Arrogate is the current
leader of America’s handicap division by a long way. Stunning victories in the
Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and recent Pegasus World Cup, have vaulted him
atop the mountaintop, with seemingly little up there to keep him company. The
division is in need of a serious number two. Someone, who if unable to unseat
Arrogate, can at least make the big gray work for his money. Enter Gun Runner. The popular Kentucky-bred
is set to make his seasonal debut next Monday in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
the 2016 three-year-old champ, Gun Runner had no sensational wins last year, but
on the other hand, you’d be hard pressed to find another U.S. runner who had a
more complete season from beginning to end than did the handsome son of Candy Ride. Perhaps the finest of all his performances came in his final
start of his sophomore season, when he emphatically turned away older foes such
as Shaman Ghost, Hoppertunity, Effinex, Noble Bird, and Breaking Lucky to win
the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on
It represented his first Grade 1 victory, but it’s
hard to believe it will be his last. After winning his first two starts in a
Churchill Downs maiden and a Keeneland allowance, Gun Runner has raced on a
steady diet of graded stakes. Often facing the best of his generation, he has
consistently managed to hold his own.
With a stellar lifetime record of 12: 6-2-2 and over $2 million already in the bank, he has never failed to cash a check in
his career. A four-time graded stakes winner, he also counts a romping win in
the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, and a solid third in the Kentucky Derby among his
many highlights of 2016.
It was thought that he might get an early shot at
Arrogate, and the recently retired California Chrome, in the $12 million Pegasus
World Cup, but complications from an EHV outbreak at his winter home of Fair
Grounds made the trip and start a no-go for his connections. In his absence,
Arrogate won easily, while Shaman Ghost finished a clear second. That was the
first start for Shaman Ghost since finishing third behind Gun Runner in the
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys
Farm, the Steve Asmussen-trained star was instead rerouted to a new plan, beginning
in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Arriving to Oaklawn Park last week, Gun Runner has
already made an impression.
Monday’s Razorback will be the first start at
Oaklawn Park for the well-traveled colt, and by all indications, the Breeders’
Cup Dirt Mile runner-up is doing very well. Not only is his stable saying all
the right things about their maturing star, but Gun Runner has looked sharp in
the mornings in advance of his first race as an older horse.
Last week at Fair
Grounds, he impressed the railbirds in New Orleans with a six furlong work in 1:13
flat. Then this morning, at Oaklawn Park, he did the same in Arkansas, going a
strong five furlongs.
If all goes well in the Razorback, it will be
interesting to see where Gun Runner goes next. He is nominated to the Dubai World Cup on March 25, where he could get his second crack at Arrogate, having
finished third behind him in the Travers, but neither horse is certain to make
the trip to Meydan.
Whether it happens sooner or later, Gun Runner
could well be the most likely older male to really threaten Arrogate in 2017. With
great tactical speed and plenty of class, he was extremely consistent all
season last year while keeping the best of company. Any improvement this year,
at four, and Gun Runner could be ready for even bigger and better things.