Saratoga Roundup: Gun Runner dominant in Whitney victory

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney’s Gun Runner delivered on his reputation as one of the top older males in the country, picking up his second straight Grade 1 with a 5 ¼-length score as the heavy 3-5 favorite in Saturday’s 90th running of the $1.2 million Whitney, the traditional focal race for older horses at the 149th Saratoga Race Course meet.

With his regular jockey Florent Geroux aboard, Gun Runner outbroke his competition and raced into contention early, settling two lengths behind expected pacesetter Cautious Giant, who took the field of seven through the opening quarter-mile in 23.89 seconds and the half in 48.31.

At the half-mile pole, Geroux let his charge out a notch and he quickly assumed the lead. Six furlongs went in 1:11.37 as the 4-year-old Candy Ride colt rounded the far turn with a two-length advantage over Breaking Lucky and Tu Brutus.

In front by three lengths at the top of the stretch, the Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner drew well clear through the stretch under a hand ride. He completed the 1 1/8-mile contest in a sharp final time of 1:47.71.
Keen Ice, the 3-1 second choice, rallied from last to secure second, finishing 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Breaking Lucky in third.

It was another seven lengths back to War Story, followed by Discreet Lover, Tu Brutus, and Cautious Giant to complete the order of finish.

“My horse broke super sharp today from the gate,” said Geroux. “I could have gone to the lead if I wanted to, but I just stayed cover until the five-eighths pole and from there the race was pretty much over. My horse was just on cruise control from all the way from there and then I just gave him a tap around the 1/8 pole to make sure he stayed focused but there was not even a need for that.”

The winner carried the field’s high weight of 124 pounds plus Cautious Giant’s lost horseshoe, which had become dislodged on the backside and became tangled in Gun Runner’s tail. 

Gun Runner returned $3.20 on a $2 win wager.
Already armed with an all-fees-paid berth into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Del Mar for his seven-length romp in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, Gun Runner took his second straight “Win and You’re In” qualifying event in the Whitney.

The Whitney marked the fourth straight U.S. victory for Gun Runner, also including a gutsy score over older horses in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last fall.

Two starts back, Gun Runner, who entered Saturday’s race ranked third in Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings and second in NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, finished second to top-ranked Arrogate in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in March.

De La Rose Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Thanks to a ground-saving trip by jockey Rajiv Maragh, Thundering Sky was in perfect position in the final moments to capture the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up by a neck on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. 

Breaking from the rail, Thundering Sky sat in third position tracking longshot Proper Discretion who raced forward setting fractions of 24.37 seconds for the opening quarter mile and 48.07 for the half.

With 4-5 post-time favorite On Leave to his outside, Thundering Sky continued to stalk the leader as Proper Discretion began to tire at the top of the stretch.

Emerging down the lane at the sixteenth-pole with Bar of Gold, On Leave, and Elysea’s World, Thundering Sky swung out briefly to the two-path and then back to the rail, holding off On Leave to secure the victory by a neck.
Thundering Sky completed the one-mile distance in 1:35.42 over a firm inner turf course.

Returning $28.60 for a $2 win wager and picking up her first stakes victory, the 4-year-old filly sired by Sky Mesa increased her career total to $316,790 for owner Matthew Schera.

Following On Leave in second was Bar of Gold, Elysea’s World, Sky My Sky, Light In Paris, Laur Net and Proper Discretion completing the order of finish. Sassy Little Lila, Freudie Anne, Puca, Boreale and Clipthecouponannie were scratched from the race.

Lure Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Godolphin’s Zennor captured the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure in his stakes debut with a perfect stalking trip, kicking away from all competitors in the stretch to hit the wire to win by a length on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Trinity Farm’s Macagone lead the field of 10 horses through honest fractions of 23:92 seconds, 47 seconds and 1:09:88, with jockey Joe Bravo sitting a few lengths back on Zennor and 3-2 favorite Projected just behind him. In the stretch, Zennor dug in and passed a fading Macagoneand held off Juddmonte Farm’s Projected to win in a final time of 1:39:23 on the Mellon turf at Saratoga Race Course. 

Zennor, a 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding, broke his maiden at Saratoga in August 2015 and has now won three straight races with Bravo in the irons. McLaughlin said he will now look for a graded stakes race. 

Finishing second and third were Chad Brown trainees Projected and Takeover Target, respectively. 

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, aboard runner-up Projected, said his mount didn’t have his normal speed.

“I tried to break and be right there, but I didn’t have a lot of speed. The horse [Macagone] was rolling and I don’t have that kind of speed to be right there you know. I tried to break running and get in a good spot, but it was very fast so I had to run in front another way. He gave me a little room at the end but they were pretty good horses,” Castellano said. 

Zennor paid $30.60 on a $2 win ticket. The win was his fifth from 13 starts and pushed his career earnings to $280,816.

Finishing fourth was Fire Way, followed by Ring Weekend, Blacktype, Camelot Kitten, Our Way, Macagone, and Aubenas.  

Vorticity was scratched, as well as main track-only entrants Mohaymen and Red Rifle.  

Waya Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Slugo Racing’s Estrechada aggressively overtook four competitors in the stretch, completing an impressive rally for a half-length win in the 14th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. 

Carded as Race 3, the Waya was the first of five stakes on an outstanding card that is highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and also features the Grade 1, $500,000 Test, the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose and the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure.

Apple Betty and 4-5 favorite Suffused were the early front-runners, with the former setting the early fractions of 24.36 seconds for a quarter-mile and holding the edge with a half-mile in 49.60, three-quarters in 1:14.34 and a mile in 1:38.41.

Under newly minted Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, Estrechada rallied from the outside on the far turn, took the lead in the final furlong and outkicked Lottie, completing 1 ½ miles on the firm inner turf course in 2:27.49.

Trained by Mike Puype, Estrechada won her first career graded stakes race in her 20th start. The 6-year-old Argentinean bred returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in almost 17 months. Her previous best finish in a graded stakes was a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Santa Barbara on April 30 at Santa Anita Park. 

Making her Saratoga debut, Estretchada, off at 9-1, paid $20 on a $2 win bet and increased her career earnings to $227,842.

Lottie, a 4-year-old Arch filly ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, earned runner-up honors in her graded stakes debut for trainer Graham Motion.

Summersault, for trainer Mark Hennig, was third, finishing on the board for the seventh time in eight starts. 

Apple Betty, Suffused, Evidently and Guilty Twelve completed the order of finish. Gone Away was scratched.