DEL MAR, Cal. — It appears a New King of American Thorughbred Racing has been crowned.
The coronation parade started when Winchell Thoroughbreds' and Three Chimney Farm's Gun Runner put his gleaming chestnut head in front of Speedway Stable's Collected with a quarter mile to run in the $6 million, Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar Turf Club on Saturday evening.
From that point on it was Gun Runner in front, Collected Second and Gary and Mary West's West Coast in third place all the way to the wire.
The forced abdication of the reigning monarch, Juddmonte's Arrogate, came when he broke toward the inner rail coming out of inside stall in the starting gate.
The best the Breeders' Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup, Travers Stakes and Dubai World Cup winner could manage was a dead heat for fifth with Gunnevera.
After the winning photos were over, it became evident early that the win for Gun Runner was not difficult.
Winning jockey Florent Geroux told interviewers, “He was flopping his ears back and forth during the race showing he was relaxed.”
He then noted Gun Runner and Collected were “together to the quarter pole until the best horse took over and won.”
Several times, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen shook his head in a knowing way and emphasized the word “special” when describing Gun Runner and his attributes.
Asmussen used that word when he reported Gun Runner's ability to rebound from the Grade 1 races such as Saratoga's Woodward and Whitney and Churchill's Stephen Foster, three races he won earlier this year by a combined 22-1/2 lengths.
“That's a lot of travel (including a trip to the Dubai World Cup in which he finished second), a lot of fast races. And, I think he's better today that he's ever been.”
The win for Gun Runner was his fifth in six starts this year and fourth Grade 1. Lifetime he is 11 for 17. He earned $3.3 million in the Classic to raise his career purse account over $8.9 million.
When his career is over, Gun Runner will stand at stud at Three Chimneys.
He is a son of the Argentine-bred champion Candy Ride from the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant.
When the teletimer stopped at 2:01.29 for the mile and a quarter, few the crowd over 32,000 realized Gun Runner was chasing the track record of 1:59.11 set by his sire at the Del Mar Summer Meeting of 2003.
Praising Geroux's handling of Gun Runner and the horse's ability to almost train himself, Asmussen staked a personal claim for year-end honors for Gun Runner saying, “The confidence Florent has in this horse, the way he horse has been training coming into this race, I think letting him be who is has … made him horse of the year.”
Castellano Wins Jockey Award
Jockey Javier Castellano, a four-time national riding champion and a 2017 inductee into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame now has a Bill Shoemaker Award in his Garden City, Long Island, trophy case.
The “Shoe” Trophy is presented to the jockey who amasses the most points (10-5-3-1) in Breeders' Cup Races.
Castellano collected 25 points for five in-the-money finishes to beat out Jose Ortiz, Flavien Prat and fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez who tied with 23 points.