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BREEDERS' CUP: Gun Runner to shoot to stardom
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BREEDERS' CUP: Gun Runner to shoot to stardom
on 03 November 2017
Churchill and War Decree line up for Aidan O'Brien but can they topple the big two US contenders, asks James Willoughby

BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC

(1m 2f, dirt, 12.35am)

IN global group and graded races on dirt since 2011, runners by Galileo have finished 91888. The record is one thing, their scarcity is another. It is tough to make a case for Churchill, the top-notch dual Guineas winner trained by Aidan O’Brien.

In any case, Churchill’s form is around 3lb to 4lb worse than Giant’s Causeway, runner-up in the 2000 Classic at Churchill Downs. To the positive, Churchill’s damsire Storm Cat produced Giant’s Causeway, and, abstracted from pedigree, his commanding physique and hard-travelling run style are the essence of the dirt horse. Betting against O’Brien is like stepping in front of a train, but logic supports the move here, at least.

Can O’Brien’s War Decree, a son of the very smart dirt horse War Front, do better? He bolted up on the polytrack at Dundalk, but the slovenly time there was no preparation for the expected blitz round Del Mar. This is a colt with upside, for sure, but he is in deep.

Could memories of Giant’s Causeway be evoked for another reason? The Iron Horse is the damsire of Gun Runner, a son of 2003 Del Mar Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride. The Del Mar track normally plays heavily towards speed; if this bias prevails, Gun Runner probably wins.

He has looked planetary stuff in four starts in the US this year, stopping the clock in 1m 47.43 in the Grade 1 Woodward – the fastest time since the race was moved to Saratoga in 2006, a tick faster even than subsequent Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map in 2015.

Some observers expect the surface to ride a little slower than this, and, if it does, Arrogate will make hay.

Stamina-wise, this is a leviathan of a colt – you don’t run 1m 59.36 in the Travers at Saratoga without hitting the line really hard. He has drawn stall 1, and while jockey Mike Smith has never seen an outside path he didn’t like, this could cause grief to the defending champion in the early going.

Arrogate destroyed Gun Runner in the 10th furlong of the Dubai World Cup. But that was round the huge oval of Meydan, while this is the speedway of Del Mar where Arrogate has been felled twice.

This track was made for Gun Runner and he can prove the point first time.

Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert has a strong hand with West Coast, Mubtaahij and the latest Pacific Classic winner Collected, who held off Arrogate’s laboured late thrust by half a length.

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