June 23, 2024

Gun Pilot secures breakthrough win in Churchill Downs Stakes

Gun Pilot winning the Churchill Downs S. (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)
Gun Pilot winning the Churchill Downs S. (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Prior to starting in Saturday’s $1 million Churchill Downs S. (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, Gun Pilot hadn’t won a single stakes, nor cracked the trifecta in a graded stakes.

But the four-year-old son of Gun Runner elevated his game to a new level while taking on his toughest test to date for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Against a fierce field sprinting seven furlongs on dirt, Gun Pilot delivered a decisive victory as the 5-1 fourth choice among 10 starters.

Under a patient ride from Cristian Torres, the Three Chimneys Farm homebred rated in fifth position early on, as many as 3 1/2 lengths behind fractions of :22.56 and :44.87 set by 20-1 longshot Here Mi Song. Zozos, 3-1 favorite Hoist the Gold, and Raise Cain settled in second, third, and fourth during the opening stages.

Rounding the turn, Gun Pilot made his move, advancing to challenge Here Mi Song and Zozos for supremacy. Moving strongly, the bay colt struck the front before the furlong marker and pulled away down the stretch to prevail by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:21.95.

Here Mi Song held on for second place by a neck over Zozos, followed by Raise Cain, Hoist the Gold, Mr. Wireless, Tejano Twist, Track Mate, Minnesota Ready, and Three Technique. Bo Cruz scratched.

“This is so special. It is very special for Mr. (Goncalo) Torrealba (of Three Chimneys Farm),” said Asmussen. “This is a special horse. I really believe in him. Cristian (Torres) believes in him too. Seven-eighths is a good distance for him. We wanted to make it simple for him today. Nothing special in the way of tactics. Get him out in the middle of the track and then let him do his close. It worked out perfectly.”

For Cristian Torres, the victory marked his first win at the Grade 1 level, following eight Grade 2 and Grade 3 scores since 2023.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m really excited, I’ve been looking for this Grade 1 for a long time,” said Torres. “I just come to ride. I study my races, I do my homework. I just come out here to do the best job that I can. I’m very happy that I finally got one. Gun Pilot is a great horse. The Asmussen team spotted him very well. He’s an easy horse to ride.”

Winning the Churchill Downs boosted Gun Pilot career record to five wins and three seconds from 11 starts, with earnings of $975,575.