Moment of the Year for Arrogate, Horse of the Year for Gun Runner

Moment of the Year for Arrogate, Horse of the Year for Gun Runner
Photo: Mary Meek/Eclipse Sportswire

The 2017 season started out looking like a one-horse race for Horse of the Year, and it's going to end that way. However, the horse that sits well clear of the rest isn’t the same many had pegged in March.

Arrogate’s performance in the Dubai World Cup landed him on top of Longines World's Best Racehorse list, updated last week and surrounded by controversy. But Longines ranks horses based on their single most-dominant victory. When it comes to overall resume, no contender is more deserving of Horse of the Year than Gun Runner.

During the first three months of 2017, it was clear that Arrogate, the Bob Baffert-trained monster, was establishing a stranglehold of the title. He dominated the Pegasus World Cup, the richest race in the world, and followed that effort up with an incredible from-the-clouds victory in the Dubai World Cup. After those two spectacular displays of dominance, it was hard to imagine a scenario where the steely grey didn’t walk away without Horse of the Year honors.

Things began to change, however, after Gun Runner threw his name in the ring with a flashy score in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster. Problem was, he had already been defeated by Arrogate in Dubai, and with Arrogate yet to make his return, not many were willing to place him behind Gun Runner after one performance. However, a non-effort by Arrogate in the Grade 2 San Diego, followed up by another dominating performance by Gun Runner in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes, put the two on near even terms in August.

There were still many who had Arrogate on top of their Horse of the Year lists, with the belief that he would return to form in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Unfortunately, while Arrogate ran a much-improved race when second to stablemate Collected, it was still a far cry from the horse we saw in the Pegasus and Dubai world cups.

In the meantime, Gun Runner remained sharp in winning the Woodward Stakes in a 10 ¼-length romp at Saratoga. The win marked Gun Runner’s third Grade 1 win in a row, whilst Arrogate had lost twice in his two tries since Dubai -- and just like that Gun Runner was put on top of the national rankings.

Of course, Arrogate still could have seized the top spot back with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but it became clear from the break it wasn't to be. Instead, Gun Runner continued his dominance, conquering a field that Baffert considered one of the strongest assembled.

No horse had a season as dominating as Gun Runner. He won over four different tracks, taking races from East to West. His average winning margin was just more than six lengths in some of the nation's top tests for older horses.

The NTRA's Moment of the Year will belong to Arrogate, but when it comes to Horse of the Year, only one choice makes sense. Gun Runner should win, and should garner every Eclipse Awards vote. 

Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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