Ever since Arrogate went from Secretariat to Zippy Chippy in the span of two starts (I may be exaggerating just a tad), Gun Runner has assumed the role of Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite in the eyes of many. Unfortunately, Saturday’s Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, where Gun Runner has been made the 2-5 morning line favorite, is not likely to confirm or deny that hypothesis.
Gun Runner will face just four rivals in the Grade I event that has been won by some of racing’s immortals, including Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Ghostzapper, Cigar (twice), Holy Bull, Spectacular Bid (in a walkover), Affirmed, Seattle Slew and Forego (a record four times). The son of Candy Ride has won seven times from 13 trips to post in graded stakes races, including three Grade I scores.
The rest of the field is just 1-for-20 combined in graded company — and 15 of those starts belong to War Story, the only other graded winner in the field (he captured the Grade II Brooklyn Handicap on June 10). So, upsetting the favorite is going to take a Herculean effort — kind of like when Accelerate beat Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap.
Obviously, the aforementioned War Story would appear to be the most likely candidate to get the job done, although both of Todd Pletcher’s horses have a puncher’s chance as well.
Rally Cry recorded fantastic speed and pace numbers in the ungraded Alydar on Aug. 6, but his previous graded tries were hardly inspiring. His non-effort in the Met Mile was especially disheartening as it too proceeded a solid performance, numbers-wise, in an allowance affair. However, it is noteworthy — at least to me — that jockey Johnny Velazquez chose the son of Uncle Mo over Neolithic, who he rode to a third-place finish (behind Arrogate and Gun Runner) in the Dubai World Cup this March.