By Amy Nesse
Consistent, tough, and mature, Gun Runner
has proven to be all of these things. Though perhaps not necessarily the fastest horse in this Kentucky Derby
field, this horse gets the job done and appears to be improving. Gun Runner
has lost only 1 of his 5 starts and the more I watch this one, the more I like him, but does he have what it takes to take home the Roses? Before he faces that challenge, let’s learn a bit more about this colt.
is an attractive chestnut colt sired by Candy Ride out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Quiet Giant. Quiet Giant was a talented stakes winner and half sister to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam. Gun Runner
has the ideal type of breeding for the Derby, Candy Ride has been known to produce horses with a good mix of speed and stamina, and with a great group of horses on his dam’s side, distance should not be an issue. Gun Runner’s
breeding is perhaps one of the most appealing things about him. Gun Runner
is owned by the partnership of Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm and is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. He is ridden by talented Florent Geroux
finished his two year old season with 2 wins in his first 2 starts at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, and a 4th place finish to Airoforce in the Grade 1- Kentucky Jockey Club. Gun Runner
made his debut as a 3 year old in the $400,000 Grade 2- Risen Star Stakes at The Fair Grounds. Gun Runner
turned heads with his Risen Star win beating notable horses such as Airoforce, Mo Tom, and Mor Spirit. The win earned him 50 Derby qualifying points.“He’s a very nice horse. We’re very lucky to have him”
said trainer Steve Asmussen. “I thought Florent gave him a beautiful trip with how the track was playing. He’s shown talent the whole time and it’s definitely good to see him in the winner’s circle in a race like this.”
Gun Runner completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:43.94 on a fast track. “He’s a very nice horse. I’ve really liked him since the first time I was on his back a few weeks ago working in the morning”
said Geroux. “He’s super athletic. I was very confident. I wanted to make sure I saved some ground. It looked like the track was playing a little bit more inside-favoring. I kept him down there until I asked him to go and he ran a great race.”
Although it looked as though he may have been tiring at the finish, Gun Runner
impressed with his win and showed tremendous improvement and good effort that pleased his whole team. It was now on to The Louisiana Derby.
Gun Runner would make his 5th start and last Derby prep in the 1 ⅛ mile $1,000,000 Grade 2- Louisiana Derby at The Fair Grounds. Candy My Boy, 4th place finisher in the Risen Star, took the early lead and maintained control through fractions of :23.54 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.24 for a half-mile, and 1:12.94 for 6 furlongs, with Dazzling Gem and Gun Runner not far behind. Gun Runner took over after one mile in 1:38.12 and wasn’t threatened at the finish. Gun Runner ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.06 on a fast track. His Louisiana Derby win earned him 100 points in the The Kentucky Derby standings, putting him on top of the leader board. After the race his jockey stated “The good thing is he’s very easy to manage.”“He has so many gears. He settles really nicely, and when you ask him to go, he has a nice turn of foot. It’s great to have a Derby horse. Hopefully we can make a nice run the first Saturday in May.”
That continues to be the hope and prayer of the Gun Runner team. Since his Louisiana Derby win, Gun Runner has been training excellently and is looking in prime condition. There are many positives for this horse; first of all he has won at Churchill Downs and seems to like the track, he has a great jockey who seems to be on a hot streak, his breeding should carry him the Derby Distance, and most importantly, he seems to be improving. He has good tactical speed, but he will be facing all kinds of tough competition come Derby Day. Another key question facing Gun Runner is if he can handle a pace. Well, according to his trainer Steve Assmussen, pace is not much of a concern “Gun Runner is a quick horse, extremely athletic and capable of being very close to any pace.” My negatives for this colt are his slower speed figures, a long 6 week layoff, and the fact that no Louisiana Derby winner has ever gone straight into the Kentucky Derby and won. For me the pros outweigh the cons, and the more I watch him train over the Churchill Downs track the more I like him. He is obviously a horse to be reckoned with and if he gets a clean trip, I could see him getting the job done on May 7.