Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner ($6.80) went to the front shortly after the break and never trailed as he defeated Collected by 2 ¼ lengths to win the 34th running of the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) for 3-year-olds and up Saturday afternoon to close the first Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar racetrack before a crowd of 37,692.
Defending champion and favored Arrogate finished in a dead heat for fifth in his bid to join Tiznow (2000-2001) as the only back-to-back winner of the Classic.
Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Florent Geroux, Gun Runner covered the 1 ¼ miles on a fast main track in 2:01.29. Gun Runner is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Candy Ride.
It is the sixth Breeders’ Cup victory for Asmussen and second in the Classic, having prevailed 10 years ago at Monmouth Park with Curlin. It is the fourth Breeders’ Cup victory for Geroux and first in the Classic.
It was the fifth victory in six starts in 2017 for Gun Runner and fourth Grade 1 triumph. It also avenged his lone defeat to Arrogate, who had prevailed by 2 ¼ lengths in the Dubai World Cup in March.
Gun Runner went to the front at the break and Collected immediately took up the chase. The two raced through early fractions of 22 2/5, 46 1/5 and 1:10 2/5 in their own little duel.
Leaving the far turn, Collected made one more run at Gun Runner but was quickly rebuffed as Gun Runner drew away to improve his career mark to 18-11-3-2.
West Coast finished another 1 ¼ lengths back in third and was followed in order by War Story, Arrogate and Gunnevera who dead-heated for fifth, Churchill, Mubtaahij, War Decree, Pavel and Win the Space.
Winning trainer Steve Asmussen (Gun Runner) – “It’s a good team and he’s an incredible horse. Incredible horse. Everyone is part of the team and they did a phenomenal job. Scott (Blasi, assistant trainer), Angel (Garcia, exercise rider), Florent (Geroux, jockey), the owners… we did the right things at the right time and all that made it special. What an awesome feeling this is. Florent has the ultimate confidence in Gun Runner and he rode Gun Runner. It’s all part of the process. We had discussed what we’d see (in the race) through the day and I told him to ‘ride Gun Runner.’ I’m the lucky trainer of the Horse of the Year.”
Winning jockey Florent Geroux (Gun Runner) – “This (win) means a lot. It’s the biggest win of my career. It’s the big race with Horse of the Year on the line. I’m glad he was the best horse.”
Were you surprised you were in front? “No, not really. I think he was the quickest horse in the race from the beginning of the race.”
“(Trainer) Steve (Asmussen) was the one who gave me the opportunity to ride this horse. We knew from the beginning he was the real deal. We were so confident going into the Kentucky Derby; we really thought it was his best chance ever to win it.”
(Collected was pressing Gun Runner) “It wasn’t like my horse was going crazy and would lose his chance. I really like (Collected) and I respect him a lot. He was the horse for the course for sure. He showed it today. He was just second best; my horse was the best horse today.”