Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney's Gun Runner was in fine fettle Sunday morning following his 5 ¼-length domination in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney – a performance made all the more memorable by a wayward horseshoe that mystifyingly made its way into the chestnut colt's tail.
“He's fabulous, happy with himself, came back great,” reported Gun Runner's Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Prior to the race, Gun Runner's regular jockey, Florent Geroux weighed in as the Whitney field's high weight at 124 pounds, but the pair picked up a few odd ounces during the backstretch run when pacesetter Cautious Giant sprung a horseshoe high into the air, eventually landing behind Gun Runner, where it became entangled in the 3-5 favorite's tail.
“[I only noticed it] once he slowed down,” Asmussen said. “We watched the tape repeatedly, repeatedly, and if you never seen anything before, just wait around. Can you believe that? I mean if we tried to throw one and stick in one's tail as he was standing, still we'd go 0-for-1,000 – let alone at a run, let alone Gun Runner, let alone in the Whitney – and it stayed. [With] how fast he was going, it was held out from him, when he slowed down to walk, then it came into him. We were obviously unaware of it until he came back to the winner's circle, but not a nick on him. I mean, there's still nails in it.”
The mystery shoe was removed when Gun Runner galloped back to the winners' circle and initially discarded, he said. But once the horse's connections realized the rare curiosity of the situation, Asmussen's assistant trainer Scott Blasi went back to retrieve it, paying $100 to a lucky fan who had picked up the unique castoff.
“My kids took it home,” Asmussen said of the famous shoe's fate. “They were going to put a shadow box around it. They said that they literally have a rabbit's foot since it came off the horse that was the rabbit.”
The Whitney marked the fourth straight U.S. victory for Gun Runner and his second Grade 1 win in a row following his seven-length romp in the Stephen Foster on June 17 at Churchill Downs. The Foster marked the 4-year-old Candy Ride colt's first start since finishing second to reigning Eclipse Award winner Arrogate in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in March.
Asmussen said he expects to run Gun Runner once before the Breeders' Cup, citing the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on Saratoga's closing weekend as a strong possibility. Gun Runner, who finished second in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, holds an all-fees-paid berth into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic on November 4 at Del Mar.
“It seems very probable with him running over the racetrack here [and] not having to travel again,” he said. “It would be ideal.”
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