SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Leaving no doubt about his status as one of the world’s top thoroughbreds, Gun Runner turned away all horses – and rabbits – in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1,200,000 Whitney Stakes.
After closely tracking the initial pacesetter Cautious Giant, jockey Florent Geroux put Gun Runner ahead by the time they were a 1/2-mile into the race. In an odd turn of events, Cautious Giant threw a show that somehow ended up entangled in Gun Runner’s tail. The added drag had no effect, though, as Gun Runner drew off to win by 5 1/4 lengths under an easy hand ride.
“My horse broke super sharp today from the gate,” said Geroux. “I could have gone to the lead if I wanted to, but I just stayed cover, and from there, the race was pretty much over. My horse was just on cruise control from all the way from there, and then I just gave him a tap around the 1/8 pole to make sure he stayed focused, but there was not even a need for that.”
The Steve Asmussen-trained 4-year-old colt out of Candy Ride completed the 1 1/8-mile in an effortless 1:47.17. The Whitney was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, but Gun Runner had already secured his spot in the fall’s top race after his 7-length romp in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster.
“He’s spoiling us, he really is,” Asmussen said. “He went about his business and Florent gave him a flawless ride. We talked about the pace scenario with a possible rabbit, but we wanted him to wait and not take away from what got him here. He got away cleanly, he handled nicely, he didn’t let that horse disrupt the rhythm he was in. Florent showed a lot of confidence in him to take the lead when he did. There’s a lot of pressure under those circumstances when there’s a horse entered for pace for him. When he let him drop off into the second turn there, he showed a lot of confidence in the horse. As you saw how he went by the wire, Florent knows him really well.”
Displaying the late-running style that won him the 2015 Grade 1 Travers and the 2017 Grade 2 Suburban, Keen Ice got up for second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Breaking Lucky. It was another 7 lengths back to War Story, who didn’t benefit at all from his stablemate Cautious Giant’s early front-running effort. Discreet Lover, Tu Brutus, and Cautious Giant completed the order of finish.
“For him to win a race of quality of the Whitney at Saratoga, under the pressure that Saratoga brings, only elevates his status,” Asmussen said. “The crowd that is here, going over, walking from the Oklahoma side by the racetrack through the holding barn though the crowd… the attention that is given to a horse of his caliber adds up. The attention is not sneaking up on you, and I thought he handled it well. He ran a dynamite race with a very good time over the race track here.”
Gun Runner returned $3.20 to win, $2.30 to place, and $2.10 to show. Keen Ice brought back $3.20 to place and $2.50 to show, while Breaking Lucky paid $3.20 to show.