Gun Runner, Creator top off Kentucky Derby preparations with easy half-mile moves
Edited press release from Churchill Downs
Trainer Steve Asmussen's Kentucky Derby (G1) duo – WinStar Farm's Creator and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner – posted half-mile workouts after the renovation break.
Creator, with exercise rider Abel Flores aboard, worked in :50.60, with eighth-mile splits of :12.60, :25.20 and :38. Gun Runner, with exercise rider Carlos Rosas aboard, worked in :50.40, with splits of :12.60, :25 and :37.80.
Asmussen expressed satisfaction with the workouts.
"I'm very happy with how they've been here at Churchill,'' he said. "Just an easy half-mile. The best news of the morning was the condition of the track. I'm very thankful to the Churchill grounds crew for what they did last night. We had a pretty good rain (Sunday) in the afternoon. Looking at the track, there was water standing on it about 6 o'clock last night.
"To come out this morning and see what kind of shape it was in was very pleasant. It definitely made the morning go well. Carlos and Abel, as always, were spot-on with the horses. They liked how they felt. I thought they were cooling out extremely well, and we're very excited for the Derby.''
Gun Runner, who spent the winter at Fair Grounds, won both of his Derby preps there – the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2).
"Obviously, I'm very happy with the trajectory that he's shown to this point,'' Asmussen said. "But we also know we need to be better. We're in the process of it. The Louisiana Derby was a nice step in the right direction, and we're expecting another step forward.”
Creator broke his maiden in his sixth start, on February 27 at Oaklawn Park, before moving to stakes company there, finishing third in the Rebel (G2) and winning the Arkansas Derby (G1). Since their latest victories, both Gun Runner and Creator continued their training at Churchill Downs, where they had spent significant time as 2-year-olds. Familiarity with the track is a plus for both horses, Asmussen said.
“I feel very good about the time that they spent here last summer and last fall, very confident with the racetrack and the surroundings,'' he said. "The crew has done a wonderful job with them to put them in a position to do their best. ... It's one of the variables, and we can feel very comfortable that they're going to handle the surface and the surroundings for their preparation. And when you put 20 of them together in the draw, you're worried about other things, but I think we can check that off as far as not (being) an excuse and try to move forward.''
Asmussen said that improved focus has helped Creator find success.
"He's always had a lot of talent,'' Asmussen said. "He's a great physical (specimen), a tremendous pedigree, and it's been in him. I think he just lacked focus in his races.
"It was a bit frustrating running him. You felt like he should have won several of the races you were watching. But he would take mental lapses and just not finish up with the effort you knew he was capable of.''
Ricardo Santana Jr., who will ride Creator, observed the workout. Santana said that when the colt broke his maiden, he appeared to be a changed horse.
"He made a nice move at the three-eighths,'' Santana said. "The first time he won a race, he started doing better and better and better.''
Santana, 22, from Panama, will be riding in his second Kentucky Derby. Asmussen gave Santana his first Derby mount, Tapiture, who finished 15th in 2014.
"I'm happy with the barn,'' Santana said. "He has a lot of confidence in me. He gave me a lot of good shots.''
People connected to the ownership of Gun Runner and Creator also watched the workouts.
WinStar CEO Elliott Walden was among those focusing on Creator.
"He's doing super,'' Walden said. "Couldn't be happier with how he's doing, and Steve's done a great job. That's all you can ask for, is to go over there with a good chance.''
Chris Baker, There Chimneys COO, was pleased with what he saw from Gun Runner.
"He's really developing at the right time,'' Baker said. "Look at his races, and see what he's done. It's almost like his physical developing has kind of mirrored that. So hopefully, he hasn't peaked yet.''
Gun Runner photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography.