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Gun Runner: I Can’t Be the Only Skeptic

There comes a point in every writer’s career, when said writer must take a stand against popular opinion—often at the risk of harsh judgement, and most importantly, at the risk of being wrong. As writers, it is our duty to state what we believe in our heart of hearts, and place our thoughts and feelings on the line, free of bubblewrap and sugar coating, all for the good of journalism.

I’ve spent countless hours behind a blank computer screen for more than a week—my fingertips dancing about on a tired keyboard—failing to find an adequate way to convey my feelings toward Gun Runner, the horse which has now claimed top billing among our star cast of American Thoroughbred athletes.

Many of you won’t like what I am about to say—and that’s alright. A few of you may be of the minority which doesn’t think I am a heartless monster (Gasp)—that’s alright, too. All I ask is that you do not leap to conclusions and that you respect my opinion, as I respect yours.

Is Gun Runner the best horse in the country? That’s a tough question to answer, for more reasons than one…

Do I believe he is the most tenacious horse in America? Yes.

Do I believe he is the most consistent horse in America? Double yes.

Do I believe deep down inside, where my intuition lies, that he is the most talented, toughest horse our great nation possesses? Wait for it… POSSIBLY. Also, possibly not.

You see, it’s that age old question, which is mocked and roasted nearly every time a horse of any note wins a stakes race. “But, who did he beat?” Sure, at times, this question can prompt an eye roll, a whisper between professionals—it’s a question that I, myself, have detested a time or two. It’s also a question which must be asked before crowning Gun Runner America’s Newest Darling.

HOT SPRINGS, AR – FEBRUARY 20: #1 Gun Runner, with Florent Geroux aboard, coming down the stretch before crossing the finish line in the the Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on February 20, 2017 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Photo by Justin Manning/Eclipse Sportswire)

In most cases, I truly feel when watching a race, that it matters not who a horse is beating, but instead, the way in which he is beating his competition. If I decide to take that route here, then Gun Runner is as dominant and superior as they come.

Early in his career, it was believed by some that the chestnut son of Candy Ride needed his ideal trip to reach the wire first—which was proven to be incorrect. In the past twelve months, we have witnessed Gun Runner mature into an athlete who is battle tested…an athlete who can sit just off the pace if necessary…and lastly, an athlete who doesn’t back down when looked in the eye.

Since returning from Dubai, where he finished second in the World Cup behind only Arrogate, it seems the 4yo colt has blossomed into an unstoppable freight train, picking up open-length G1 victories with little effort, and all the while accumulating a massive fanbase which seems to reach beyond more than one ocean.

I know what you’re thinking—“Only a great horse can do these things”—and you’re correct. See, make no mistake, I believe Gun Runner is a GREAT horse. I am just uncertain of whether he is the greatest horse in training.

How can we tell? Well, the truth is, we can’t. We won’t know for certain until he steps on California soil, and defeats the horses which have been dominating the West in his stead, at a distance of 10 furlongs, which has proven to be less than ideal for him. While Gun Runner’s victories out East have been nothing short of remarkable, those victories have come over horses like Keen Ice, Noble Bird, and War Story—all respectable athletes in their own right, but certainly a cut below the top tier of Thoroughbreds in America.

This brings me to my next point. Too many times I have seen, “Arrogate doesn’t like the surface at Del Mar, so Gun Runner will win going away.”

Guys, Arrogate is not the only horse which poses a legitimate threat to Gun Runner, but make no mistake—he will adjust to the surface which will mellow out by the time Breeders’ Cup rolls around, and he will be ready. IF the Arrogate we know returns to form, every one, including Gun Runner, is fighting for second. I am a big fan of face to face meetings, and lest you forget, Arrogate has defeated Gun Runner with ease BOTH times in which they faced off.

That being said, he will also contend with Pacific Classic winner, Collected—a horse who has only exuded class and athleticism this season… as well as displayed an affinity for Del Mar’s tricky surface AND 10 furlongs over said surface. I want to be bold and state that he is your likely Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, but I won’t do that just yet. (Wait, I just did, didn’t I…?)

January 09, 2016: Collected with Martin Garcia up wins the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA. Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

In addition to Collected, Gun Runner will also meet Travers winner West Coast, who is shaping up to become the most dominant of his crop, without dispute. He proved just two weeks ago how much he relishes the extra real estate in going long, and there is no reason to believe that he can’t go long with the big boys, on the biggest day in racing.

It’s certainly safe to say that this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic will be one worth making the trip to see. It will serve as more than a year-end championship; it will serve as the battleground on which it will be decided who truly reigns supreme. Will it be Gun Runner? Who knows? Many seem to think he will come sweeping home as he has done in recent victories, and hey—he just might. If he does, I will be the first to congratulate his connections, and also the first to tell you that perhaps I analyzed him too harshly.

My respect for Gun Runner is immense, and has been since the dawn of his now brilliant career. (See 2016 article in which I stated that I respected him more than any 3yo in the country.) Seriously guys, do not interpret my skepticism as disrespect of a horse which I have been lucky enough to see in person on more than one occasion. His team is terrific and deserving of his success, as is he.

So, you see… when I tell you that I am uncertain of whether he is truly the best horse in America, don’t tar and feather me… or do, if you must. I am simply thinking beyond what my eyes have seen in recent starts, in which his dominance may have been sightly deceiving. I’m simply trying to imagine if Gun Runner will find the same outcome with ease, against competition much greater than any he is currently facing, come November. Perhaps he will prove once and for all, that he is truly deserving of the title “Best Horse in America”—or perhaps he won’t. Either way, this is my story as a skeptic, and I’m sticking to it. Should I be wrong, so be it, folks.

That’s journalism, and this is Horse Racing.


Meet the Author: Nicole Schiveley…

Article written by Nicole Schiveley

Chief Creative Officer

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. James Dolan Reply

    Bang on analysis. Special kudos for detesting the “But who did he beat?” question whilst admitting it is a question that must be asked and answered – in context. Even Secretariat’s legacy has been subject to that infernal question. And for the naysayers and the record, he lost a race in which he spiked a fever and had diarrhea, and he lost another race to a horse who was in the midst of a remarkable run and who would have given all the greats a run for their money that day. Context is everything. Gun Runner is s helluva horse right now – we have no idea if he’ll like Del Mar. And I’m not sure he’ll get the distance in The Classic. Not sold on Collected at 10 furlongs either unless he gets his trip. West Coast intrigues me – a lot. No distance issues. He could be an attractive overlay. Frankly, I think Arrogate still has the talent to overcome his aversion to the track. And that aversion, in my opinion, drops him from the ranks of the all time greats. So, is Gun Runner the best horse in training? I’m with Nicole. I don’t think one can say that yet. They have to run a clean Classic, and we’ll find out.

  2. Robert Tedesco Reply

    Finally,someone who thinks the surface at Del Mar will be different in November(thank you Nicole !),than it was on August 19th,when the greatest horse in America was plodding (again) on that sandy like dirt track.That’s right,it’s Arrogate I speak of.Consider the San Diego debacle,where he didn’t run a lick on the same track,found some semblance of footing about 75 yards from the wire,in the Pacific Classic,and closed in on Collected,falling a half length short,while posting a 114 beyer speed figure.That was a drastic improvement if I ever saw one,on the same exact racetrack,and I’ve been following horseracing for over 50 years.Come November,we will all see who the greatest horse in America truly is.To borrow a line from the Who’s great song,”Won’t Get Fooled Again”…”Meet the new boss,same as the old boss.”

  3. John Reply

    Superb article

  4. Elizabeth Zimski Reply

    Great analysis – spot on but probably because I feel much the same! I’m going to withhold opinion until I see with my own eyes! There are just too many ifs and what ifs – I’m looking forward to learning the answer, as is the rest of the racing world. We all know that the talk won’t stop even then! Thanks!

  5. Dale Reply

    Thank-you for an honest opinion. I’ve also liked Gun Runner since his debut, at first because of the name but later because of his talent. There’s no doubt he is a great horse, time and track will tell if he is the “greatest”. The Breeders’ Cup will answer a lot of questions and I can hardly wait. Good luck and safe trip to all!

  6. Brittany Reply

    You all want to know what I’m skeptic about, because all the sudden everyone overlooks the underdog who is currently dominating??? Why anyone would compare Arrogate to Secretariat, Man O War, all the greats, for only winning one race? I am not counting the Breeders Cup Classic, or the Dubai because Curlin, California Chrome, and Cigar already won those. I’m speaking about the Pegasus, because it is the only race that no other horse has yet to win because 2017 was the first year. Of course no other horse can compare to Arrogate right now because they’ve not had the opportunities that Arrogate has (believe me, Chrome would have won that had he been on his A game prior to his Dubai win). Lets get the facts straight, Arrogate HAS NOT WON since the beginning of the year yet Gun Runner CONTINUES TO WIN despite his defeat with Arrogate.
    Gun Runner, I hope you CRUSH Arrogate because you are a better horse and rightfully deserve being deemed “Greatest racehorse in America.”

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