May 26, 2024

Epicenter rolls in Gun Runner; North County rallies in time to claim Untapable

Epicenter wins the inaugural Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds (Photo by Lou Hodges, Jr./Hodges Photography)

Sunday’s $98,000 Gun Runner S. at Fair Grounds, the newest addition to the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series, fittingly went to Epicenter. The juvenile son of Not This Time is owned and trained, respectively, by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Steve Asmussen, the connections behind the race’s namesake, who garnered 2017 Horse of the Year honors and is this season’s leading freshman sire.

Sent off as the second choice in a field of seven, Epicenter hounded pacesetter Surfer Dude to the stretch and then drew off to win by 6 1/2 lengths under Brian Hernandez Jr. Epicenter paid $7.80 after completing 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in was 1:44.19.

“Anytime you got a horse with some tactical speed, especially here, it helps a lot,” Hernandez said. “That’s the nice thing about him, for only his third race, he put himself in position and all I had to do was be a quiet passenger and let him do his thing.”

Tejano Twist rallied for second by two lengths over Surfer Dude, who edged Kevin’s Folly by a head for third. Rounding out the order of finish were Rich Strike, 4-5 favorite Rocket Dawg, and Waita Minute Hayes.

Epicenter earned 10 qualifying points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1). Tejano Twist earned four points, Surfer Dude two points, and Rich Strike one point.

Epicenter has now won two of three starts. Sixth in his debut at Churchill Downs on Sept. 18, he rebounded on Nov. 13 over the same track by graduating over a mile by 3 1/2 lengths. He’s now earned $130,639.

Bred in Kentucky by Westwind Farm, Epicenter sold for $260,000 at the Keeneland September sale. He was produced by Silent Candy, a stakes-winning daughter of Candy Ride.

Untapable S.

The inaugural $97,000 Untapable S., named for another Winchell/Asmussen champion, was won in the final yards by North County, who rallied to beat Fannie and Freddie by a neck under Adam Beschizza.

A stalking third most of the way as Shotgun Hottie set the pace, North County switched targets when Fannie and Freddie took over and opened up a  2 1/2-length lead in mid-stretch. North County caught that rival late to win in a time of 1:43.17 for one mile and 70 yards.

Owned by Rebecca Hillen, Stonecrest Farm, and Bruno De Julio, North County paid $9.80 as the second choice. Brendan Walsh trains the juvenile daughter of Not This Time. Fannie and Freddie finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of 3-5 favorite Cocktail Moments. Completing the order of finish were Shotgun Hottie, Feeling Happy, and California Angel.

The Untapable is the newest 2022 Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep. North County earned 10 qualifying points for next spring’s fixture at Churchill Downs, while Fannie and Freddie earned four points, Cocktail Moments two points, and Shotgun Hottie one point.

North County has now won all three of her starts. Victorious by four lengths on debut going 7 1/2 furlongs on the Indiana Grand turf Sept. 27, she came back the following month to score by two lengths in an an off-the-turf allowance at Keeneland over 1 1/16 miles. She’s bankrolled $132,000.

Bred in Kentucky by Shadow Pond Stable, North County sold for $45,000 as a Fasig-Tipton October yearling. She’s out of the stakes-winning Northern Netti, by City Zip.