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Every sport has a definitive year-ending event to crown its champions. In Thoroughbred racing, the Breeders' Cup World Championships is the culmination of the horse racing season worldwide and the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic is the defining event of the international racing season.
|Distance:||1 1/4 Miles||Age:||3+|
The Breeders' Cup Classic, run at 1 1/4 miles, draws the top international Thoroughbreds year after year. It is open to horses 3-years-old and older and is limited to 14 starters. Seven of this year's starters will gain automatic entries into the race by qualifying through Breeders' Cup Challenge series.
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's 4-year-old Gun Runner went wire-to-wire in winning the 1 1/8-mile, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) Saturday evening by a widening seven lengths over Honorable Duty and earned an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) through the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 81 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held this year for the first time at the Del Mar race track near San Diego on November 3-4.
Gun Runner, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Florent Geroux, becomes the second horse to qualify for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic this year. The 5-year-old Gold Dream (JPN) was the first to qualify, winning the February Stakes (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 19.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Gun Runner to start in the Classic. Breeders' Cup is also providing a $10,000 travel allowance for all horses based outside of California to compete in this year's Championships.
Gun Runner, the 1-2 favorite over seven rivals, won his eighth race in 15 starts, and increased his career earnings to $4,638,500. A chestnut son of Candy Ride out of the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant, Gun Runner was making his first start since finishing second to Longines World No. ranked Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March.
Breaking from the third post position, Gunner Runner broke well and cut solid fractions of 23.59,47.23, and 1:10.69 through three-quarters of a mile. Turning for home with a two-length advantage, Gun Runner opened up to a five length lead over Stanford in the stretch and cruised through the wire well in hard, completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.56 over a fast track.
Geroux was effusive in his praise for Gun Runner afterward. "I was loaded the entire trip around there. He was doing everything so easily. This horse is truly unbelievable. He's one of the best horses I've ever ridden and to put forward this type of effort after running in Dubai is so impressive. I was a bit surprised to find myself on a lone-lead but I wasn't complaining one bit. What a horse."
"I think it was key taking our time with this horse," said Asmussen, who trained Curlin to win the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park. "We always thought he would get better with age and he's proving that to us right now. It's special to win a Grade I but now we have our ticket punched to the Breeders' Cup. We got him to the Winner's Circle here at home and we set ourselves up for a great second-half campaign. I can't thank our owners enough. This horse is incredibly special in so many ways."
Gun Runner has had an impressive early season, starting with a 5 ½-length victory in the Razorback Handicap (G2) at Oaklawn Park in February, and led the Dubai World Cup at Meydan into the deep stretch before being caught by Arrogate, falling 2 ¼ lengths short. Last year, Gun Runner won the Louisiana Derby (G2), was third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), third in the Travers Stakes (G1), second in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and closed his 2016 campaign with a second-place finish in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita last November, and followed that effort with a powerful victory in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs three weeks later.
Gun Runner, bred by Besilu Stables LLC., paid $3, $2.40 and $1.10 as the odds-on favorite in the over matched Foster field of seven rivals. Honorable Duty rallied to finish second under jockey Javier Castellano and returned $4 and $2.60. It was 1 ¼ lengths back to Breaking Lucky, who finished third under Luis Contreras and paid $3 to show. Hawaakom, a 45-1 longshot ridden by Miguel Mena, finished 1 ½-lengths farther back in fourth. Stanford, Texas Chrome, Mo Tom and Bird Song completed the order of finish.
One race earlier on the Churchill Downs card, Charles Fipke's 5-year-old mare Forever Unbridled qualified for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) by winning the 1 1/8 mile, $200,00 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) by 1 ¼ lengths under jockey Joel Rosario. Trained by Dallas Stewart, Forever Unbridled finished third behind Beholder and Songbird in last year's Distaff at Santa Anita Park.
|2017||Gun Runner||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||2:01.29|
|2016||Arrogate||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||2:00.11|
|2015||American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert||2:00.07|
|2014||Bayern||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||1:59.88|
|2013||Mucho Macho Man||Gary L. Stevens||Katherine Ritvo||2:00.72|
|2012||Fort Larned||Brian Hernandez||Ian Wilkes||2:00.11|
|2011||Drosselmeyer||Mike E. Smith||William I. Mott||2:04.27|
|2010||Blame||Garrett Gomez||Albert M. Stall, Jr.||2:02.28|
|2009||Zenyatta||Mike E. Smith||John Shirreffs||2:00.32|
|2008||Raven's Pass||Frankie Dettori||John Gosden||1:59.27|
|Breeders' Cup Race||Grade||Purse||Date|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf||I||$1,000,000||November 3|
|Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile||I||$1,000,000||November 3|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf||I||$1,000,000||November 3|
|Breeders' Cup Distaff||I||$2,000,000||November 3|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies||I||$2,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf||I||$2,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Sprint||I||$1,500,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint||I||$1,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint||I||$1,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile||I||$2,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Mile||I||$2,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Turf||I||$4,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Classic||I||$6,000,000||November 4|
|Race Tracks||Time (EST)|