Talk of the Nation wins the $1 million Gun Runner under Jose Ortiz (Coady Photography)
Jose Ortiz, McGaughey Score Wins in Gun Runner
By Tim Wilkin for Kentucky Downs
Jockey Jose Ortiz woke up at 3:30 Saturday morning, drove from Saratoga Springs to Albany International Airport and caught a 5:20 flight to Atlanta. After a connecting flight to Nashville, Ortiz drove 40 miles to his final destination, Kentucky Downs.
By late afternoon, Ortiz wasn’t tired. Not one bit.
“Not really,” Ortiz said as he stood in the winner’s circle at Kentucky Downs. “I just won a million-dollar race.”
That he did. Ortiz was on board 6-5 favorite Talk of the Nation and the 3-year-old son of Quality Road delivered, winning the second running of the one-mile $1 million Gun Runner at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs Saturday.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Talk of the Nation won for the third time in six starts this year on grass. He won the race going away, by a half-length.
McGaughey had started the colt on the dirt in his first two starts. He broke his maiden on dirt last year at Aqueduct Race Track and, in his first start this year, he was a dull sixth at Gulfstream Park in January.
Then came a surface switch.
“We always figured he was going to want the grass,” said Reeve McGaughey, assistant to his father. “When he won on the dirt, we had to give him one more try to make sure. As soon as he got on the grass, he was a different horse.”
In his last start, the Grade 3 Manila Stakes at Belmont Park on July 7, Talk of the Nation finished second to More Than Looks after setting the pace.
“The last time, he was pressed the whole way,” Ortiz said, who won his second race on the card. “He finished, he dug in, but today, I wanted him to be more relaxed. I had nobody to the outside of me and I could sit and move whenever I wanted.”
Smokey Mandate, trained by Mike Maker and ridden by James Graham, set the early pace, setting fractions of 22.86 seconds for the first quarter, 45.62 for the half mile and 1:09.37 for six furlongs.
“He broke very alert,” Ortiz said. “The other horse (Smokey Mandate) went to the lead, and I wanted to give him a target.”
Smokey Mandate led into the stretch, but Ortiz knew he had horse.
Talk of the Nation overtook the pacesetter and then led everyone else home. Wadsworth, the 5-2 second choice trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, won the race for second as he also overtook Smokey Mandate and finished 2 ½ lengths in front of him.
The final time for the race was 1:32.93. Talk of the Nation returned $4.74, $3.06 and $2.62.
Talk of the Nation is owned by Joseph Allen, LLC and CHC, Inc. (Kit Ng).
“We were confident (going into the Gun Runner),” Reeve McGaughey said. “They freshened him up in New York and have been pointing for this all summer. We figured he would probably like this turf course, and, luckily, he did.”
Gaslight Dancer finished fourth and was followed by Highway Robber, Major Dude, Escape Artist and Communication Memo.