Tuesday, June 20, 2017
2017 Razorback Handicap winner Gun Runner and 2016 Apple Blossom winner Forever Unbridled both earned automatic berths to the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 3 and 4 at Del Mar with their victories in last Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) and $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill, respectively; Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Elate became the fifth stakes winner to emerge from the the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3).
Oaklawn Stars Earn Breeders’ Cup Berths
Oaklawn stakes winners Gun Runner and Forever Unbridled punched their tickets to the Breeders’ Cup with powerful victories as heavy favorites Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
Gun Runner ($3) was a front-running seven-length winner of the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at 1 1/8 miles, while Unbridled Forever ($4.20) made a successful 2017 debut in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) for fillies and mares. The Stephen Foster (Classic) and Fleur de Lis (Distaff) were both “Win and You’re In” events for the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm and trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner began his 4-year-old campaign with a front-running 5 ¾-length victory in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 20 at Oaklawn. Prior to the Stephen Foster, Gun Runner had finished second in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 25 in the United Arab Emirates.
“I think it was key taking our time with this horse,” Asmussen said. “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 I but now we have our ticket punched to the Breeders’ Cup. We got him to the Winner’s Circle here at home and we set ourselves up for a great second-half campaign. I can’t thank our owners enough. This horse is incredibly special in so many ways.”
Under regular rider Florent Geroux, Gun Runner narrowly missed a track record in the Stephen Foster, covering the distance in 1:47.56 over a fast track. Victory Gallop (1:47.28) set the track record in the $750,000 Stephen Foster (G2) in 1999, his first start since a third-place finish in the $5 million Dubai World Cup (G1). Victory Gallop, the country’s champion older male of 1999, won Oaklawn’s $125,000 Rebel Stakes (G3) and $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) in 1998.
Gun Runner won the Razorback in a meet-best 1:40.97 for 1 1/16 miles. Heatherten set the track record (1:40.20) in the $250,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares in 1984.
He became the sixth Oaklawn-raced horse to win the Stephen Foster in the last decade, following Curlin (2008), Ron the Greek (2012), Fort Larned (2013), Moonshine Mullin (2014) and Noble Bird (2015). The son of Candy Ride, has earned $4,638,500 off eight victories from 15 career starts.
In the Fleur de Lis, Forever Unbridled was a 1 ¾-length winner. Ridden by Joel Rosario, the she ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.94.
Trained by Dallas Stewart, Forever Unbridled won Oaklawn’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) in 2016.
“Now that is what you call a racehorse,” Stewart said. How lucky are we to have such an unbelievable horse like this in our barn? We have to give a lot of credit to Mr. (Charles) Fipke. He’s done so much for this game and this horse is so special. I told Joel (Rosario) to get her settled early and keep her out of trouble. He was barely moving on her and she won easily. We just need to keep her happy and healthy and we’ll have her ready for the Breeders’ Cup.”
Forever Unbridled was making her first start since finishing third in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita. Eclipse Award winner Stellar Wind, a troubled fourth in the race, won the Apple Blossom in her 2017 debut.
A winner of 6 of 15 career starts, Forever Unbridled has earned $1,711,880 for owner/breeder Charles Fipke.
Five of a Kind
Five of the 11 starters from the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 11 at Oaklawn have returned to capture stakes events.
Elate became the latest with a 5 ½-length victory in the $50,000 Light Hearted Thursday at Delaware Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. A daughter of Oaklawn stakes winners Medaglia d’Oro and Cheery, Elate finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee, the final major local prep for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 14.
Previous Honeybee starters to return and win stakes races were Ever So Clever (Fantasy), Benner Island ($200,000 Eight Belles, G2, at Churchill Downs), Someday Soon ($75,000 Tomboy at Belterra) and Chanel’s Legacy ($65,000 Panthers at Prairie Meadows).
Honeybee winner It Tiz Well finished a troubled fourth in the $200,000 Summertime Oaks (G2) Saturday at Santa Anita. It Tiz Well, the 6-5 favorite, crossed the finish line fifth, but was elevated to fourth after stablemate Spooky Woods was disqualified from third and placed fifth because of interference in midstretch.
It Tiz Well and Spooky Woods, who ran seventh in the Fantasy, are both trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Elate increased her career earnings to $110,325 following her second victory from six lifetime starts. She races for her breeders, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.
Medaglia d’Oro broke his maiden at the 2002 Oaklawn meeting for four-time local leading trainer David Vance before being sold privately and transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. The horse returned to Hot Springs the following year to win the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Cheery won Oaklawn’s $60,000 American Beauty Stakes in her final career start in 2013. Cheery was also bred and campaigned by Claiborne Farm and Dilschneider.
Mott was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986.
Three Oaklawn-raced horses, including maiden special weights graduate Swing and Sway, became stakes winners the last few days.
Swing and Sway was a 4 ¾-length winner of the $50,000 Niagara for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies Monday at Finger Lakes. Trained by Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, the filly broke her maiden Feb. 19 and was a first-level allowance/optional claiming winner April 6 at Oaklawn.
In the Niagara Stakes, Swing and Sway ($6.70) ran 6 furlongs over a good track in 1:10.97 to bump her career earnings to $139,890 following her third victory from six lifetime starts. She races for Little Rock, Ark.-based Westrock Stables LLC (Joe and Scott Ford).
Swing and Sway is from the first crop of Maclean’s Music, who has also sired Preakness winner Cloud Computing and the Moquett-trained Rockshaw, winner of Oaklawn’s $125,000 Gazebo Stakes March 4.
The other Oaklawn-raced horses to win stakes races were Oak Brook in the $50,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap Saturday at Arlington Park and Natural Wonder in the $100,000 Satin and Lace Sunday at Presque Isle.
Oak Brook ($34.20) finished seventh in an April 15 allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn – his 2017 debut – for trainer Brian Williamson. Oak Brook was an allowance/optional claiming winner at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting.
Natural Wonder ($32.60) ran twice this year at Oaklawn, finishing second in the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes March 4 and fifth in the $150,000 Carousel Stakes April 8. Both races were for older female sprinters.
Profound Moment ($6), a two-time winner this year at Oaklawn, captured the $50,000 Washington State Legislators Stakes Saturday at Emerald Downs. … Oaklawn-raced Net Gain ($9) won the $65,000 Cyclones Handicap Saturday at Prairie Meadows. … Oaklawn-raced Mywomanfromtokyo ($3) won the $65,000 Hawkeyes Handicap Friday at Prairie Meadows. … Oaklawn maiden special weights graduate Colonelsdarktemper finished second in the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Saturday night at Churchill Downs. … Katie Clawson, Oaklawn’s leading apprentice this year, had her fifth career riding triple Friday at Indiana Grand, where she has a meet-high 38 victories. Clawson, 20, had four riding triples in May at Indiana Grand. … Wings Locked Up ($6.40), a winner at the last two Oaklawn meetings, captured the $50,000 Dark Star Stakes Cup Stakes June 10 at Canterbury Park.