First-Crop Sires: Gun Runner into exclusive Breeders' Cup club
Four years after Gun Runner clinched the Horse of the Year title in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, his daughter Echo Zulu locked up a divisional Eclipse Award in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), at the same seaside venue. That conclusion to her perfect season not only padded Gun Runner’s lead in the freshman sire standings, but also put him in exclusive company.
Gun Runner's rare achievement
Gun Runner equaled the feat of American Pharoah, Nyquist, Uncle Mo, Tiznow, and Unbridled – all Breeders’ Cup champions who sired a two-year-old Breeders’ Cup winner in their first crop. Two of those victories likewise came in the Juvenile Fillies (Nyquist’s daughter Vequist in 2020 and Tiznow’s filly Folklore in 2005); two came in the Juvenile (G1) (Nyquist himself for his sire Uncle Mo in 2015 and Unbridled’s Song for Unbridled in 1995); and American Pharoah’s colt Four Wheel Drive took the 2019 Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2).
Two other Breeders’ Cup heroes also came up with a Breeders’ Cup winner from their first crop, but their progeny were older by the time they scored at the championships. Unbridled’s Song’s filly Unbridled Elaine was three when she captured the 2001 Distaff (G1), and Pleasantly Perfect’s daughter Shared Account was a four-year-old winner of the 2010 Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Echo Zulu dominates the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
The 4-5 Juvenile Fillies favorite after dominant wins in the Frizette (G1) and Spinaway (G1), Echo Zulu proved that her high speed was just as lethal around two turns. The Steve Asmussen pupil jumped straight to the lead en route to a 5 1/4-length conquest. And she blitzed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.24, faster than the colt Corniche went in the Juvenile later on the card (1:42.50).
Asmussen saw the same kind of brilliance in Gun Runner.
“She looked like she was getting a little separation around the three-eighths pole,” the Hall of Fame trainer told Breeders’ Cup publicity. “And, I think that that was the separation that Gun Runner developed into, where you would see early in a race they were doing enough, but somewhere in the middle, he was doing it easier than they were and you would see the separation.”
Now 4-for-4, Echo Zulu will get a richly deserved vacation before pursuing the 2022 Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail.
Pappacap second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Gun Runner’s son Pappacap turned in a promising runner-up effort in the Juvenile, getting closer to Corniche than he had when second in the American Pharoah (G1) last out. A 15.10-1 shot, Pappacap rallied to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind Corniche in the Breeders’ Cup. Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse is looking forward to his continued development on the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Gun Runner’s recent maiden winners
More stakes performers could be in the pipeline for Gun Runner, who piled up seven new winners in the past few weeks, for a total of 20 so far.
The Casse-trained Stowaway scored a gritty, front-running win Nov. 6 at Woodbine. Fifth in his sprint premiere and a near-misser in his first route attempt, the D. J. Stable runner found the third time the charm. Stowaway went to the lead from his rail post, got company on the backstretch, and put away his pace rival, only to find a new challenger forcing him to find more in the stretch. Thus the 2.85-1 chance withstood pressure for much of the 1 1/16-mile maiden on Tapeta, staying on determinedly by a half-length in 1:45.05.
Bred by Three Chimneys Farm, where Gun Runner stands, Stowaway went to his current connections for $225,000 as a two-year-old in training at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May Sale. His half-sister, Twenty Carat, had captured the Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland a month before. Their dam, the Bernardini mare Secret Jewel, is a half to aforementioned Filly & Mare Turf winner Shared Account, herself the dam of 2019 Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) queen Sharing. This is also the family of current Saratoga Special (G2) victor High Oak.
Three Chimneys homebred Carioquinha, who retreated to 10th in her debut Sept. 12 at Kentucky Downs, was much the best in an off-the-turf event Nov. 4 at Remington Park. Trained by Asmussen, the 8-5 favorite rolled from off the pace by three lengths and finished the muddy mile in 1:41.73.
Carioquinha might yet show the surface versatility of her dam, Pure Clan, a multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire who placed in both the 2008 Kentucky Oaks and the 2009 Filly & Mare Turf. The Pure Prize mare has also produced Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Princesa Carolina, winner of the 2019 Dueling Grounds Oaks in then-record time at Kentucky Downs.
A $750,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Allen Stable’s Radio Days won first out as the 1.90-1 favorite Oct. 31 at Belmont Park. The Shug McGaughey pupil was patiently handled near the back of the pack early in the slop, but circled into contention under good handling. Radio Days gradually splashed to a 1 1/2-length decision while covering six furlongs in 1:11.64.
Bred by Hinkle Farms, Radio Days is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Bowies Hero. They are out of the Sky Mesa mare Remembered, from the family of Firing Line, second to American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, and Sharp Azteca, a Grade 1 earner of more than $2.3 million.
Frederick Hertrich III and John D. Fielding’s homebred Funny Business stamped herself one to follow with a successful six-furlong debut Oct. 8 at Keeneland. Showing good speed to press the pace from post 12, the Brendan Walsh filly looked a tad green with her head cocked down the lane. But that didn’t stop the 3-1 chance from driving 1 1/4 lengths clear in 1:10.88.
Funny Business is a half to Grade 2-placed Capitaine. They were produced by the Distorted Humor mare Hearty Laugh, herself a full sister to multiple Grade 2 victor Justenuffhumor and a half-sister to champion Dreaming of Anna, from the family of turf champ and leading sire Kitten’s Joy.
Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds’ homebred Society sprang a 27.80-1 upset first time out Oct. 21 at Keeneland. Midpack for some way in the 6 1/2-furlong maiden, the Wayne Mackey trainee began to improve once she saw daylight in the stretch. Society made headway on her left lead, but surged when changing to her right lead and won going away by one length in 1:17.73. The well-named daughter of the Tapit mare Etiquette hails from the family of Canadian champion Holy Helena.
Optionality is a three-quarter sister to Gun Runner’s current Hopeful (G1) hero Gunite, a fellow Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred trained by Asmussen. She is out of the Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Simplify, a Pulpit mare who has also produced stakes winner Simple Surprise, the dam of Gunite.
Placed in her first three starts at Indiana Grand, Optionality prevailed in her fourth try Oct. 26 at the same track. The 4.40-1 chance broke on top, shrugged off pace pressure in the six-furlong dash, and extended her lead to 6 3/4 lengths in 1:11.89.
Another well-bred juvenile for Winchell and Asmussen, Tapsion is out of Untapped, a full sister to champion Untapable and half to Grade 1 winner Paddy O’Prado. She started on a winning note Oct. 13 in a seven-furlong maiden around two turns at Delta Downs. The 5-2 chance worked out an advantageous trip stalking a contested pace, then swept to challenge in the stretch. Tapsion appeared a bit hesitant to pass her rival, but responded to edge away by three-quarters of a length in 1:31.07.
About the series
Freshman Orientation is a series highlighting five different sires with a first crop of 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. Could the juveniles show up at the Breeders' Cup or even the 2022 Kentucky Derby? Follow along and find out!