All eyes will be on Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney’s Gun Runner who now has a chance to gain ground on Arrogate in the older male division. The 4 year old is already one of the top races horses in the world, and has been installed as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney. The Whitney Stakes serves as the headline race for older males at Saratoga each summer.
Currently ranked third in Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings and second in NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, Gun Runner returned to the United States and won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in wire to wire fashion. His only loss this season came in a second place effort to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.
Following a bid at several big races at ages two and three Gun Runner finally broke through to end his season in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. He now has three straight United Stakes victory as he took home the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap as a prep for Dubai in a February.
Trained Steve Asmussen has been ice cold as Saratoga to start the meet, but will look to turn things around with Gun Runner on Saturday. The Hall of Fame trainer is very high on the top horse in his stable heading into the race.
“He’s done us proud,” said Asmussen. “He’s a horse who has had success from the one-hole in multiple occasions. I thought he ran a pretty good race last year in the Travers from the 14 [post] over the race track, so the post should not hinder him one way or the other.”
Regulare rider Florent Geroux will have the mount on Gun Runner once again for the Whitney Stakes. Like Asmussen, he thinks the colt is training exceptionally well for this test.
“He’s always improving,” said his regular jockey Florent Geroux. “I tell the owners every time I ride him, he always comes back a better horse after each start. It’s pretty special when you ride a horse like this for over a year now. I really think he’s been great with how he’s training right now.”
Like always, this years running will once again be a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4. Saturday will also includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Test, the Grade 3, $200,000 Waya, the $100,000 De La Rose and the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure.
#6 Gun Runner – The level of improvement shown by this horse has been nothing short or spectacular. In February he made his 4 year old debut at Oaklawn Park and completely dominated his foes in the Razorback Handicap. Even though that field lacked star quality that day it was still an incredible showing from him. After that he went to Dubai and ran a “too good to lose” second, before coming back to once again dominate in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. In all of his races this year he’s basically been in a race of his own out front as he just gets to the lead and never looks back. Expecting more of that again even with the rabbit Cautions Giant entered in the race to keep him company. That strategy worked in Charles Town as the rabbit softened up Stanford, but I don’t think it will work as well with Gun Runner. A wire to wire win is my prediction.
Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers
#4 Tu Brutus – Didn’t run quite as well last time out as what he’s been running lately, but what if he rebounds today? From a talent standpoint he is the only one capable of hanging with Gun Runner, but he better get back to top form or he has no chance. The race is extremely wide open, and even confusing, once you get past the presence of the heavy favorite. I’m drawing a line through his last effort and hoping he rebounds here at a price.
#5 Keen Ice – Sorry but I’m not sold quite yet. Sure, Keen Ice won the Suburban Handicap last time out, but that was his first win since the 2015 Travers Stakes! That doesn’t make me real excited to back him as the second choice in this race. Overall he has the second best resume in the field though, and you can pretty much count on him to come with a big run in the end like he normally does. However, I think he is a horse that needs mile and a quarter as both his big wins (Travers and Suburban) came going that distance.
#1 War Story – A winner last time out in the Brooklyn Handicap at a mile and a half over Tu Brutus in an upset. He’s wildly inconsistent, but on his best day he can run with a lot of the big players in the game. I have a hard time believing he can win this race, but his connections have thrown a rabbit into the race and that could help matters for him. Have always believed he’s a cut below the best though so I’m think hitting the board might be his ceiling.
#2 Breaking Lucky – Sure he certainly hasn’t matched up with Gun Runner on any occasion, and honestly he probably won’t again in this race. However, his best career race did come at Saratoga when he nearly won the Woodward Stakes last year. If he can bring that effort and Gun Runner doesn’t show up with his normal effort it is not our of the question that he can win. He’ll be the right price to give it a go if you are needing a long shot to bet.
#7 Discreet Lover – Has very poor history in stakes races, and his biggest win came in an allowance victory at Parx. Him winning would be a complete surprise…perhaps even bigger than the rabbit entered in the race.
#3 Cautious Giant – Entered into this race as a rabbit for his stablemate War Story. Several columnist, including our very one Saratoga Slim, has been critical of these two horses not being entered as a couple entry. Hopefully everyone knows his purpose in the race.
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