Gun Runner Closes 2017 Breeders' Cup With Classic Romp

Gun Runner Closes 2017 Breeders' Cup With Classic Romp

Gun Runner as he set blistering fractions through every call and then pulled away in the stretch to record a 2 ¼-length victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on the second and final day of the World Championships at Del Mar Racetrack.

Photo: Courtesy Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

By Bob Ehalt/Breeders’ Cup

The Great Showdown turned out to be a mismatch.

What was supposed to be an epic duel between Arrogate and Gun Runner turned into a tour de force for Gun Runner as he set blistering fractions through every call and then pulled away in the stretch to record a 2 ¼-length victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on the second and final day of the World Championships at Del Mar Racetrack.

Arrogate, in the final start of a career in which he departs as North America’s all-time leading earner, showed none of his renowned late kick and finished in a dead-heat for fifth as the 2-1 favorite in a field of 11.

“What an awesome feeling this is,” said trainer Steve Asmussen after Gun Runner beat Arrogate following losses to him in the horses’ first two meetings. “I’m the lucky trainer of the Horse of the Year.”

There’s little doubt over that as Gun Runner clinched the crown by winning his fourth straight Grade 1 stakes after finishing second to Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (Grade 1) in late March. In those four wins, Gun Runner cruised to victory by a combined margin of 24 ¾ lengths.

“This (win) means a lot,” said jockey Florent Geroux after his fourth Breeders’ Cup win and first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. “It’s the biggest win of my career.”

For trainer Bob Baffert, there was disappointment in seeing Arrogate end his career with three straight losses after successive Grade 1 wins in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup led to record earnings of $17,302,600.

“He’s like a great pitcher who can’t find the plate,” Baffert said.

Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, Gun Runner grabbed the lead early and led by a half-length over Pacific Classic (Grade 1) winner Collected, one of four Baffert entrants in the race, after a half-mile in 46.31 seconds.

Collected stayed glued to Gun Runner through a mile in a demanding 1:35.03, but in the stretch, he had no answer as the 2-1 second choice ($6.80) dashed clear to complete the mile-and-a-quarter end in 2:01.29 and end any debate over Horse of the Year honors.

Collected, the 5-1 fourth-choice, held on for second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Travers and Pennsylvania Derby (Grade 1) winner West Coast, another Baffert starter.

Long-shot War Story was fourth and Gunnevera dead-heated with Arrogate for fifth.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic closed out the Breeders’ Cup’s first trip to Del Mar, and wrapped up two days of increased wagering on the World Championships.

The two-day, on-track wagering of $25,181,317 was the highest for the event and marked a 21.4% increase over 2016.

Saturday’s on-track handle of $15,900,813 was the best for the event since 2006 and an increase of 17.2% from the previous year. All-sources handle for the two days of $166,077,486 resulted in a 5.9% increase over last year. Attendance at Del Mar on Saturday was 37,692.

“We were treated to world championship performances over two days of the very best in international racing, combined with spectacular weather, smooth operations and excellent customer service from our hosts at Del Mar,” said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel. “Del Mar proved to be an extraordinary venue for our Championships and we want to thank its staff, our volunteers and the greater San Diego community for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality extended to our guests from around the world. We also want to thank racing fans for their enthusiastic support of our event.”

Joe Harper, president and general manager of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, added, “Del Mar, its staff and the community of San Diego absolutely shone for this Breeders’ Cup. I could not be more proud of the effort that was put forth by everyone at our racetrack and all the folks in San Diego who jumped on board for this marvelous event and made it into something spectacular. This was racing at its best; it was Del Mar at its best; and it was San Diego being all it could be. It was a complete winner.”

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