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Gun Runner Wins Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds

Gun Runner Wins Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner hit his mark in his sophomore debut, winning the Grade II $400,000 Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes by a half-length with leading Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots jockey Florent Geroux aboard. After racing in mid-pack toward the inside, a few lengths astern a quick pace set by Frank Mancari’s Roger Brueggemann-trained Candy My Boy, Gun Runner was urged on the rail on the far turn, hit the front under a drive at the top of the daunting Fair Grounds stretch and then held off Brittlyn Stable’s Al Stall, Jr.-trained Forevamo by a half-length at the wire.

Gun Runner Kentucky Derby

Gun Runner, No 6, with jockey Florent Geroux aboard, drives to the wire to win the Risen Star Stakes (GrII) at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, LA Saturday, February 20, 2016. Photo By Lou Hodges, Jr. / Hodges Photography

G M B Racing’s Tom Amoss-trained second choice and Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes winner Mo Tom, who checked mid-rally and lost nearly all momentum in the stretch, re-rallied admirably to finish another length behind in third under Corey Lanerie. Candy My Boy was a valiant fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Mo Tom after setting fractions of 22.95, 46.38 and 1:11.33 with Shaun Bridghmohan aboard. Gun Runner hit the mile marker in 1:37.05 and finished up the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.94.

The win was the Kentucky-bred’s third from four career starts, his first stakes victory and the $240,000 winner’s purse increased his career earnings to $306,920. He paid $12.20, $7 and $4.80 as the 5-1 third choice. Forevamo paid $33.80 and $12.20, while Mo Tom paid $3.

Gun Runner earned 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points, virtually assuring him a place in the starting gate for the FirstSaturday in May, while Forevamo earned 20, Mo Tom tallied 10 – to increase his total to 22 – and Candy My Boy garnered five.

He’s a very nice horse,” Geroux said of the locally trained winner. “I’ve really liked him since the first time I was on his back a few weeks ago working in the morning. He’s super-athletic. I was very confident. I wanted to make sure I saved some ground. Earlier I got beat (with Stageplay) and was stuck going wide the whole way. It looked like the track was playing a little bit more inside-favoring. I kept him down there until I asked him to go and he ran a great race.”

He’s a very nice horse,” echoed Asmussen. “We’re very lucky to have him. I thought Florent gave him a beautiful trip with how the track was playing. He’s shown talent the whole time and it’s definitely good to see him in the winner’s circle in a race like this.”

Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds was on hand to see his Derby prospect take his first sophomore steps on the Triple Crown trail. “That’s the dream, right, the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “He’s been highly anticipated and a quality horse. Right now the (Grade I $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby) is the plan.”

The connections of Forevamo and Candy My Boy, who went off at 40-1and 34-1, respectively, were pleased with their charges’ efforts.

“We had a great trip,” Hernandez said. “(Forevamo) ran great. “The whole way down the lane he kept grinding. He tried the whole way for us.”

“He tried and had a nice trip,” Stall echoed. “He acted like a horse who was trying to step it up and he sure did. Where that puts us, I don’t know. At least we guessed right this time.”

Candy My Boy broke from the outside post 11 with a short run into the first turn and was entering off two front-running victories over the New Orleans oval’s main track. “He went a little bit quicker than I wanted him to go, but I had to let him run from the 11-hole to get over, so I did,” Bridgmohan said. “He cleared the field pretty easily, but then he had to work a little bit and I thought he ran really good to hang on. He gave me a quality effort. He’s a really nice horse.”

Brueggemann seemed pleased with the son of Candy Ride’s effort, all things considered. “I thought he ran a big race,” he said. “I wish we could have slowed it down a little bit, but with the outside post he had to push him a little bit. We got him in gear and he wouldn’t slow down. He tries hard. We might bring him back (for the Louisiana Derby), we’ll just have to see how he comes out.”

Mo Tom’s connections were left with wondering what might have been, considering the son of Uncle Mo’s rough trip.

It was really good until we got kind of wiped out,” Lanerie said.  “Someone came from the outside and I lost all my momentum. I hope he’s alright. I definitely thought he was the best horse today. He galloped out so good. I think if that didn’t happen I would have caught him in the last couple jumps.”

“Mo Tom ran a great race,” Amoss added. “It’s unfortunate what happened turning for home. Getting stopped and having to start again. As long as he looks good (Sunday) morning, I’ll consider us very lucky and move on to the Louisiana Derby. He got jarred around turning for home and has a cut on his right leg that’s superficial.”

The disappointments of the race included John Oxley’s Mark Casse-trained 8-5 favorite Airoforce, under Julien Leparoux, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Mike Maker-trained Uncle Walter (8-1), under Javier Castellano, who finished second last and last, respectively. Another dissatisfactory performance was that of G M B Racing’s Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready (10-1), with John Velazquez aboard, who finished evenly in seventh after a big effort to be second in January’s Lecomte Stakes.

I don’t know. He was traveling good, and then he put his head up and didn’t pick it up,” Leparoux said.

Castellano seemed equally as befuddled. “I was done early in the race,” he said. “I tried to put him in the race out of the gate. I know they were going quick early, but he just didn’t fire at all. It wasn’t his day.”

“I had a good trip and was probably a little closer than I wanted to be,” Velazquez reported. “He was a little keen going into the first turn and probably used himself a little bit.”

Following the top four, the order of finish was completed by Zapperini, In Equality, Tom’s Ready, Its All Relevant,Bistraya, Airoforce and Uncle Walter.

The Louisiana Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, is set for March 26 and offers its first four finishers Kentucky Derby qualification points of 100-40-20-10.

Source: Michael Adolphson, Fair Grounds

Risen Star Stakes 2016 Replay: