Epicenter gave an earth-shaking performance in the initial running of the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds on Sunday, adding his name to the early list of 2022 Kentucky Derby contenders and earning 10 qualifying points.
Sent off as the second choice in the 1 1/16-mile race, Epicenter pressed the early pace set by Surfer Dude, then opened up under a hand ride by Brian Hernandez Jr. to win by 6 1/2 lengths.
Epicenter has a couple connections to Gun Runner, so it's only fitting that he won a race named for the 2017 Horse of the Year. He wears the same maroon and white silks of Winchell Thoroughbreds and is conditioned by Steve Asmussen. Westwind Farms bred the bay colt, who was a $260,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase by Winchell. Additionally, Candy Ride figures prominently in the pedigrees of both horses.
Epicenter's (Not This Time - Silent Candy, by Candy Ride [Arg.]) victory in the Gun Runner Stakes capped off an excellent day for the leading second-crop sire Not This Time. A half-hour before, the stallion's daughter North County won the Untappable Stakes by a neck in a stirring stretch duel, keeping her perfect record intact.
Additionally, the Gun Runner runner-up, Tejano Twist, Epicenter and North County are descendants of Storm Cat, and the trio's damsires are descendants of Mr. Prospector. Tejano Twist is by Practical Joke and claims Storm Cat as his fifth tail-sire.
Not This Time also is represented on the Derby trail by Street Sense Stakes winner Howling Time, who is breezing at Gulfstream for his 3-year-old debut.
the dust settled on Sunday's stakes results, it's no wonder that Not
This Time is the leading second-crop sire by earnings and black-type earners. From
just two racing crops, the son of Giant's Causeway has sired 13 graded and
listed winners led
by Grade 1 heroine Princess Noor.
Not This Time has royal bloodlines. He is the third stakes winner and second successful stallion out of the graded winner and producer Miss Macy Sue. His half-brother, Liam's Map (Unbridled), set a track record at Keeneland in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. The pretty gray stallion has remained steady as the fourth-leading first-, second- and third-crop sire by earnings.
Not This Time's distaff line is a product of the top Florida breeders, Tartan Farms (later Mockingbird Farm) and John Nerud bloodlines, and Claiborne Kentucky royalty.
Not This Time's fifth dam Ta Wee is a half-sister to champion miler Dr. Fager. An excellent race mare and producer, Ta Wee's son Great Above sired champion Holy Bull.
Epicenter's damsire is Candy Ride, the sire of Gun Runner. The Argentina sensation stands a 36 on the leading broodmare sire list by earnings, and his daughters have produced 21 listed and graded winners.
Not This Time is having excellent success with a limited number of Candy Ride's daughters. He has four winners from as many starters and one stakes winner.
Epicenter has middle-distance and classic stamina through the first three generations of his distaff line.
He is the fifth and most successful competitor out of the turf mare Silent Candy. Candy Ride's daughter was successful as a multiple stakes-winning miler and finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington. Silent Candy competed for three years and retired with a 19: 5-3-3 record and $182,208 in earnings. She has a yearling colt by Always Dreaming and a weanling filly by Tapiture.
Silent Candy is the only stakes winner in her immediate family, although her half-brother Quite a Handful (Mutakddim) is multiple stakes-placed on turf from a mile to 1 1/8 miles. He missed the victory in the 1 1/8-mile Honor Glide Stakes by a nose and was third in the Hawthorne Derby (G3) at the same distance. The solid competitor raced for five years and compiled a 36: 5-8-3 record with $284,297 in earnings. He went to stud in Indiana and sired a handful of winners.
In Epicenter's third generation, the sole stakes winner is the solid competitor Test Boy (Brahms), a multiple listed winner from a mile to 1 3/16 miles on dirt who earned $395,072 in 29 starts.
Kentucky Derby contender or pretender?
Epicenter has a pace-pressing running style and a smooth ground-covering gait. He switched leads a little late in the stretch, but he can be forgiven as it was his third start and he was moving easily.
His pedigree and conformation indicate that nine and 10 furlongs should be within Epicenter's scope as he stretches out.
Although his connections haven't announced Epicenter's next goal, the Lecomte Stakes (G3) on Jan. 22 or Southwest Stakes (G3) on Jan. 29 would be logical targets. But they might wait until the Risen Star Stakes (G2) on Feb. 19 or the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn on Feb. 26. These Derby qualifiers offer 50 points to the winner, whereas the Lecomte and Southwest offer 10.