5-1 Shot Gunner Runner Shoots Down Foes Down the Stretch to Win Risen Star

Gun Runner has become a major player in the Road to the Derby after the chestnut colt turned the tables on a pair of rivals to win the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Saturday at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

The victory earned Gun Runner, owned by Ron Winchell, 50 qualifying points and improved his record to 3-0 in four lifetime starts with earnings of $306,920. Gun Runner’s lone finish outside the money came in last November’s Grade ll Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes when he lost the lead in the stretch and was passed by Airoforce, Mor Spirit and Mo Tom; all considered top 3-year olds on the Kentucky Derby Trail. But that race was run in the slop, and Gun Runner made good on a fast track turning the tables on Airoforce and Mo Tom to win the Risen Star in a final time of 1:43:94.

Gun Runner took the lead entering the stretch and held off late challenges from 40-1 longshot Forevamo and second-choice Mo Tom, the Lecomte Stakes winner in January. Mo Tom was last out of the gate and its late charge was slowed on the home stretch by a collision with Bistraya that cut one of his legs.

“It was really good until we got kind of wiped out,” Mo Tom jockey Corey Lanerie said. “I definitely thought he was the best horse today.”

Airoforce, the 7-5 favorite, settled near the back of the field and never mounted a challenge. He finished 10th.

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

Winning jockey Florent Geroux, who was aboard Gun Runner for the first time in a race, stated afterwards, “He’s a very nice horse. 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.”

Off 5-1 odds, Gun Runner paid $12.20/$7.00/$4.80. Forty-to-one longshot Forevamo returned $33.80/$12.20 for the place, and 3-1 Mo Tom returned $3.00 for the show. The $2 exacta paid $335.20, the $1 trifecta returned $646.50 and the $0.10 superfecta was worth $945.87.

The Louisville Courier-Journal’s 15-member national panel has moved Gun Runner up from No. 13 to No. 5 in the Top-20 poll of Kentucky Derby favorites.

“Gun Runner was well regarded late last year and showed why with his Risen Star victory, one which he figures to improve off of,” said the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader‘s Alicia Wincze Hughes.

Winning owner Ron Winchell gave a clear view as to what the next several months should look like for Gun Runner. “That’s the dream, right – the Kentucky Derby. He’s been highly anticipated and a quality horse. Right now the ($1,000,000 Grade ll Louisiana Derby on March 26) is the plan.”

Only 20 participants can run in the Kentucky Derby and entry is determined by points earned in specific stakes races during a horse’s 2-year-old and 3-year-old season. Gun Runner is the current leader with 51 points.

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