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East beats West as Gun Runner takes the Breeders' Cup Classic

John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Horse Racing

Gun Runner was not a horse that suddenly burst on the scene. He has 11 wins in 18 starts, including five Grade 1s. He ran third behind Nyquist and Exxagerator in the Kentucky Derby two years ago. Gun Runner was second to Arrogate in Dubai. He won his previous race, the Woodward at Saratoga, by 101/4 lengths. He was even the morning-line favorite at 9-5, but the betting public put him behind Arrogate.

"Incredible horse," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "We did the right things at the right time and all that made it special. What an awesome feeling this is. (Jockey) Florent (Geroux) has the ultimate confidence in Gun Runner and he rode Gun Runner. ... I'm the lucky trainer of the horse of the year."

Gun Runner paid $6.80, $4.40 and $3.20 and upped his lifetime earnings to almost $9 million.

The owners were coy if Gun Runner will come back for another full year of racing or go to stud. Although, it does appear that the colt will go to the Pegasus at Gulfstream in January, before the start of the breeding season.

This was the first time the seaside track has ever hosted the Breeders' Cup, and by most accounts it was a huge success. The crowd was capped at less than 38,000 because of the difficulty of getting to the track, parking and then leaving. But having a lower attendance works if the prices are raised, which is easy to do with the high-roller horse owner crowd.

Will it return to place that calls itself "where the surf meets the turf?" Probably, but likely not immediately.

Churchill Downs hosts next year and it's expected that it will return to Santa Anita for the 10th time the year after that. The Stronach Group is lobbying to bring the event to Laurel in Maryland. But who knows?

Those who paid the high prices can leave this year's event feeling they saw horse racing's past (Arrogate), present (Gun Runner) and future (the best 2-year-olds). That's not a bad thing.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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