Wicked Halo, Gunite Romp to Stakes Victories

October 22, 2022

Winchell-Asmussen-Gaffalione Double grab a stakes double on the day

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Wicked Halo swept to the front at the top of the stretch and breezed to a 4-length victory in the 24th running of the $350,000 Lexus Raven Run (G2) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday afternoon.

Wicked Halo and Tyler Gaffalione cruise to a win. Coady/Keeneland Photo

About 90 minutes earlier, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Gunite cruised to a 3 3/4-length victory in the 14th running of the $250,000 Perryville (L) for 3-year-olds. 

Steve Asmussen trains both runners, and Tyler Gaffalione rode both winners.

The victory was the third of the afternoon for Asmussen and gave Gaffalione a second Lexus Raven Run victory to go with the 2018 triumph on Shamrock Rose.

In the Lexus Raven Run, Smash Ticket and Freedom Speaks led the field of nine through fractions of :22.73 and :46.09 with Wicked Halo racing in the three path just off the flank of Freedom Speaks.

Midway on the far turn, Wicked Halo drew on even terms with the leaders. By the time the field reached the top of the stretch, she had a clear advantage and raced to the finish under no pressure.

Wicked Halo with Tyler Gaffalione up pulls away for an assertive win. Coady/Keeneland Photo

Wicked Halo completed the 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:24.30 to notch her third graded stakes victory and fifth overall.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Gun Runner out of the Tapit mare Just Wicked, Wicked Halo improved her record to 10-6-0-3 in winning her fourth consecutive start. Saturday’s victory was worth $206,150 and increased her earnings to $780,200.

Wicked Halo returned $7.04, $3.82 and $2.66 as the favorite in the field of nine. Fingal’s Cave rallied for second under Joel Rosario and returned $5.16 and $3.74. She finished a neck in front of Midnight Stroll, who paid $3.56 to show under Luis Saez.

It was another 3¾ lengths back to Freedom Speaks, who was followed in order by Last Leaf, Smash Ticket, Colorful Mischief, Republique and Union Lake.

Wicked Halo with Tyler Gaffalione up wins the 2022 Lexus Raven Run for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Ron Winchell. Coady/Keeneland Photo

Quotes from the $350,000 Lexus Raven Run (G2)

Steve Asmussen (winning trainer of Wicked Halo who three races earlier won the Perryville-L with Gunite; both are 3-year-olds by Gun Runner): “(Winning the two stakes is) extremely special. Their level of ability is obvious, but the fact that they thrive with racing and have continued to get better is so rare. I think she (Wicked Halo) and Gunite are very similar in the fact that they’ve just accepted their job and continuously gotten faster. Obviously, they’re very sound horses – great homebreds for Winchell (Thoroughbreds). I’m very fortunate to have them.”

On whether the Breeders’ Cup also is on the table for Wicked Halo: “Yes.”

Tyler Gaffalione (winning rider)On the similarity of Wicked Halo’s race to Gaffalione’s earlier win in the Perryville on Gunit: “Definitely seemed that way. She did everything very easily. I’m just so thankful I was able to get the opportunity to steer them around there. It was a lot of fun today.”

Joel Rosario (rider of runner-up Fingal’s Cave): “She broke fine. Right away I got pinched a little bit, so I had to take hold. I thought we were going to be a little more in the race (from the beginning). She did well after that. She came running at the end, so that was good. We were just second best.”

Luis Saez (rider of third-place finisher Midnight Stroll): “She tried. She ran her race. The winner is a tough filly. I thought she (Midnight Stroll) was going to hold on for second, but she got pretty tired.”

Gunite romps off the pace for Perryville victory

In the Perryville, Gunite sat just off the pace set by Provocateur and Of a Revolution through fractions of :22.38 and :45.82 and began to close in on the far turn. By the time the field hit the top of the stretch, Gunite had a clear advantage and never was threatened in the run through the lane.

Gunite covered the 7 furlongs on a fast main track in a stakes-record 1:23.21. It is the second victory in the race for Asmussen, who won with Nashville in 2020.

A Kentucky-bred son of Gun Runner Gunite is out of the Cowboy Cal mare Simple Surprise. It was the fifth stakes victory for Gunite, whose resume boasts a victory in last year’s Hopeful (G1) and this year’s Amsterdam (G2), both at Saratoga.

The dark bay colt now has a record of 12-6-4-1 and with Saturday’s winner’s check of $151,125 boosted his earnings to $965,934.

Gunite returned $3.24, $2.58 and $2.10. Hoist the Gold, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., took second and returned $12 and $6.42. He finished 3 lengths in front of B Dawk, who paid $3.30 to show under Joel Rosario.

It was another 3¾ lengths back to Artorius with Frair Laurence, Of a Revolution and Provocateur following in order.

Quotes from the $250,000 Perryville (L)

Steve Asmussen (winning trainer of Gunite): “(He has shown) beautiful consistency. He has performed at the highest levels and continues to impress. (As Keeneland Racing Analyst Scott Hazelton said in the Paddock), he carries himself like he can do this. He’s got a confidence. He accepts what’s happening and does it extremely well.

“This was the first test (regarding whether to go to the Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1 in 14 days): How he handles Keeneland. I thought he ran really well. He was very comfortable and looked great over the racetrack. Now it will all be about how he comes back. But we have until Monday (pre-entry deadline) to decide.”

Gunite with Tyler Gaffalione up wins the 2022 Perryville Stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Ron Winchell, Coady/Keeneland Photo

Tyler Gaffalione (winning rider): “It was very easy for him. He’s a very talented colt. I’m just so blessed to be able to ride him. I can’t thank (trainer) Steve (Asmussen) and (owner) Mr. (Ron) Winchell (of Winchell Thoroughbreds) enough for this opportunity. He’s a very special horse. I had a great post, so I just helped him get out there, get him underneath himself, and he does the rest.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. (rider of runner-up Hoist the Gold): “We had a great trip from the one hole. We were able to work out a good inside trip. Turning for home, we were right behind the eventual winner. He was just a little bit better than us today.”

Joel Rosario (rider of third-place finisher B Dawk): “He took his time to get out (of the gate) and get into the race in the beginning, but he made a nice move going into

Racing continues Sunday with a nine-race program that begins at 1 p.m. ET and is highlighted by the 31strunning of the $300,000 Rood & Riddle Dowager (G3) for fillies and mares going 1½ miles on the turf. Post time for the Rood & Riddle Dowager, the seventh race of the afternoon, is 4:12 p.m.

Keeneland Press Release
All photos by Coady Photography/Keeneland

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