April 23, 2024

Nash tops field of eight in Gun Runner; six fillies to contest Untapable

Nash (Coady Photography)

Road to the Derby Kickoff Day, a stakes-laden, 12-race program at Fair Grounds, starts off Christmas weekend with a bang in New Orleans on Saturday. The two stakes of greatest interest are the $100,000 Gun Runner, a Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep, and the $100,000 Untapable, a Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep.

Nash figures to be hot favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Gun Runner. Although second best in his debut going six furlongs at Keeneland in early October, the Godolphin homebred was a powerful winner second out going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill, scoring by 10 1/4 lengths. Trainer Brad Cox will also be represented by Catching Freedom.

Risk It will attempt to halt a two-race losing skid for connections that campaigned the race’s namesake and its inaugural winner, Epicenter, two years ago. An actual son of Gun Runner, too, Risk It finished second in the Iroquois (G3) and fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his last two outings. Trainer Steve Asmussen also send out Track Phantom, an impressive maiden winner late last month in his third start.

Last-out allowance winners Snead and Neat step up in class, though the latter has the added hurdle of trying dirt for the first time. The field is rounded out by the allowance-placed Footprint and recent graduate Next Level, who placed in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) over the summer.

The Untapable, run at one mile and 70 yards, was won last year by eventual Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Pretty Mischievous. Brad Cox has entered a pair of Churchill allowance winners, Alpine Princess and West Omaha, while the Phil Bauer-trained Legadema steps up in trip following a confident debut score going 5 1/2 furlongs at the Louisville track.

The field is rounded out by the multiple stakes-placed Fibber and the Kenny McPeek-trained duo of Sistina Chapel and Band of Gold.

The Gun Runner and Untapable will each award the top finishers respective Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 10-5-3-2-1.