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Runner Gunning for Arrogate

25/09/2017
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Second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup, Gun Runner fired out a serious Breeders’ Cup Classic warning with a devastating display at Saratoga, a fortnight after his Meydan conqueror was defeated at Del Mar, with a facile success in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. Ridden by Florent Geroux for Steve Asmussen, who won the 2008 Dubai World Cup with Curlin, Gun Runner had previously won the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes, also at Saratoga, and appears to be improving rapidly. Those two wins at the New York track have been achieved by an aggregate of more than 16 lengths.

“My horse broke so sharp I could pretty much do anything I wanted with him,” said jockey Florent Geroux. “From the three pole I just knew it was a matter of how many lengths I was going to win by. “That was better than the Whitney; stronger, faster. Overall, he is just getting better and I don’t think he is 100% cranked up yet. I really do think he has another step forward in him.” Winning trainer Steve Asmussen added: “He stepped up. This was our last race heading into the Breeders’ Cup and I thought it went as well as we could have hoped. “I think everything culminates with the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

That’s why he is in training this year, that has been the goal, and continues to be the goal.” Gun Runner, who went off hot favourite to beat his four rivals in the Woodward, was beaten over two lengths at Meydan by Arrogate but is now favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Lady Ivanka earned a place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with victory in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes on the same card and she is likely to face the Simon Callaghan-trained Moonshine Memories, who staked her claim for the same race by landing the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes in California.

Two days later, legendary trainer D Wayne Lukas, who celebrated his 82nd birthday on the day of the Woodward, landed his first Grade One victory for nearly three years as Sporting Chance and Luis Saez took the 7f Hopeful Stakes, the $350,000 juvenile highlight of the US Labor Day bank holiday programme. It was a dramatic victory, too, as the son of dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow ducked violently away from his jockey’s whip inside the last 50 yards, almost throwing the race away. “I thought he was comfortable in front and he was moving well,” said Lukas after his eighth victory in a historic race, won by Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, Secretariat and Affirmed in the past.

“Unfortunately, he saw something; I guess Luis explained that he ducked from the whip, I’m not sure,” added Lukas, whose last Grade One success had come with Take Charge Brandi in the Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos in December 2014. “I have a tendency to think it might have been something else, you never know. You want everything to go smooth. I don’t think it diminished his quality any, I think we’ll move forward from this. Stuff like this is very correctable. “I might try to go straight to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but I’m not real fond of Del Mar.

I know that sounds crazy but I’m going to weigh all our chances. Another logical spot would be the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and go two turns, another Grade One.” Over at Del Mar, also on Labor Day and a juvenile 7f Grade One, the Del Mar Futurity was won by Bolt D’Oro, trained by Mick Ruis and able to overcome an awkward start under Corey Nakatani. “I had this horse maybe 70% cranked,” said winning trainer Mick Ruis. “This wasn’t the most important. It’s a stepping stone to other races. We’re only going to improve.”

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