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Kentucky Derby Contender Profile - Gun Runner

After a promising juvenile season Gun Runner made the shortlist for many Kentucky Derby winter book handicappers. With his victory in the February 20 Risen Star Stakes (G2) the Steve Asmussen-trainee currently sits second behind Mohaymen on the Kentucky Derby qualifying points list.

The colt was making his 2016 debut in the Grade 2 fixture and had to overcome some adversity to get his picture taken. He broke a half-beat slow from post five under Florent Geroux, who then put the hustle on to preserve position going into the first turn. The pair nevertheless found themselves in a five-horse school behind early leader Candy My Boy and pace-presser Bistraya. After bumping with favored Airoforce late in the first turn, Geroux again hit the accelerator when an opening appeared and ranged up to third. He then used some more of Gun Runner's speed to secure the inside from Bistraya before tipping out to pounce on Candy My Boy around the far turn. At the eighth pole he went on by a stubborn Candy My Boy and appeared home free before getting late and allowing 40-1 Forevemo and the tough-luck Mo Tom to add some drama to the finish. The final margin of victory was a 1/2-length.




Given his trip and the fact that the Risen Star was his first race since a 4th-place run in the November 28 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) Gun Runner can be forgiven for his less than stellar final eighth. Trip handicappers have also rightly noted that Mo Tom may well been the winner if he hadn't been checked sharply at the 3/16 pole.

But Gun Runner is bred to be a good one and he's been handled by his connections like a colt with big Classics potential all along. He didn't debut until mid-September, a win going a mile at Churchill Downs over the odds-on Gametown (a $675,000 juvenile purchase). In his second start he handled two-turns with a 2-length Allowance victory at 1 1/6 miles before running 4th in the KY Jockey Club behind Airoforce, Mor Spirit and Mo Tom on a sloppy/sealed surface. He's now won all three of his start on dry main tracks.

By the unbeaten Candy Ride out the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant, Gun Runner was co-bred by famed owner/breeders Winchell Thoroughbreds. Over the years the Winchell family has bred the likes of Wood Memorial (G1) winner (and sire sensation) Tapit, Eclipse Champion Untapable, Hollywood Futurity (G1) winner Valiant Nature and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Olympio (among many others). Quiet Giant counts the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Stakes among her five blacktype victories and she sold for $3 million at the 2011 Keeneland November sale.

A Classic victory by Gun Runner would be yet another for the Fappiano-sire line that's given us Triple Crown race winners like Unbridled, Grindstone, Real Quiet, Mine That Bird, Empire Maker, Birdstone, Red Bullet and, of course, American Pharoah. His sire, Candy Ride, is by the South American sire Ride the Rails, a son of one of Fappiano's first Classic runner, Cryptoclearance, who placed in the 1987 Preakness and Belmont Stakes. In fact, Gun Runner is inbred to Fappiano at 4x4.

The upcoming 9-furlong Louisiana Derby will give us more answers about the Classic prospects of Gun Runner, but there is enough quality in his race record (on a fast track), his pedigree and his human connections to be extremely bullish.



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