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Will Gun Runner be latest victim to enter 'graveyard'?

Gun Runner: victory at Churchill Downs
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Preview: USA, Saturday 10.46pm BST (live on ATR)

Saratoga: Whitney Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1f | dirt | 3yo+

Dubai World Cup second Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen/Florent Geroux) bids for another major prize of his own on Saturday when he will start hot favourite for the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes at Saratoga.

As part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge, the 1m1f contest is a 'Win and You're In' qualifier for the Classic, in which Gun Runner is rated clear second favourite behind his Meydan conqueror Arrogate in ante-post lists with British bookmakers.

The four-year-old, who made all to win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster by seven lengths on his most recent outing, also stands in third place on the latest list of World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings.

"He's always improving," said regular jockey Florent Geroux. "I tell the owners every time I ride him, he always comes back a better horse after each start. It's pretty special when you ride a horse like this for over a year now. I really think he's been great with how he's training right now."

On Racing Post Ratings, Gun Runner is well clear of his Whitney rivals – but following the Arrogate debacle at Del Mar last month, his connections will surely not be counting their chickens at a venue known as the 'Graveyard of Favourites' (or 'Champions') owing to its reputation for shock results.

A wet track is one potential concern: rain is forecast, and although Gun Runner ran well on a muddy track in Dubai, back at home he has twice finished out of the places under similar conditions.

What is more, chief rival Keen Ice (Todd Pletcher/Jose Ortiz) made his name via a notorious surprise victory when he defeated Triple Crown winner American Pharoah two years ago at this venue.

Only seventh in the Dubai World Cup, the five-year-old hadn't won since that previous Saratoga victory – until he came back to form with a vengeance last time out when beating top-class Shaman Ghost in the Suburban.

A real closing type, Keen Ice needs a strong pace – and he might well get it as rival owner Ron Paolucci is trying to set things up for late-running War Story (Jorge Navarro/Javier Castellano) with pacemaker Cautious Giant, who will make life difficult if Gun Runner's jockey wants the lead.

Former Chilean-trained Te Brutus (Gary Contessa/Irad Ortiz) is another who may take a prominent position. He reportedly came down with an infection after losing out as 2-5 favourite for the Grade 2 Brooklyn, which was won by War Story. The cutback in trip isn't guaranteed to suit either horse.

Also on Saturday

Saratoga: Test Stakes (Grade 1) 7f | dirt | 3yo fillies (10.10pm BST, live on ATR)

Faypien (Bob Baffert/Rafael Bejarano), who scored in Grade 2 company last time, is out to complete a four-timer as she steps up to the highest level for the first time in this $500,000 event.

Also in from the west coast is American Gal (Simon Callaghan/Jose Ortiz), who rates a serious threat after winning a Grade 3 at Belmont by 4¾ lengths.

Mountaineer: West Virginia Derby (Grade 3) 1m1f | dirt | 3yo (10.21pm BST)

A $750,000 prize at the casino resort. Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee (Steve Asmussen/Corey Lanerie) needs to recapture his form after coming seventh in the Belmont Stakes, where popular one-eyed colt Patch (Todd Pletcher/Tyler Gaffalione) took third.


He's always improving - I tell the owners every time I ride him, he always comes back a better horse after each start
E.W. Terms