Gun Runner pours it on late in Louisiana Derby

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

March 26th, 2016

Gun Runner again proved himself much the best of the Fair Grounds-based classic aspirants with an authoritative victory in Saturday's $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2).

Enjoying a ground-saving stalking trip similar to the one he had in last month's Risen Star (G2), Gun Runner was tucked in third behind Candy My Boy, who set a pace of :23.54, :48.24 and 1:12.94.

Moved off the inside by Florent Geroux around the far turn, Gun Runner reached even terms with that rival entering the stretch and drew off convincingly to win by 4 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:51.06, one second slower than time posted by older horses in the New Orleans H. (G2) earlier in the card.

Slightly cold on the board despite his Risen Star win, Gun Runner was sent away the 7-2 third choice and paid $9.80 for owners Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, and trainer Steve Asmussen.

Gun Runner earned an additional 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby (G1) on Saturday as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. At sundown on Saturday, he sat first with 151 points.

Longshots rounded out the trifecta in the Louisiana Derby, with 30-1 chance Tom's Ready, the Lecomte (G2) runner-up, finishing second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of the previously undefeated Dazzling Gem, who was making his stakes debut after winning his first two starts at Oaklawn.

The hard luck story of the Louisiana Derby, as it was in the Risen Star, was the 2-1 favorite Mo Tom. Though he appeared too far back to seriously menace Gun Runner for the win, Mo Tom attempted to make a bid up the rail in mid-stretch for a minor award but the hole closed almost immediately. Forced to be taken up, Mo Tom had no chance to re-rally and wound up fourth.

With several more 100-point preps coming in the next few weeks, it's possible Mo Tom might fight himself on the bubble in regards to Derby eligibility, though at the end of the day Saturday he sat in 11th place with 32 points after earning 10 in the Louisiana Derby.

Tom and Gayle Benson own Mo Tom and Tom's Ready, whose 40 points for second put him in ninth place with 44 points. Dazzling Gem earned 20 points for third.

Likely running himself out of any Kentucky Derby consideration was Champagne (G1) winner and Louisiana Derby second choice Greenpointcrusader, who showed little in a seventh-place effort.

The $600,000 winner's share boosted Gun Runner's career earnings to $906,920 from a line of 5-4-0-0. After capturing his first two starts, at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, he suffered his only career loss to date when fourth on a sloppy track in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) back at Churchill. He kicked off 2016 with a half-length decision in the Risen Star on February 20.

The son of Candy Ride is out of the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant, a Grade 2-winning half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam.

(Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)