Gun Runner headlines Matt Winn en route to Haskell

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Jen Caldwell

June 15th, 2016

Gun Runner was a prominent figure on this year’s Triple Crown trail and reputed himself well when running third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last out on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

The Steve Asmussen-trained chestnut never left the Twin Spires after the Run for the Roses as his compatriots went on to compete in the final two legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (G1) in Maryland and Belmont Stakes (G1) in New York.

Instead, Gun Runner began readying for his next start, which comes in the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) on the Stephen Foster Handicap undercard Saturday night.

The 1 1/16-mile contest is actually a stepping stone to a much bigger prize, though, as Asmussen has the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on August 31 penciled in for the colt.

“I think he’s proved his worth with what he’s done this year with the Louisiana Derby win and the third in the Kentucky Derby, and I think that this is a very good bridge for him to get to the Haskell,” Asmussen said.

Gun Runner actually began his career at Churchill, breaking his maiden at first asking, and going on to take an allowance at Keeneland next out. He closed out his juvenile campaign with a fourth-place run in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) then traveled with the rest of Asmussen’s string to Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

That is where the Candy Ride colt hit his best stride, taking both the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) to earn enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field. He tracked just behind the leaders in the latter event before taking command leaving the three-eighths pole.

Unfortunately, Gun Runner couldn’t hold off the eventual winner, Nyquist, or next-out Preakness hero Exaggerator, who finished 3 1/4 lengths in front to take second.

Gun Runner has recorded five official works since the Kentucky Derby, including a :50.20 half-mile on Monday to ready for the Matt Winn. Florent Geroux has been aboard all year and retains the mount on Saturday.

An eclectic group is lining up against Gun Runner in the Matt Winn including Texas Chrome, who makes his graded bow in this spot off a 10-length romp in the Stymie Division of the Texas Stallion Stakes, and Unbridled Outlaw, who ran third in last year’s Iroquois Stakes (G3) over track and 1 1/16-mile distance.

Gun Runner photo courtesy of Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography