Gun Runner Never Threatened In Stephen Foster Victory

by | 06.17.2017 | 9:52pm
Gun Runner dominates the Stephen Foster

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner proved his dominance over the local handicap division in Saturday evening's G1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, taking the lead from the start and shaken up in the stretch to win by a record-setting seven lengths. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride, ridden by Florent Geroux, has now secured his spot with a paid berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall, where connections hope he will have a rematch with Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner covered 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:47.56, besting Honorable Duty, Breaking Lucky and Hawaakom.

“I was loaded the entire trip around there,” Geroux said. “He was doing everything so easily. This horse is truly unbelievable. He's one of the best horses I've ever ridden and to put forward this type of effort after running in Dubai is so impressive. I was a bit surprised to find myself on a lone-lead but I wasn't complaining one bit. What a horse.”

With his tactical speed, Honorable Duty might have been one to press Gun Runner's rather tepid early pace, but he was shuffled back just after the start, then boxed behind rivals heading into the first turn, forcing jockey Javier Castellano's hand. That left Gun Runner unopposed on the front end right from the start, with an easy one-length lead over Stanford and Breaking Lucky through fractions of 23.59 and 47.23 seconds. Honorable Duty was fourth early on, followed by Bird Song, who also might have pressed the pace early, and Hawaakom.

“The winner, I give a lot of credit,” Castellano said after the race. “He was much the best horse in the race. Unfortunately, not much speed in the race. I thought about it before the race, the way I handicapped the race, a little more speed, I thought Stanford was gonna go and the other horse inside (Bird Song) was going to go. They let him (Gun Runner) dictate the pace, nice comfortable rhythm, nice comfortable pace. I think it didn't help when my horse is coming from behind. I think it cost a little bit of the race.”

Gun Runner stretched his lead to nearly two lengths in the backstretch, then Geroux gave him a brief breather before the far turn, allowing Stanford back within a length as Honorable Duty and Breaking Lucky began to wind up on the outside. As soon as Geroux hit the button, Gun Runner flowed away from his rivals, stretching to a two-length lead at the head of the lane.

Geroux had to stay busy to keep Gun Runner to task in the lane, but he was never seriously threatened as he cruised under the wire seven lengths in front of the field. Honorable Duty just bested Breaking Lucky for second at the wire, and Hawaakom had to settle for fourth.

Bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, Gun Runner was the first partnership between Three Chimneys and Winchell. He lived up to his breeding as a 3-year-old, taking the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby before finishing a good third in the Kentucky Derby. He ran several more good races through 2017, including a second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and a G1 win over elders in the Clark Handicap, but truly blossomed as a 4-year-old. Kept out of the Pegasus World Cup by a quarantine issue in New Orleans, Gun Runner instead keyed in on the Dubai World Cup where he ran a great race in defeat to Arrogate. Overall, the colt boasts a record of eight wins, three seconds and two thirds in 15 starts, and has earned more than $4.6 million.

“I think it was key taking our time with this horse,” said Asmussen. “We always thought he would get better with age and he's proving that to us right now. It's special to win a Grade I but now we have our ticket punched to the Breeders' Cup. We got him to the Winner's Circle here at home and we set ourselves up for a great second-half campaign. I can't thank our owners enough. This horse is incredibly special in so many ways.”

  • Delrene from Carlsbad,Ca

    Congratulations to Gun Runner and Florent Geroux.

  • Robin

    Congratulations to Gun Runner and all of his connections. He is a very special horse.

  • Julie L.

    I really like this horse. Call me crazy but I will go with him in the Classic over Arrogate. That’s how good I think this horse is getting.

    • Michael Castellano

      Just consider who he beat, average allowance level horses. He’s still at least a second slower than Arrogate. Unless that changes, the result will be the same.

      • togahombre

        it’s true that right now arrogates in another league, but to be fair to this field , all but two horses are multiple graded stakes winners, of those two one is a graded stakes winner, now if you just don’t like them just say so, but don’t misrepresent them

        • Michael Castellano

          Just reflects my feelings about graded races since their numbers have proliferated. With the increase in numbers, probably most have seen a corresponding decline and thinning in the quality of horses. In general there also seems to be a decline in the number of quality older horses. No way to prove this, just my own opinion. The top level horses simply have more choices on where they can run. Many prestigious races have declined in quality (The Wood Memorial is a good example). The end result is often weaker fields. I also believe Gun Runner is a legitimate top level horse. There just are’nt many of them.

          • togahombre

            i’m firmly in the camp of greatly reducing the number of graded and listed races

          • Michael Shea

            I think there is also a timidity among many trainers. Why enter your horse against Gun Runner when you can find easier elsewhere? Because you want to compete against the best! Where is the shame in running a respectable second or third to Gun Runner? I understand that it all sounds the same when your horse is referred to as a “graded stakes winner” or “multiple graded stakes winner” but why not take the chance against the best of your generation?

        • Tinky

          To be “fair to this field”?


          This is a Grade I race, and here is breakdown of those that trailed in behind the only Grade I horse in the field:

          Honorable Duty – Gr. II winner (also won a Gr. III)

          Breaking Lucky – Gr. III winner (only Graded win)

          Hawaakom – has never won a Graded race

          Stanford – Gr. II winner (also won a Gr. III)

          Texas Chrome – Gr. III winner (twice)

          Mo Tom – Gr. III winner

          Bird Song – Gr. II winner

          • togahombre

            they were called allowance level runners, which, according to the pp’s they are not, you don’t like the field? get a lawyer and sue, stay bitter, it seems to suit you

          • Tinky

            You have a long-standing problem with reality.

            It’s not “bitter” to point out that he beat a bunch of inferior horses, not a single one of which is Grade I caliber. It’s reality.

          • togahombre

            hows this for reality, i was replying to a post that referred to the rest of the field as “average allowance level horses”, which as i pointed out, wasn’t factual, then you jumped in with your pompous claim that they didn’t suit your elitist taste, now your moving the goal line, you say i have a long standing problem with reality, hows that long term economic forecasting coming along, you might as well be running around your yard at night looking for bigfoot

          • Tinky

            lol! My economic forecast has never included a precise date of collapse, and anyone paying attention knows that there is an looming crisis. In fact, there are many places around the world in which the collapse has begun in earnest.

            Lemme guess, you imagine that the stock markets are reflective of the real economy…

    • McGov

      Arrogate beat California Chrome…..twice. I recommend nicotine therapy for short term memory loss……just sayin ;) nudge nudge

    • Michael Shea

      Arrogate is just so tough to take a stand against. He is different from most, not simply in terms of ability but adaptability. He has proven, pretty dramatically that he can win when things don’t go according to plan. Having said that, if Gun Runner does pull an upset in the Classic, I will be the first to acknowledge your brilliance.

  • ctgreyhound

    Gun Runner showed why he is ranked in the top ten. “Freak” applies to Arrogate & “incredibly special” (Asmussen’s words) apply to Gun Runner. His ascension in the ranks is due to ability & maturity. It good to see him & the connections rewarded. This was one powerful performance.

    • dmledford1

      Arrogate certainly did not look “freak” winning the Dubai World Cup. It was an incredible race! It just was not Gun Runners day. Someday it will not be Arrogate’s but to call him a freak?

      • ctgreyhound

        Well, what was he then in Dubai? Popular opinion has labeled him as a freak. He is a horse that is above reproach & exhibits talent rarely seen. Any opponent would have to show capabilities that they have so far not been able to do. Or Arrogate would have to have a sub par performance. Time is on Arrogate’s side. There are but a few chances for a foe to show brilliance. After Pegasus 2018 surely Arrogate will be retired.

      • Art Hernandez

        Gun Runner had a dream trip in Dubai and Aarogate’s poor start gave him every excuse to not run well let alone win. He showed rare ability in overcoming that start and then toying with Gun Runner who fior all intents and purposes appeared long gone. That performance along with running down California Chrome in the BCC puts him in a class by himself. What a treat for racing fans to enjoy the best racehorse to come along in many decades and we may not have seen his best yet.

  • Michael Shea

    Just a side note; I have always thought Stanford would have done better as a miler; this race proved it once again. Right in the thick of it at the mile mark; fifth at the end of the mile and an eighth.

  • dmledford1

    I would have been very suprised if Gun Runner did not win this race. He was undoubtably the best horse in this field! He is an exceptionally good colt but honestly this race was not that big of a challenge for him. I am looking forward to a rematch between him and Arrogate. It will be a very exciting race between 2 top notch colts!

  • the buzz23

    This colt may be closing the gap on Arrogate as a 4 year old but the gap was pretty substantial. Great to see this class has a couple who are achieving better things as they mature.

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