Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner continued to be impressive at Saratoga, cruising home the clear winner of Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward for his third top-level win in a row. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride, ridden by Florent Geroux, laid off a quick early pace set by Neolithic, ranged up alongside that rival on the turn and accelerated with ease to open up a six-length lead mid-way down the lane. Geroux rode him out nearly to the wire for trainer Steve Asmussen, completing the nine-furlong romp in 1:47.43 over the fast main track.
Gun Runner had his head cocked just a bit at the start but did not seem to be bothered by it, breaking with the field sandwiched between the Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates Neolithic and Rally Cry. Those three, along with War Story, all tried to make the lead heading into the first turn, leaving War Story four-wide for several strides.
Geroux never worried when Jose Ortiz insisted upon having the lead aboard Neolithic. Instead, he took the ever-tractable Gun Runner back to second while Neolithic laid down quick early fractions nearly two lengths in front of him. Rally Cry and John Velazquez kept Gun Runner company down the backstretch, never more than a half-length behind the chestnut colt, while War Story and longshot Discreet Lover moved in unison in fourth position.
After splits of :23.20, :46.56 and 1:10.45, Neolithic was challenged by the unhurried Gun Runner. Geroux simply allowed the colt to glide up alongside the leader, and with a quick thrust of the reins Gun Runner had a two-length lead at the head of the lane. With just hand urging, Gun Runner moved out to a six-length lead in mid-stretch, at which point he briefly lost focus and Geroux had to remind him of his task with a left-handed stick.
Gun Runner switched leads at the eighth pole in response, flattening his ears and getting back to work, then changed back to his right lead as Geroux eased up the pressure and cruised under the wire about eight lengths ahead of Rally Cry. Neolithic crossed the wire third, and War Story finished fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, Gun Runner was a private purchase in the first-time partnership of Ron Winchell and Three Chimneys. After a pair of flops from Arrogate, this performance could have Gun Runner making a strong bid for Horse of the Year as the colt continues to pad his resume approaching the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Woodward win improves Gun Runner’s record to 10 wins from 17 starts, with earnings of over $ 5.6 million.
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