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Gun Runner, the 2017 Horse of the Year who retired with earnings of just under $16 million, sired a Preakness Stakes (G1) winner from his first crop of 3-year-olds last year in Early Voting.
2023 Preakness Stakes
The only downside to that for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who trained Gun Runner, and Ron Winchell, who still co-owns the $15.98 million-earner and superstar stallion, is that Early Voting, in the process, beat their favored colt Epicenter. Epicenter came flying fast but ran out of ground trying to collar Early Voting, having to again settle for second after being run down in the final yards of the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 80-1 Rich Strike two weeks earlier.
Now Winchell and Asmussen are scheduled to return to the 1 3/16-mile Preakness armed with not one but two sons of Gun Runner. Asmussen said Wednesday that both Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm and Oaklawn Park’s Bath House Row Stakes winner Red Route One will run in the 149th Preakness as long as they continue to do well.
Disarm resumed training Wednesday after three days off following the Kentucky Derby, jogging once around the Churchill Downs track. Red Route One visited the starting gate for a routine session of standing before having an easy gallop. Red Route One is scheduled to work Sunday and Disarm on Monday before shipping to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Like their dad, Disarm and Red Route One are chestnuts. If they turn out to be half as good as Gun Runner, they’ll make their team proud.
Disarm has yet to win a stakes but was second in the Louisiana Derby in his stakes debut and then third in Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3), an additional race tucked in to get him enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field.
Red Route One is more experienced, with nine career starts, his first victory coming on grass at Kentucky Downs (for which Winchell is co-managing partner) and with graded-stakes placings in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Oaklawn’s Southwest (G3) and Rebel (G2). A sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1) rerouted Red Route One from the Kentucky Derby to the Bath House Row, where a fees-paid spot in the Preakness came with the victory.
“Disarm carries more weight. Red Route One might be a little taller but doesn’t carry as much mass,” Asmussen said when asked to compare the colts. “Both of them have unbelievably good attitudes and are very happy to train – just two that we are very fortunate to have. They are very much Gun Runner’s personality. Both of them let you know that they are men and will talk to you a little bit. They are extremely sound horses that look beautiful on the racetrack.
“Red Route One looks like Gun Runner and Disarm just might actually be Gun Runner –the markings, the exact red color. The similarities between Disarm and Gun Runner, physically and personality-wise are carbon copies.”
Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, both coming with Horses of the Year and future Hall of Famers Curlin (2007) and the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009). He opted to skip the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown after Gun Runner finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
“With the accomplishments of Gun Runner going into the Derby and where he obviously ended up proving who he was, I think it was way too much to risk at that stage (to run back in two weeks). He was unique and special. We look up and about six years later, we have options [with his offspring],” Asmussen said.
“It’s kind of like going into the Louisiana Derby with Disarm off being second in an (allowance race),” he continued. “The word was ‘This horse is working like Gun Runner did around here.’ My comment was ‘to everybody who didn’t have Gun Runner.’ Gun Runner is the only thing I could put in the ballpark with Curlin as far as physical ability.”
By the way, Kentucky Derby winner Mage is from the first crop sired by Good Magic, who is a son of Curlin. Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year, was represented in his first crop by 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice and then three years later had 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator (second in Gun Runner’s Derby won by Nyquist).
“Curlin and Gun Runner are going to be in the pedigrees at the highest levels of racing in the world for the rest of my life,” Asmussen said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of that.”
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