Sport

GUN RUNNER: The new king of racing after Breeders' Cup Classic victory

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

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DEL MAR, California-USA (AP) — There's a new king in horse racing and it's Gun Runner .

The four-year-old colt won the US$6 million Breeders' Cup Classic by 2 1/4 lengths Saturday, sending rival Arrogate to a third straight career-ending defeat at Del Mar.

Gun Runner ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.29. Collected was second, with West Coast another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

“At the quarter pole, it was just a two-horse race between me and Collected,” Gun Runner's jockey Florent Geroux said. “We just went on and the best horse won the race.”

Arrogate finished in a dead-heat for fifth with Gunnevera, done in once again at the seaside track north of San Diego. Del Mar was the scene of two losses during the summer.

“He just doesn't seem to get a hold of this racetrack, for whatever reason,” jockey Mike Smith said. “I hate to blame it on the track, but he's shown it time and time again. I keep trying to talk myself into it, that he's going to like it one day, but he just never did.”

Arrogate hasn't been the same horse since his dominant wins in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup and the US$10 million Dubai World Cup earlier this year that made him the sport's richest thoroughbred with over US$17 million in earnings.

The Dubai race was the last time Gun Runner lost. Since then, he's emerged stronger than ever with four consecutive victories.

“He's better today than he's ever been,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Classic for the first time since 2007 with Curlin.

Arrogate was a slight 2-1 favourite over Gun Runner, with US$1,420,233 bet on Arrogate to win — US$132,416 more than on Gun Runner.

The Classic capped a wild weekend at Del Mar, playing host to the Breeders' Cup for the first time. Just two favourites won in 13 races — Mendelssohn in the US$1 million Juvenile Turf on Friday and World Approval in the US$2 million Mile on Saturday.

The biggest upset belonged to Bar of Gold in the US$1 million Filly & Mare Sprint. She paid US$135.40 to win at 60-1 odds in front of an announced crowd of 37,692. The track had said attendance would be capped at 37,500 because of the smaller venue. Friday's total was 32,278.

There were three Europe-based winners: Mendelssohn, Wuheida in the US$2 million Filly & Mare Turf, and Talismanic in the US$4 million Turf.

New York-based trainer Chad Brown won two races: the US$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf with Rushing Fall and the US$2 million Juvenile with 11-1 shot Good Magic.

Bob Baffert saddled a record four horses in pursuit of a record fourth straight win in the Classic. He finished 2-3 with Collected and West Coast, and was left to puzzle over another disappointing showing by Arrogate. His other horse, Mubtaahij, was eighth.

Arrogate broke a step slow and banged his left side on the starting gate.

“At the break when he ducked in and he had to gather him up, you just can't do that against these horses,” Baffert said. “But I notice when he goes around these turns he loses momentum. I can't really totally blame it on the track. He's so much better than that.”

Baffert was blanked with his 11 starters on the weekend, while Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien was 1 for 13. He trained Mendelssohn.

With Arrogate out of the running, a Baffert horse took up the chase, but it was Collected. He hounded Gun Runner in what became virtually a match race.

“I was feeling really good, actually,” Geroux said. “My horse was really comfortable, flopping his hair back and forth shows a sign he was relaxing for me while going quick. He's just a fresh horse. From there, I just tried to keep him as happy as I could.”

Collected took his best and last shot turning for home, but Gun Runner fended off the challenge and steadily widened his lead in deep stretch. Geroux and Asmussen discussed strategy earlier in the day after watching some early races.

“We wanted him away from the gate cleanly, in a nice rhythm,” the trainer said. “The confidence Florent has in the horse, the way the horse has been training coming into this race, I think letting him be who he is has put him on this stage and made him undoubtedly Horse of the Year.”

Gun Runner has 11 wins in 18 career starts and earnings of just less than US$9 million.

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