The Gun Runner is named in honor of the 2016 Louisiana Derby hero and outstanding young sire. It joins the Lecomte Stakes (G3), Risen Star (G2), and Louisiana Derby (G2) as Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Fair Grounds. The Gun Runner awards Derby points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers.
Carded as race 11 of 13, the Gun Runner attracted seven colts and geldings to travel 1 1/16 miles over the main track.
Five of the seven won their last start, and three have experience at 1 1/16 miles, although none won.
(Trainer stats compiled from STATS RaceLens.)
installed as the favorite at 5-2, based on a 3 1/2 length maiden score at a mile at
Churchill last month. The Steve Asmussen trainee dueled for much of the race
with Surfer Dude and tired that one out. For the record, Surfer Dude returned a
winner. The son of Not This Time has the pedigree and conformation to enjoy two
turns, and Asmussen wins with 21 percent of last-out maiden winners. Win contender.
Brad Cox's Rocket Dawg earned
the co-second-favorite status of 3-1 based on his 5 1/2 length debut win at
Churchill in November. The son of Classic Empire looked impressive as he circled
the field under a hand ride and opened up effortlessly in the seven-furlong
event. Four of his ten rivals returned, and two won while the other two hit the
board. Cox's debut winners return to win 21% next out. Win contender.
Surfer Dude found the winner's circle in his fifth start, after previously tiring to third after dueling with Epicenter in his last start. The Dallas Stewart trainee fought hard through the stretch and refused to yield, winning by a head. Two of his ten foes returned to win, and one placed third.
Surfer Dude has one of the best pedigrees in the Gun Runner
Stakes. He's by Curlin out of Grade 1 winner Tiz Mis Sue and has classic
distance breeding. He's shown Brisnet Speed Rating improvement in his last
three starts and posted a pre-race bullet move at the Fair Grounds.
Additionally, Stewart's last-out maiden winners return to win 25% next time
out. Long shot win
The 3-1 co-second- favorite, Tejano Twist, hopes to make it three victories in a row in the Gun Runner. The Bret Calhoun gelding is the most experienced in the field, with eight starts, three wins, and three second-place finishes, including a victory in the 6 1/2 furlong Lively Shively Stakes at Churchill in his last start.
He looks good on paper; however, Tejano Twist has a sprinter/miler
pedigree and attempts to stretch his speed to two turns in the Game Runner from
an outside post. Exotics.
Grade 1-placed Kevin's Folly
has finished out of the money once in four starts, and that was a dismal eighth-place
finish in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1). He has no early speed but closed
in his last race, an optional claimer, to miss second-place by a head. The Tom
Amoss trainee is facing can be counted on to run his race and is a good
underneath play at morning line odds of 8-1. Exotics.
Waita Minute Hayes battled through the stretch and won
the Jean Lafitte Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths but was disqualified to second place for
coming in on rival Kaely's Brother, causing that one to steady. The Ricky
Courville trainee was all out to beat a mediocre group and would need to show
improvement to beat the top runners. Toss.
Rich Strike dominated a $30,000 maiden claiming field in his second start by an eye-catching 17 lengths and was snapped up by Eric Reed. Three of his ten rivals returned, one won and the other two placed.
In his next start in a one-mile optional claiming event, the
son of Keen Ice bobbled at the start and wound up at the back of the field. He
made up ground through the stretch but was green, switching leads late and
ducking out when hit with the left-handed whip. Julien Leparoux wisely put the
stick away, and an unfocused Rich Strike got back on track late to finish third
under a hand ride. Rich Strike has the potential to become a stakes quality colt
but needs to mature first. Toss.
Epicenter and Surfer Dude could hook up on the lead.
Waita Minute Hayes has tactical speed and has won from on and off the pace, so it's anyone's guess what Ashley Broussard will do. My wild guess is that they'll track the pace along with Tejano Twist, and Rich Strike could be in the mix.
Rocket Dawg has raced only once, and he may also have tactical speed, leaving Keven's Folly as our confirmed closer.
All of the contenders' Brisnet late-pace speed ratings are closely matched.
Surfer Dude has a gradual speed rating and performance improvement, plus a pre-race bullet work. He has classic breeding, and this is the time of year when those types start maturing. He's worth a good look as a live long-shot winner.
4. Surfer Dude (5-1)
1. Epicenter (5-2)
3. Rocket Dawg (3-1)
6. Tejano Twist (3-1)