Breeders’ Cup: Gun Runner blasts from gate to seal Classic success
Front-running display secures big race win for Steve Asmussen’s charge at Del Mar
Gun Runner produced a stunning front-running performance to run out a convincing winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.
Defeated in all three previous attempts over a mile and a quarter, as well as in both prior meetings with Arrogate, Florent Geroux took little time to get Gun Runner to the front of the field, as fellow market leader Arrogate jinked left at the start and was floundering from then on.
Collected made a big effort to get alongside Gun Runner on the turn for home, but Steve Asmussen’s charge would not be denied and charged clear in the home straight.
Bob Baffert had the second and third in Collected and West Coast, but his Arrogate was never in contention on the final start of his career, while Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill was prominent early but was well beaten long before the home straight.
Geroux said: “It wasn’t really the plan [to go straight to the front], it was how the race unfolded. He can go on the lead and can stalk if the pace is hot. He’s just a beast.”
An ecstatic Asmussen, who won with the mighty Curlin in 2007, said: “I can’t tell you how proud I am of him. This is in the moment, it couldn’t be better in the moment.”
Last year’s winner Arrogate ended his glittering career as the highest-earning horse in history.
Baffert said: “When he goes around these turns, he loses momentum, but I can’t totally blame the track, he’s not where he was.
“He’s so much better than that and it’s so disappointing to see him go out like that. He’s one of the greatest horses I’ve trained.”
His ride Mike Smith said: “I’m lost for words, to be honest. He didn’t run his race at all, but it is what it is – I know how good he is.”
O’Brien, who was in the winner’s enclosure with Mendelssohn on Friday night, said: “It was all new to Churchill [seventh]. War Decree [ninth] will now go back to a mile and a quarter on grass.
“It’s been a very enjoyable week for us overall, with a lot of our horses running well.”
French master Andre Fabre bagged a Breeders’ Cup winner with Talismanic claiming the Turf at the southern California track.
Owned by Godolphin, the Mickael Barzalona-ridden four-year-old was last seen finishing third in the Prix Foy at Chantilly on Arc trials day and was given a fine ride by his Derby-winning jockey, saving ground and switching off the rail at the perfect moment for his challenge.
Defending champion Highland Reel appeared to have a perfect trip just ahead of the winner, but Ryan Moore was getting to work rounding the final turn before digging deep to challenge late on.
Try as he might to fight back after briefly being swamped by the winner, O’Brien’s money-spinning five-year-old had to settle for third, just being beaten for second by Beach Patrol.
O’Brien said Highland Reel could potentially run again before retiring to stud: “I think he ran a very good race, we will take him home now and see how he is and think about going to Hong Kong with him.”
Good Magic chose the biggest juvenile race in the US to break his maiden tag as he stormed to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Moore pushed the O’Brien-trained Dewhurst winner US Navy Flag straight into the lead for the early part of the race, but he was brushed aside just after halfway and Chad Brown’s Good Magic burst into the lead on the home turn under Jose Ortiz.
The duo never looked back after that, winning easily from Solomini, with hot favourite Bolt D’Oro third after being forced to race very wide throughout the race.
O’Brien said of US Navy Flag, who also won the Middle Park Stakes this season: “As you can see he’s a fast horse and is going to be a sprinter next year.”
World Approval repelled the strong European challenge to lift the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Much attention surrounded the likes of Richard Fahey’s Ribchester and O’Brien’s Roly Poly, but neither were able to get in a really serious blow on the winner, although the former was just out of the places and the latter came home well.
In the end it was Roly Poly’s stablemate Lancaster Bomber – second in the Juvenile Turf 12 months ago – who got closest to the favourite under Seamie Heffernan, with Blackjackcat third and Suedois a highly creditable fourth for David O’Meara and Danny Tudhope.
O’Brien said of Lancaster Bomber: “He ran a great race, he’s very comfortable at a mile on fast ground. He’s a proven traveller, having run well at this meeting a year ago, and he’s come home as strongly as anything. He’s a very good colt.”
“With Roly Poly we knew we would have to use her speed early, but I was pleased with both of them.”
Ribchester was fifth and Irish-born trainer Fahey said of the four-time Group One winner, who now heads for retirement: “Horses like this don’t come along very often, he’s been a wonderful racehorse and this was the place to bring him for his last run.
“He just didn’t come home as strongly as he usually does, but I can’t blame anything to do with the draw or the track as the race went to plan and I was delighted where he was until turning for home.
“He’s an absolute superstar, a wonderful horse to us and the Godolphin team. He’s tough, very quick and I’m sure he’ll make a super stallion.”
Wuheida struck in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf for Charlie Appleby and Buick.
William Buick – riding his first Breeders’ Cup winner – had his mount handy in third going into the first turn and got a great response from the Godolphin-owned three-year-old in the straight.
In contrast, Frankie Dettori found himself looking for room on the strong-travelling Queen’s Trust as Michael Stoute’s four-year-old made her bid to repeat last year’s success.
She finished with a real rattle but all too late, and it was the O’Brien-trained Rhododenron who proved the main threat to the winner.
Buick said: “I can’t explain it, it means everything to me. I’ve had plenty of goes and not been successful, so it means everything.
“It’s a big team effort – a big thank you to everyone at home.”
O’Brien refused to blame Rhododendron’s draw in stall 14 for defeat, saying: “No, there wasn’t an advantage. She’s run very well and I’m delighted with that. There are no excuses.”
O’Brien had his second win of the meeting early on the second day when Declarationofpeace won the $200,000 Qatar Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes over five furlongs. Jockey Ryan Moore, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Mendelssohn brought home the 10-1 shot ahead of Buick on 7-2 favourite Sound And Silence.