The $1.2 million Whitney Stakes tops the Saratoga card on Saturday and Gun Runner will have a target on his back. The multiple Grade 1 winner is the morning line favorite for the Whitney Stakes and he will have six rivals.
The nine-furlong Whitney Stakes is a ‘win and you’re in’ race to earn a berth into the Breeder’s Cup Classic at Del Mar in November.
The thing about Gun Runner is that he has not ducked anybody. He ran a solid second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup and proved the effort was no fluke in his next start. In that next outing Gun Runner freaked in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster winning by seven lengths. This runner has always showed talent. He was third in the Kentucky Derby and then thrived in his next start. He entered the Matt Winn after the Derby and used his speed to dominate the stakes. The Stephen Foster video was uploaded by Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Gun Runner has raced 15 times. He has won eight of those starts and has been in the money in five other appearances. He has earned over $4.6 million. The Steve Asmussen trainee will be ridden by Florent Geroux, who has extreme confidence in the runner. Geroux is not a household name but he wins races wherever he shows up and he has plenty of fans on the backstretch.
Geroux is a Frenchman and it took him time to get established. He struggled for a time on the Chicago circuit but got a break when he rode The Pizza Man to victory in the Arlington Million. Geroux knows Gun Runner like a book. He has been able to win with him on the lead or from a tracking position.
Keen Ice has danced with the big boys his entire career and he returns to the track where he put in a command performance. This son of Curlin won the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga beating the Triple Crown champ American Pharoah. It was a nice bit of training by Todd Pletcher to have Keen Ice primed for his last race. He had not been seen in the afternoon since splitting the cast in the Dubai World Cup but he was solid winning the Grade 2 Suburban with a 106 Beyer.
Tu Brutus has only raced three times in the United States. His lone win was impressive when he took the $98,000 Flat Out Stakes by eleven lengths with a 108 Beyer. He could have been compromised by the distance in his last race. He is coming out of the mile and a half Brooklyn and he just tired when the real racing began. Nine for 20 in his career, this veteran will be sent along and he will at least muddle the pace. Backers also have to scrutinize why he has been away since June. The reason is that he was given extra time after he came down with a guttural pouch infection following the Brooklyn. It’s seldom a good sign when a runner just gives up a lead but that is what Tu Brutus did in the Brooklyn.
When you look at the Beyer Speed Figures that Tu Brutus has put up, he has to be considered a live longshot. He ran a 108 Beyer a couple of races ago and had a juicy 118 Beyer before that.
War Story is coming off his best performance of his career. He won the Grade 2 Brooklyn in June at Belmont with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. The Jorge Navarro student has valid speed but he showed last time he doesn’t need the lead to win. Entered in the Pegasus World Cup to start the year, War Story pushed the issue but had to settle for fifth. He will be ridden by Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano. The Brooklyn video was uploaded by the New York Racing Association.
Cautious Giant is a reformed claimer that is just taking a shot here. He was claimed for $62,500 in the 2017 debut and is one for four for the new stable. That win came last time in a $20,000 optional at Thistledown with a 77 Beyer Speed Figure. He has not been the most prolific worker in the mornings but backers can point to the best of twenty bullet workout last Saturday. It’s hard to see that work putting him over the top this time.
Breaking Lucky has basically lacked the killer instinct in his career. He has won three times but has had to settle for minor awards nine times. He was out of the money in his other effort at Saratoga. The other bad news for this runner is that he has been handled repeatedly by Gun Runner.
Discreet Lover has never beaten this caliber rival. He has only won twice in two years and the win this year was against five rivals in a $25,000 optional at Parx Racing. He can flash speed at times but you get the feeling is if he is looked in the eye, he’ll blink.
When handicappers are faced with a small field filled with quality runners, it can often become a ‘rider’s race’. In other words, the jockey that does his best due diligence to scrutinize the pace and the styles of the runners has an upper hand.
From a pace standpoint, this edition of the Whitney Stakes has a legit amount of speed in the cast. Breaking Lucky can show velocity at times but he is probably best in a stalking positon. Cautious Giant brings :45 and change speed to the party at times but his last win came from slightly off the pace. Tu Brutus will be sent along and figures to be gunning at the sound of the bell. Gun Runner will be the master of his own destiny as he can be ridden aggressively or he can settle three of four lengths off the lead.
Gun Runner was third in his other race at Saratoga but he just caught a monster that day. He has been stabled at Saratoga for quite some times and has posted three best of the morning workouts locally. There is no doubt he is comfortable with the surface and that should be enough to propel him into the winner’s circle.
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