Gun Runner Haskell bound after Matt Winn romp

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 19th, 2016

Six weeks after finishing third to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Gun Runner made a successful return to the races Saturday night at Churchill Downs registering a facile victory in the $100,000 Matt Winn (G3).

Gearing up for next month's $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1), the Ron Winchell-owned colt by Candy Ride led throughout in the 1 1/16-mile affair, setting fractions of :23.99, :47.73 and 1:11.66. Turning back a brief challenge from Gray Sky around the far turn, Gun Runner opened up late to win by 5 1/4 lengths.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Florent Geroux, Gun Runner finished up in 1:41.12 over a fast track and paid $2.20 as the overwhelming favorite in a field of six three-year-olds. Gray Sky finished second, a half-length in front of second choice Texas Chrome.

"Visually, looking at him I think that the horse has matured. He's stronger than he was," Asmussen said. "He was beautiful in the gates and went away smoothly. I thought he handled nicely and he's got beautiful speed. His confidence should be exactly where we're hoping for going into an extremely competitive Haskell it looks like. I do think that he is of the highest quality and this is only his seventh lifetime race. He is faster now than he has ever been and that's a great thing.”

This was the third career stakes win for Gun Runner, who preceded his Kentucky Derby performance with victories in the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2), both at Fair Grounds. At two, Gun Runner captured his first two starts, at Churchill and Keeneland, before running fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his stakes debut.

Bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, Gun Runner was reared by the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant, a Grade 2-winning half-sister to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam. Gun Runner has bankrolled $1,168,300.

(Coady Photography)