I am not normally the braggadocios type, but who said Gun Runner would improve off his Risen Star effort?
Who said he was the best in the Risen Star and would prove it in the Louisiana Derby?
Yup, that is right, this chick again. Don’t believe me? Then my blog Gun Runner Better Than Most People Think should refresh your memory.
In another display of excellent tactical speed and professionalism, Gun Runner burst away from the field to win the Louisiana Derby by 4 ¾ lengths. This win now makes Gun Runner a perfect four-for-four over surfaces rated “fast,” with his lone defeat coming over a sloppy track.
The final time of 1:51.06 won’t turn any heads; in fact, it may turn some people off. However, it is my opinion that they should give the race another look. By comparison, the New Orleans Handicap was run in 1:50.06. But that race is for older horses and is expected to be faster than a race restricted to three-year-olds — especially at this time of year. The race also had a faster pace throughout, outside of the first quarter, than that of the Louisiana Derby.
Gun Runner did not set the pace in the Louisiana Derby, but sat behind the leader, covered up on the rail. Then, when the chase came, he took over the lead and drew off impressively. The final time cannot be attributed to him, as he was not a part of the pace.
Another reason to not take the time too seriously is the speed figures. The Beyer speed figure was a 91, which may not look overly impressive, but remember: Mohaymen’s best figure for 2016 is a 95 and he is the current Kentucky Derby favorite. Equibase rated the race a 105, while Brisnet gave the race a very impressive 104. That number shows a marked improvement from the Risen Star Stakes, where Gun Runner earned a 97 Brisnet figure.
Overall, I believe the race was a good one. Gun Runner’s progression has been absolutely perfect, thus far, on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He got a lot out of the Risen Star and showed no signs of leg weariness this time out, despite the extra sixteenth of a mile.
I realize that the six-week gap between the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby is a deterrent, but in this day and age, six weeks is not a long gap. We have already seen that the colt runs well fresh — just look at how well he did in the Risen Star, which was his first race off a 12-week layoff. This gap is half as long, and, just last year, Firing Line came off a six-week layoff to nearly deny American Pharoah a victory in the Kentucky Derby.
At this juncture, I’d feel comfortable calling Gun Runner one of the top Kentucky Derby contenders. Yes, the Fair Grounds prep series is not known for producing Derby winners, but, in Gun Runner, I see a potential change of tides. He has a great amount of tactical speed, which allows him the ability to gain good position early on, and he has shown that he is capable of running effectively through traffic. When running in the 20-horse rodeo that the Kentucky Derby represents, those abilities are enormously helpful.
I understand that many still won’t give Gun Runner the respect he deserves. They will likely toss him out because of a “curse” that they believe comes from racing at Fair Grounds. However, this is racing — things change. It used to be that a horse making its fifth career start in the Derby didn’t stand a chance; it used to be that horses couldn’t win from post position 20; it used to be horses needed three preps and a final prep within four weeks from the Derby.
All of those rules have been nixed. With that in mind, what makes anyone believe that this rule won’t end up the same? Rules are made to be broken, and it is only a matter of time before this one is. Gun Runner is quality animal and quality always rises to the top. Gun Runner will do just that.
Do you really want him to prove you wrong again?