February 20, 2024

Arrogate, Gun Runner work toward Breeders’ Cup Classic showdown

Arrogate's 2017 Dubai World Cup performance was deemed best in the world by a panel of international handicappers (Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood)

Defending Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) champion Arrogate and the early favorite to depose him, Gun Runner, spiced up Monday’s Santa Anita worktab ahead of their November 4 clash at Del Mar.

Arrogate worked six furlongs on the fast track in 1:13.20, biding his time behind reported workmate Uninvited before smoothly overtaking him and pulling away in the stretch. According to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman, the big gray galloped out a mile in 1:39.80 with jockey Rafael Bejarano.

The Bob Baffert trainee is out to restore lost luster, having dropped his past two since beating Gun Runner in the Dubai World Cup (G1). Although a better second to stablemate Collected in the Pacific Classic (G1) second off the layoff, some observers question whether the son of Unbridled’s Song is as effective around Del Mar.

Arrogate’s moving well at present at Santa Anita, however, and it would be no surprise if Baffert gets him back in form for his grand finale in the Classic. Plans call for the Juddmonte star to retire to stud following the Breeders’ Cup.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner, in contrast, has reached a new level since his runner-up effort to Arrogate in Dubai. Reeling off three in a row in the Stephen Foster (G1), Whitney (G1), and Woodward (G1) by a combined margin of 22 1/2 lengths, the Candy Ride colt has supplanted Arrogate as the number one ranked horse in the weekly NTRA poll.

Gun Runner, who posted his first Santa Anita work on October 2, turned in his strongest local move so far on Monday when negotiating five-eighths in 1:00.40 under Florent Geroux. That tied for the second-fastest of 41 at the distance on the day.

The bullet went to Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) contender Om in 1:00. The near-misser in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), the Dan Hendricks pupil is stretching out again off a third in the Eddie D. (G3). Eddie D. winner Mr. Roary, likewise stepping up for the Mile, toured six furlongs in 1:13.60.

Zipping the fastest six of the morning was defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) star Drefong, who clocked 1:12.20 from the gate. The Baffert speedster just crushed them in the Forego (G1) on Travers Day.

Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) contender, Mor Spirit, completed his move from the gate in 1:12.80. The Pennsylvania-bred has not raced since his career high in the Metropolitan (G1) on Belmont Day.

Rounding out the Breeders’ Cup works at this distance was Win the Space, who posted the second-best time of 1:12.60 for George Papaprodromou. The recent Awesome Again (G1) third is considering the Dirt Mile or Classic.

Chandelier (G1) and Del Mar Debutante (G1) heroine Moonshine Memories, who will put her unbeaten record on the line for Simon Callaghan in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), toured five-eighths in 1:02.40.

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) hopeful Birdie Gold, here by virtue of her “Win & You’re In” ticket in Peru’s Gran Premio Pamplona (G1), drilled five panels in the same time as Gun Runner, 1:00.40.

Frank Conversation, who would be a longshot if he tries the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), fired the half-mile bullet in :47.00.

Further south at San Luis Rey, Turf Sprint candidate Stormy Liberal covered four furlongs in :49.40 in preparation for his first outing since June. His four-race winning streak was snapped when eighth in the Jaipur (G3) on Belmont Day.

At Belmont Park, Turf contender Sadler’s Joy toured a half-mile on the fast main track in :49.66. The Sword Dancer (G1) hero was fourth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) last out.

Over a fast strip at Gulfstream Park, Our Dear Peggy winner Blonde Bomber tuned up for the Juvenile Fillies with a five-furlong move in 1:00.15.