Gun Runner made his 2017 United States debut a winning one, wiring the field in the $500,000 Gr.1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 17, to win by seven lengths.
Carrying the highest weight in the field of eight with 124 pounds, Gun Runner went straight to the lead when early runners Bird Song and Stanford were not as keen as usual. Gun Runner settled easily under jockey Florent Geroux and took the field through a quarter-mile in :23.59 before opening up two lengths through a half in :47.23. Stanford was asked to move through the far turn but was in vain; the four-year-old son of Candy Ride swiftly drew off by five lengths to coast home. Despite being geared down in the final sixteenth, he won by seven lengths, the largest margin in the Stephen Foster’s history.
“I was loaded the entire trip around there. He was doing everything so easily. This horse is truly unbelievable,” said Geroux. “He’s one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden and to put forward this type of effort after running in Dubai is so impressive. I was a bit surprised to find myself on a lone lead, but I wasn’t complaining one bit. What a horse.”
Gun Runner was bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, LLC and is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Quiet Giant. From 15 starts, he boasts 8 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds for earnings of $4,638,500.
The Stephen Foster, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race, was Gun Runner’s second grade 1 victory.
“I think it was key taking our time with this horse,” said Asmussen. “We always thought he would get better with age and he’s proving that to us right now. It’s special to win a grade 1, but now we have our ticket punched to the Breeders’ Cup. We got him to the winner’s circle here at home and we set ourselves up for a great second-half campaign. I can’t thank our owners enough. This horse is incredibly special in so many ways.”
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