Oaklawn winners star at Churchill Downs after dark

By Bob Wisener
This article was published June 19, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

A tough customer in any race, Gun Runner is especially good in Grade 1 events at Churchill Downs.

The 4-year-old Candy Ride colt set a stakes record winning the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap by seven lengths Saturday night. Oaklawn Park's Grade 3 Razorback Handicap winner in February, Gun Runner became the fifth horse to take the Stephen Foster the year after winning the Clark Handicap in the fall, Gun Runner's Clark triumph coming against older horses.

Gun Runner received an automatic berth for the first Del Mar running of the Breeders' Cup Classic in November. His fast-rated nine furlongs in 1:47.56 represented the fifth-fastest running of the Stephen Foster, named for the composer of "My Old Kentucky Home." Gun Runner, paying $3 to win as an odds-on favorite, might have challenged Victory Gallop's 18-year-old track record (1:47.28) had jockey Florent Geroux not wrapped up late on the front-running colt.

"He was doing everything so easily," said Geroux. "I was a bit surprised to find myself on a lone lead, but I wasn't complaining one bit. What a horse."

Honorable Duty finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over Breaking Lucky. Two-time Oaklawn starter Texas Chrome, a multiple Grade 3 winner last year, placed sixth.

Third in last year's Kentucky Derby, Gun Runner has become a force in the older male division this year with his two graded victories and strong second to champion Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said Sunday that a race at Saratoga, possibly the Aug. 5 Grade 1 Whitney, is next for Gun Runner, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm.

"I think it was key taking our time with this horse," said Asmussen. "We always thought he would get better with age, and he's proving that to us right now. It's special to win a Grade 1, but now we have our ticket punched to the Breeders' Cup ... and we set ourselves up for a great second-half campaign."

* Forever Unbridled, Oaklawn's Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap winner last year, made a sparkling return Saturday night with a 1 1/4-length victory in Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap.

The 5-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song and 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever had been off since a November third-place finish to multiple champions Beholder and Songbird in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. Surgery to remove a bone chip from her left front ankle prevented a title defense in the Apple Blossom, won in April by champion Stellar Wind.

Owned by breeder Charles Fipke and trained by Dallas Stewart, Forever Unbridled trailed by 8 1/2 lengths through the first four furlongs before a strong move on the final turn. With Joel Rosario aboard, Forever Unbridled overhauled pacesetter Apologynotacceped at the furlong marker and finished under a hand ride.

Qualifying for the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Distaff, Forever Unbridled ($4.20) went nine furlongs in 1:49.94 carrying 123 pounds.

Sports on 06/19/2017
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