Donn's Articles » Breeders’ Cup

Breeders’ Cup 

The Breeders’ Cup duel between Gun Runner and Arrogate that many expected did not materialise at Del Mar last night, as Gun Runner pulverised his field and ran out an emphatic winner of the finale, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

The pair of them had met twice before, in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August last year, and in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan last March, and on each occasion it was Arrogate who had come out on top.  But last night at Del Mar, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it was all about Gun Runner.

Fast out of the gate, Steve Asmussen’s horse was quickly into his stride and bowling along at the head of his field under Florent Geroux.  Gun Runner led to the first turn as Arrogate, who had moved to his left at the start from stall one, raced in fourth last place, about 10 lengths off the pace.

After that, Gun Runner dominated.  Collected did his best to match the leader for pace, and he mounted a challenge at the top of the home straight, and West Coast stayed on well, but, in truth, it never really looked like anything was going to get to Gun Runner.  This was his day.

“It wasn’t really the plan to go to the lead from early,” said the winning rider.  “It was just how the race unfolded.  He can go in the lead, or he can stalk if the pace is hot.  He is a knowledgeable horse to ride.  He’s just a beast.”

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Gun Runner,” said Asmussen, who was winning the Classic for the second time, having won it with Curlin in 2007.  “We’re so proud of the horse.  Racing for us is a family affair.  What a stage for him to show he’s the best.”

There were two European Breeders’ Cup winners on the day, both owned by Godolphin, with the Charlie Appleby-trained Wuheida winning the Filly & Mare Turf, and the Andre Fabre-trained Talismanic landing the Turf.

Aidan O’Brien didn’t add another winner to Mendelssohn’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Friday night – the trainer’s 27th Group/Grade 1 winner of 2017 – but he did win the Listed Qatar Juvenile Turf Sprint with Declarationofpeace early on the night, and he had the runner-up in the Filly & Mare Turf and in the Mile with Rhododendron and Lancaster Bomber respectively.

Wuheida broke smartly from stall five in the Filly & Mare Turf, and William Buick quickly had her settled into a nice racing rhythm just behind the early pace.  Buick moved his filly up on the outside of leader Zipessa at the top of the short home straight and asked his filly to lengthen.  The Godolphin filly kicked two lengths clear of her rivals, and she had enough in hand to hold off the challenge of Rhododendron and Ryan Moore, who did remarkably well to get as close as they did from their outside draw, 14 of 14.

“It means everything to me,” said an emotional Buick, who fractured a vertebrae in a fall at Arlington Park in August on his previous visit to the States.  “She’s a fantastic horse to ride and, to ride my first Breeders’ Cup winner, it’s very special.  It’s a big team effort and thanks to everybody.  Charlie targeted this race for her from a long way out and he gave me plenty of confidence.”

“The filly deserves this win today,” said Appleby.  “I knew that she was in good order.  The breaks came, and William gave her a peach of a ride, just angled her out and got first run.”

The strong European challenge for the Breeders’ Cup Mile came up just short, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Lancaster Bomber and Seamie Heffernan doing best of the raiders in finishing second behind World Approval, who won well under John Valazquez, the first Breeders’ Cup winning favourite of the night.

“I was pretty happy the whole way,” said the winning trainer Mark Casse, who sent out Tepin to win the race two years ago.  “I thought maybe at the quarter pole, he was asking him to go and he wasn’t picking up.  But what a great race, what a great horse.”

There was a European winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but it wasn’t market leader, the 2016 hero Highland Reel.  Aidan O’Brien’s horse had to settle for third place behind French raider, the Andre Fabre-trained Talismanic, who was delivered with a well-timed run by Mickael Barzalona to provide Godolphin with their second victory of the evening.

© The Sunday Times, 5th November 2017