March 24, 2023

Arrogate draws rail, Gun Runner installed as 9-5 Classic choice

After a respectable sophomore campaign, Gun Runner has developed into a sensational performer at age 4 (Adam Coglianese Photography)

Bob Baffert will send out a formidable four-horse contingent but Gun Runner is the 9-5 early choice in Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar. A four-time Grade 1 winner for Steve Asmussen, the morning line favorite brings plenty of steam into the 1 ¼-mile race, capturing his last three starts by a combined 22 ¼ lengths, and Gun Runner will break from post 5 among 11 rivals with regular rider Florent Geroux.

Arrogate, who capped a seven-race win streak with a victory over Gun Runner in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March, is looking to rebound after dropping his last two starts at Del Mar and must overcome Post 1 in a title defense. Baffert wasn’t pleased with the post draw but tried to remain optimistic.

“Arrogate always seems to get the one a lot. He has it and you can’t change,” Baffert said. “They’re all spread out. I just didn’t want them to all draw in next to each other. We have a long run to the turn. I like being on the outside better, but I’ve got a lot of good horses on the outside. It will all work out.”

Baffert will also send out Collected, who stretched his win streak to four posting an outstanding half-length decision in the August 19 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar and starts from the other side of the starting gate in post 11; Travers (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner West Coast (post 8); and Awesome Again (G1) scorer Mubtaahij (post 6).

Arrogate will try to join Tiznow (2000-01) as the only back-to-back Classic winner. An earner of more than $17.3 million, 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song will be ridden by Mike Smith and is listed at 2-1 on the morning line.

Collected and West Coast are the 6-1 co-third choices. Mubtaahij comes next at 12-1.

Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien will continue their Classic quest with Churchill and War Decree.

Winner of the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas (G1) earlier this year, Churchill will try dirt in his career finale. He wheels back off a two-week rest after recording a commendable third in the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II (G1) and Ryan Moore rides. A Group 2 victor last year, War Decree prepped for the Classic with a convincing Group 3 tally on a synthetic track in late September and will add the services of Seamie Heffernan.

Churchill is 15-1 and War Decree 30-1.

Pavel is a lightly-raced but talented sort stepping up for Doug O’Neill. A smart debut winner in July, the gray 3-year-old captured the Smarty Jones (G3) the third time out and exits a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park. He’s been posted at 20-1 with Mario Gutierrez.

Grade 2 hero Gunnevera, a late-running second most recently in the Travers, is 30-1 along with War Story and Win the Space.