Gun Runner worked five furlongs Feb. 13 at Oaklawn in preparation for the G3 Razorback Feb. 20
The winners of last year’s Triple Crown races, Nyquist, Exaggerator and Creator, are off to stud to try and produce classic winners. But, one of the country’s top 3-year-olds from 2016 is still around in Gun Runner, who is scheduled to make his seasonal debut in the $ 500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Monday at Oaklawn.
Rain in the forecast may put a wrench in those plans, according to bloodhorse.com, but after missing a start in the Pegasus World Cup due to EHV-1 restrictions at Fair Grounds, the connections may elect to race the 4-year-old over a surface he doesn’t particularly like because “he has to start somewhere.”
Co-owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (Ron and Joan Winchell) and Three Chimneys Farm, Gun Runner is a multiple graded stakes winner of $ 2,037,800. Sandwiched around a third-place finish behind Nyquist and Exaggerator in the Kentucky Derby (G1) were victories in the $ 1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds and the $ 500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) against older horses Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs in his last start.
David Fiske, manager of Winchell Thoroughbreds, said there was never any serious talk of retiring Gun Runner, who is scheduled to stand at Three Chimneys when his racing career is completed.
“There’s always some background chatter,” Fiske said Thursday afternoon. “It kind of revolves around, ‘What happens if he doesn’t run after today or if there’s some physical problem.’ There’s always that kind of stuff going on. But, I don’t think there was any serious discussion around the time of the Clark that we were going to pull the plug on him.”
Gun Runner’s successful coast-to-coast nine-race campaign last year – he also won the $ 400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds and ran second in the $ 1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita and $ 1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at Parx – reflects why he remained in training, Fiske said.
“Because he’s a racehorse, and racehorses of his quality and caliber are hard to come by, “Fiske said. “They’re few and far between.”
Fiske also said Ron Winchell “likes to race” and Goncalo Borges Torrealba, Three Chimneys chairman, “likes to race.”
“I think that pretty much sums it up,” Fiske said.
Gun Runner had been training this winter at Fair Grounds before arriving earlier this month in Hot Springs. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, he was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the 1 1/16-mile Razorback. The son of Candy Ride is scheduled to break from the rail under regular rider Florent Geroux.
Asmussen saddled Creator to win the $ 1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn and the Belmont Stakes (G1), the final leg of the Triple Crown.
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