Gunner Runner Returns in Foster Looking for Breeders’ Cup Classic Berth

Churchill Downs will race under the lights on Saturday night (photo credit:

The Steve Asmussen trained Gun Runner heads a field of eight in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) as he makes his first start since running second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1).

The Foster is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) coming up at Del Mar on November 4.

Gun Runner has run well under the Twin Spires, winning three of his five starts including last fall’s Clark Handicap (G1). He has won seven of his 14 career starts with earnings of $4,337,800.

The Foster is one of five stakes on an outstanding 11-race card that kicks off at 6:00 ET. The NBC Sports Network will televise the action in a 90-minute telecast at 8:30 ET.

The co-feature on the card is the $200,000 Fleur De Lis Handicap (G1) which is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Forever Unbridled is the 4-5 morning line favorite in a field of nine that will go nine furlongs on the main track. The Dallas Stewart trainee makes her first start since running third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

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The stakes action starts with the fifth race, the $1000,000 Matt Winn (G3). McCracken is the 4-5 morning line favorite and makes his first start since running eighth in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The $200,000 Wise Dan (G2) drew a field of eight including defending champion Pleuven (3-1).

The $100,000 Regret (G3) drew the most wide-open race among the stakes. A field of 12 three-year-old fillies battle going nine furlongs on turf.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes all the stakes action.

Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for the featured race of the evening:


Churchill Downs Race 8 The Stephen Foster Hcp G1 (Post time 9:43 ET)

#4 Honorable Duty   6-1

#3 Gun Runner   4-5

#1 Bird Song   6-1

#5 Mo Tom   20-1

Analysis: Honorable Duty has the best short of beating the chalk in here. The gelding earned ac career top with a game win in the New Orleans Handicap (G2) two back and then regressed slightly last out in the slop here where she ran second to Bird Song who was able to take the field gate to wire. It looks as if there could be a good early battle for the lead and that bodes well for our top pick. He has landed in the exacta in three of his four trips over the main track and a return to a fast track suits him. The Walsh barn has been on fire at the meeting, hitting at a 39% clip.

Gun Runner set the early fractions and could not hold off Arrogate in a runner up finish in the Dubai World Cup (G1). This guy has won three of five over the main track here including taking the Clark Handicap (G1) here last fall after a runner up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He has had things his owns way up front in each of his last three outings and that may not be the case today. He will be tough but is going to be a short price.

Bird Song draws the rail and is going to be sent. He earned a career top three back winning the Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream park in gate tow wire fashion, then did not get to the lead in Ben Ali (G3) where he has to chase the pace and landed third. He rebounded with a gate to wire win in the Alysheba last out in the slop which he is bred for. The nine furlongs and likelihood of getting caught up in a speed duel makes him tough to play on top.


WIN: #4 to win at 4-1 or better.

EX: 3,4 / 1,3,4,5

TRI: 3,4 / 1,3,4,5 / 1,3,4,5,8


Road to the Breeders’ Cup Package

Get Michael’s Best Plays Report each Saturday which will include all of the U.S. based Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races from now to October and Michael Dempsey’s 2-Day Breeders’ Cup Report.

Michael’s two-day Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the two-day championship event from Del Mar on Nov. 3-4.


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