Gun Runner ended what’s been a marvelous campaign on a high note by winning the 2016 Clark Handicap. The three-year old earned his first grade-I stakes victory at Churchill Downs just weeks after finishing as the runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The victory left trainer Steve Asmussen quite fulfilled.
“I’m so proud of him,” Asmussen gleamed. “Walking him over, the horse has such confidence about him. He’s kept his strength and his weight with the thousands of miles he’s traveled this year on the stages that he’s been on.”
Compared to what Gun Runner has faced throughout the season, the Clark Handicap was a breeze. Noble Bird broke terribly out of the gate and spent too much energy trying to recover as he fought his way up to second place before fading down the stretch. Gun Runner was the 2/1 preference on the betting board, and took an early lead that he never relinquished.
With the Clark Handicap win Gun Runner paid $6.20, $4.20, and $3.00. Breaking Lucky was the surprise of the day, delivering $25.60 and $11.00 in second place. Shaman Ghost paid $4.20 in third, while Hoppertunity came second.
Jockey Florent Geroux commented on the breezy run. “I was pretty confident up front,” Geroux stated. “He was always a good horse when he’s forwardly placed and when Noble Bird wasn’t there, I just took it from there and just let my horse do his thing and let him be comfortable and turning for home he showed me a super kick.”
There’s no doubting that the Clark Handicap boasted a strong field, so the win has further catapulted Gun Runner in to consideration for a big push in 2017. “For him to beat this year’s Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup winners at the end of his 3 -year-old year I think speaks wonderful things for him,” Asmussen cotinued. “Obviously, we will get together with Mr. Torrealba and the Three Chimneys group as well as Mr. Winchell and David Fiske and decide how to proceed with him. We saw an exceptional horse beat an exceptional field. He deserved it. With all the grade I winners he has beaten and for this to be his first grade I, I feel very confident it will not be his last.”