Saturday evening’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic was billed as the final showdown between defending race winner Arrogate(Unbridled’s Song) and streaking familiar foe Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}). The latter showed up and produced his best effort, but rather than doing battle with the much too far back Arrogate, he instead fended off a stiff challenge from that one’s stablemate Collected(City Zip) to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths and seal up Horse of the Year honors. West Coast(Flatter) completed a two-three finish for the Bob Baffert barn, but the Hall of Famer’s stable star Arrogate broke awkwardly, never quite seemed to be gripping the racetrack and could only manage a non-threatening sixth before galloping out in front.

Tugging his way to the front without much encouragement from Florent Geroux, Gun Runner seized the early advantage from wide-drawn Collected and put up an opening quarter in a swift :22.50. He got the half in :46.31 with his closest pursuer glued to his right flank as West Coast got the run of the race and Arrogate remained far back. Arrogate started to pick it up behind six panels in 1:10.50, but Gun Runner and Collected were several lengths in front passing the quarter pole and seemed to have the race all to themselves. Gun Runner shook free when Geroux asked him to empty the tank, and he left no doubt as to his superiority on the day or his ability to get 10 panels, a trip he had never previously won at.

“Me and Florent talked earlier in the day after a few races, and we felt that we follow the pattern that got us here,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who saddled Curlin to victory in the 2007 Classic, said of the decision to go right to the front. “We wanted him away from the gates cleanly; into a nice rhythm. The confidence that Florent has in the horse, the way the horse has been training coming into this race, I think letting him be who he is has put him on this stage and made him undoubtedly the Horse of the Year.”

When asked what he was thinking heading down the backside, Geroux said, “I was feeling pretty good, honestly. My horse was very comfortable right there, and flopping his hair back and forth, it shows a sign that he was relaxing nicely for me while going quick. But he’s just a fast horse. From there I just tried to keep him as happy as I could. At the quarter pole it was just a two-horse race between me and Collected, and from there, we just went on, and the best horse won the race.”

Source: TDN

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