Gun Runner Closes 2017 Breeders' Cup with Classic Tour De Force
By Bob Ehalt
DEL MAR, Calif. - The Great Showdown turned out to be a mismatch.
What was supposed to be an epic duel between Arrogate and Gun Runner turned into a tour de force for Gun Runner as he set blistering fractions through every call and then pulled away in the stretch to record a 2 ¼-length victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on the second and final day of the World Championships at Del Mar Racetrack.
Arrogate, in the final start of a career in which he departs as North America’s all-time leading earner, showed none of his renowned late kick and finished in a dead-heat for fifth as the 2-1 favorite in a field of 11.
“What an awesome feeling this is,” said trainer Steve Asmussen after Gun Runner beat Arrogate following losses to him in the horses’ first two meetings. “I’m the lucky trainer of the Horse of the Year.”
There’s little doubt over that as Gun Runner clinched the crown by winning his fourth straight Grade 1 stakes after finishing second to Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March. In those four wins, Gun Runner cruised to victory by a combined margin of 24 ¾ lengths.
“This (win) means a lot,” said jockey Florent Geroux after his fourth Breeders’ Cup win and first in the BC Classic. “It’s the biggest win of my career.”
For trainer Bob Baffert, there was disappointment in seeing Arrogate end his career with three straight losses after successive Grade 1 wins in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup led to record earnings of $17,302,600.
“He’s like a great pitcher who can’t find the plate,” Baffert said.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, Gun Runner grabbed the lead early and led by a half-length over Pacific Classic (G1) winner Collected, one of four Baffert entrants in the race, after a half-mile in 46.31 seconds.
Collected stayed glued to Gun Runner through a mile in a demanding 1:35.03, but in the stretch, he had no answer as the 2-1 second choice ($6.80) dashed clear to complete the mile-and-a-quarter end in 2:01.29 and end any debate over Horse of the Year honors.
Collected, the 5-1 fourth-choice, held on for second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Travers and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner West Coast, another Baffert starter.
War Story was fourth and Gunnevera dead-heated with Arrogate for fifth.
The BC Classic closed out the Breeders’ Cup’s first trip to Del Mar, and wrapped up two days of increased wagering on the World Championships.
The two-day, on-track wagering of $25,181,317 was the highest for the event and marked a 21.4% increase over 2016.
Saturday’s on-track handle of $15,900,813 was the best for the event since 2006 and an increase of 17.2% from the previous year. All-sources handle for the two days of $166,077,486 resulted in a 5.9% increase over last year. Attendance at Del Mar on Saturday was 37,692.
“We were treated to world championship performances over two days of the very best in international racing, combined with spectacular weather, smooth operations and excellent customer service from our hosts at Del Mar,” said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel. “Del Mar proved to be an extraordinary venue for our Championships and we want to thank its staff, our volunteers and the greater San Diego community for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality extended to our guests from around the world. We also want to thank racing fans for their enthusiastic support of our event.”
“Del Mar, its staff and the community of San Diego absolutely shone for this Breeders’ Cup,” said Joe Harper, president and general manager of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. “I could not be more proud of the effort that was put forth by everyone at our racetrack and all the folks in San Diego who jumped on board for this marvelous event and made it into something spectacular. This was racing at its best; it was Del Mar at its best; and it was San Diego being all it could be. It was a complete winner.”
Longines Breeders Cup Turf
Talismanic gave Godolphin Racing a sweep of the major turf races in Saturday’s edition of the World Championships, charging past a determined Beach Patrol in the final sixteenth of a mile and recording a half-length victory in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Beach Patrol, coming off successive wins in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Arlington Million, held on for second, a neck ahead of 7-5 favorite and 2016 BC Turf winner Highland Reel.
Trained by Andre Fabre, Talismanic paid $30.20 to win while winning his first American start and giving Godolphin its seventh Breeders’ Cup victory.
The win was the fifth for Fabre at the Breeders’ Cup and second in the BC Turf after a previous win with In the Wings (1990). Ridden by Mickael Barzalona, Talismanic set a course record with his time of 2:26.19 for the mile-and-a-half.
Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Good Magic is a maiden no more.
The $1 million yearling buy picked a highly opportune time to win his first race as he powered to the front in the stretch and drew off to a decisive 4 ½-length victory in the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over Zayat Stables’ Solomini.
Though winless before the BC Juvenile and the first maiden to ever win the race, Good Magic’s victory in his third career start was hardly an illusion as he was a game second in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in his previous start.
Owned by e 5 Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables and trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic returned $25 to win as the sixth-choice in a 12-horse horse field.
“We were laying up the last two races,” joked Bob Edwards, who races under the e 5 banner, which is named for the five members of his immediate family. “He’s been stretching out. Chad’s been doing a wonderful job with him. Not that Chad’s ever confident, but he was really confident today. He felt that we had something special.”
Stonestreet bred Good Magic, a son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin, but then partnered with Edwards to buy the colt at the 2016 Keeneland September sale.
The win gave Edwards victories on both days of the Breeders’ Cup as he won the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf with Rushing Fall a day earlier. In just his second year of ownership, Edwards now has three Breeders’ Cup wins.
Favored Bolt d’Oro was 11th early and finished third as the 3-5 favorite, winding up 5 ¼ lengths behind Good Magic while suffering his first defeat in four starts.
“I guess he just wasn’t ready to run today,” said owner/trainer Mick Ruis.
Final time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:43.34.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
Converting World Approval into a turf miler may have been the best decision of trainer’s Mark Casse’s long and successful career. After running World Approval in distance races for most of his career, the Canadian Hall of Famer put the Live Oak Plantation 5-year-old in the one-mile Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga and the gelding won by 2 ¼ lengths.
He then tried World Approval in the Woodbine Mile (G1) and was rewarded with a 2 1/2-length triumph.
The $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile made it a hat trick for World Approval and he took command in the stretch under John Velazquez and registered a 1 ¼-length triumph that puts him in line for Eclipse Award honors as the top turf male.
“I think obviously to win this race, you have to be a great horse, and he proved that today, Casse said. “Great horses can go and win. You can’t train greatness. You can just kind of make sure you don’t get in their way.”
The 5-2 favorite, World Approval paid $7.40.
Lancaster Bomber was second, matching his finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and edging Blackjackcat by a head.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Earlier in the Breeders Cup card, trainer Peter Miller and owner Gary Hartunian celebrated an exacta in the BC Turf Sprint as their horses, Stormy Liberal and Richard’s Boy, ran 1-2.
Three races later, Roy H gave them a double.
The 5-year-old gelding outdueled 4-1 second choice Imperial Hint in the final furlong and captured the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint by a length.
“I feel like Chad Brown, you know. I feel like Bob Baffert, one of those guys,” Miller said after securing his second Breeders’ Cup win about two hours after posting his first. “It’s unbelievable. It’s just a dream come true.”
Roy H won for the fifth time in six 2017 starts, with his only loss coming in the Bing Crosby (G1) when he was carried wide into the stretch by a riderless horse and finished a game second.
The horse that caused all the problems for Roy H that day was Drefong, who was sixth as the 7-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint while bidding for back-to-back wins in the six-furlong Grade 1 stakes.
Mind Your Biscuits was third. Final time was 1:08.61.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf
The heartwarming saga of Lady Eli ended on a disappointing note as the mare who battled back from a life-threatening case of laminitis finished seventh as the 3-2 favorite in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
European Wuheida stalked the pace in third and then took charge in the stretch to prevail by a length over fellow Euro Rhododendron. Cambodia was another three-quarters-of-a-length back in third.
Wuheida, fourth by a half-length in the Prix de l’Opera (G1) in her last start, won for the first time in five 2017 starts for owner Godolphin Stable and trainer Charles Appleby. She paid $24.40 as the 11-1 third choice.
Lady Eli, who will be sold at the upcoming Keeneland November sale, entered her final race for owners Sheep Pond Partners and trainer Chad Brown hoping to avenge a loss by nose in last year’s BC Filly and Mare Turf.
Lady Eli came down with laminitis after winning the Belmont Oaks (G1) in July 2015. After overcoming that dreaded disease, she returned to the races on Aug. 27, 2016 and had four wins and three seconds in seven starts and owned a three-race winning streak heading into her final start.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
Trainer John Kimmel and owners Chester and Mary Broman did not make a final decision until last Saturday to run Bar of Gold in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but once they made up their minds it was a 14-karat decision.
Bar of Gold pulled off the biggest upset of all in the 34th edition of the Breeders’ Cup, rallying from 12th in a field of 14th to hit the wire first by a nose at astronomical 66-1 odds in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.
Ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., the New York State-bred and based Bar of Gold paid $135.40 to win and ignited some gargantuan exotic payoffs in the race.
Ami’s Mesa, at 18-1, was second to trigger a $1,030.20 exacta, while the trifecta with Carina Mia (20-1) paid $27,707 and the superfecta with Skye Diamonds (6-1) returned a fabulous $176,369.50 for a $1 ticket.
In her 25th career start, Bar of Gold recorded her first win on a fast track. She was 0-for-11 previously on dry surfaces but had five wins on a wet track and one on turf.
Unique Bella was sent off as the 6-5 favorite but faded to seventh in her second start since suffering sore shins and being sidelined after a win in the Las Virgenes (G2) on March 4.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
For trainer Peter Miller and owner Gary Hartunian of Rockingham Ranch, the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) came down to a matter of the turquoise cap or the white cap.
Miller and Rockingham entered two horses in the BC Turf Sprint, but neither Stormy Liberal nor Richard’s Boy attracted much interest at the betting windows, with Richard’s Boy going off at 13-1 and Stormy Liberal toting huge 36-1 odds.
But when 4-5 favorite Lady Aurelia failed to fire, the BC Turf Sprint became a battle of longshots, both wearing the turquoise and black colors of Rockingham Ranch.
On the inside, Richard’s Boy, with jockey Flavien Prat wearing a white cap to distinguish him from Rockingham’s other horse, had forged to a brief lead in mid-stretch but in the final strides was collared and passed by a familiar figure.
Stormy Liberal, with jockey Joel Rosario wearing a turquoise cap, surged to the wire first by a head, paying $62.40 to win and topping a $555 all-Miller, all-Rockingham exacta.
For Miller, who lives Del Mar in Encinitas, and Rockingham Ranch, the victory was their first in the Breeders’ Cup – but not their last of the day. Later they won the BC Sprint with Roy H.
“It was a surreal experience to see Richard’s Boy look like he was going to win and then to run 1-2 for my first Breeders Cup win at home is special. Gary Hartunian is my biggest owner and also just a good friend. So, to be here at Del Mar and run 1-2, it doesn’t get any better.”
Stormy Liberal was eighth in his last start when he was shipped to Belmont Park for the Jaipur (G3) on June 10, but rebounded back in California, where he had won four straight stakes before the Jaipur.
Disco Partner was third, a half-length behind Richard’s Boy, and Bucchero was fourth.
14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Day Two of the 34th edition of the Breeders’ Cup started on a surprising note as Caledonia Road and jockey Mike Smith charged from ninth in a field of 13 to post a 3 ¼-length victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Though she was ridden by the winningest jockey in Breeders’ Cup history, Caledonia Road was overlooked in the wagering as she paid $36.60 to win for her second victory in three career starts and her first on a fast track.
For Smith, the BC Juvenile Fillies extended his record to 26 victories at the World Championships.
Trained by Ralph Nicks and owned by Zoom and Fish Stable, Charlie Spring and Newtown Anner Stud, Caledonia Road gave her connections their first Breeders’ Cup victory. In her two previous starts, she was second behind Separationofpowers (who was fourth in the BC Juvenile Fillies) and won a Saratoga maiden race, both on wet track.
Alluring Star, trained by Bob Baffert, was second, a neck ahead of Blonde Bomber.
Favored Moonshine Memories was seventh at 2-1 odds while suffering her first loss in four career starts.
The final time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:45.05.
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Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott met his son, Riley, in the paddock after training hours Oct. 31 at Del Mar. In a schooling line longer than the line at an In-and-Out, Riley held the shank attached to Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff contender Elate, who has been making quite an impression in the mornings at the seaside track.