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Zipse At The Track

Gun Runner could be the horse to challenge Arrogate

Gun Runner Clark Handicap Heidi 615 X 400
Photo: Heidi Carpenter

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.


Unlike 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 November 25.


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 Clark.


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. 



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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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