths and the Woodward (G1) by 10 lengths.
With the $3.3 million payday, Gun Runner has now bankrolled $8,988,500 from a 18-11-3-2 record.