10/30/2017 3:10PM

Breeders' Cup Clocker: Gun Runner's breeze impresses

Barbara D. Livingston
Gun Runner trains at Del Mar on Oct. 30, in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Del Mar
Temp.: 62
Main Track: Fast
Turf: Firm

DEL MAR, Calif. – You pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get from a Steve Asmussen trainee working five days before a big race. But few, if any, horses can make a 49.62 half-mile maintenance breeze look any more impressive than Gun Runner did shortly after dawn Monday morning at Del Mar.

Gun Runner was one of 10 Breeders’ Cup pre-entrants – eight on the main track and two over the turf – to work at Del Mar under overcast skies and a bit of a chill in the air Monday, the temperature just nudging above 60 when training hours began at 5:30 a.m.

The barn area at Del Mar continues to fill, with more Breeders’ Cup contenders having arrived over the weekend. The majority were out on the track to train in one form or another throughout the morning, including the large Chad Brown contingent from New York and all the Europeans, save for the Aidan O’Brien horses, who are not scheduled to arrive until Monday night.

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Anybody worrying about whether GUN RUNNER would handle the Del Mar surface need not after watching the potential Classic favorite just float over the strip, completing four furlongs in 25.21, 49.62 before galloping out in 1:03.07. Although quite eager to begin, Gun Runner settled into a nice, relaxed stride once leaving the pole before picking up the pace on his own accord settling into the stretch, looking a picture of health as he passed through the wire and continued out, into, and around the clubhouse turn, putting a punctuation mark on a series of super breezes leading up to Saturday’s main event.

While Gun Runner looked brilliant during his maintenance breeze, one could argue that work-of-the-day honors went to the 2-year-old GOLDEN DRAGON, who will make his main track debut in the Juvenile. Golden Dragon was keen to begin once turning down the backstretch, leaving the five-eighths pole full of run, posting splits of 11.47, 23.20, and 35.02 to the top of the stretch. But despite the frantic pace, the good-looking and steadily improving youngster was able to finish with nice energy and did so without need of encouragement from jockey Evin Roman, completing the distance in 58.91 before easing up a bit on the gallop-out, six furlongs in 1:13.05. Although one might be concerned this was just a bit too fast to work so close (five days) to his race, it certainly was an eye-catching drill from a young horse who has yet to compete on dirt.

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CALCULATOR was the first of three Breeders’ Cup Sprint contenders to work after the renovation break along with MIND YOUR BISCUITS and IMPERIAL HINT, going four furlongs, in company, in 47.53. Calculator, who worked in blinkers, was given a target, breaking about five lengths behind a stablemate and was so keen and full of run from the outset he was already in front by the time he turned for home after a 23.79 opening quarter. Calculator then extended his advantage, finishing willingly to the wire, coming down the lane in a nearly identical 23.74 before asked a tad to continue out five furlongs in a solid move for a horse who seems to be coming into his race in peak condition.

Both Mind Your Biscuits and Imperial Hint had their final major tune-ups for the Sprint back home and thus did little more than blow-out here Monday. Mind Your Biscuits breezed an easy three-eighths in 36.14, under a hold down the stretch, before galloping-out a half-mile in 49.45. Imperial Hint’s rider had his feet on the dashboard keeping the little speedster from doing any more than a 24.22 quarter-mile down the lane before angling him to the middle of the track and easing him up going out three furlongs in 37.15.

WIN THE SPACE, who will join Gun Runner in the Classic, also turned in basically a maintenance-type half-mile in 49.60, although he was very reluctant to change leads, not switching over until near midstretch, after some coaxing from his rider.

Other main-track workers, all after the break, included HOGY (Turf Sprint), four furlongs in 50.03 before easing up some on the gallop-out in typical Mike Maker style, and BAHAMIAN (Juvenile), four furlongs in 49.43 going easily throughout.

BALLAGH ROCKS (Mile) and MR. ROARY (Mile) were the morning’s only two turf workers. Ballagh Rocks was a bit high-headed during the early stages of his half-mile breeze around the dogs for trainer Bill Mott but did level off late, responding to some urging approaching the wire to complete the final quarter of the 49.85 drill in 24.38 while working in blinkers. Mr. Roary settled into a nice, relaxed stride leaving the pole and despite changing his leads a tad late went a visually impressive looking half-mile in 24.46, 49.45 while just being nudged a tad near the end, also in blinkers.

MONGOLIAN SATURDAY (Turf Sprint) didn’t turn in an official breeze but got his competitive juices flowing and was in run-off mode once passed by another worker moments after turning around to gallop on the far turn. The 2015 Turf Sprint winner was angled out past the middle of the track at that point, yet still covered three furlongs down the lane and into the turn in 40.86 before finally being reined in approaching the six-furlong pole.

ELATE was far and away the star of a busy Sunday morning at Del Mar that produced 19 recorded Breeders’ Cup works, 11 on the turf.

Elate, who has made an outstanding appearance ever since arriving from New York late last week, looked brilliant cruising four furlongs in 48.78 with a 23.68 final quarter in effortless fashion and appears to be sitting on her best yet in the Distaff.

CATHOLIC BOY, a 2-year-old in a 3-year-old’s body, was also very impressive while full of run breezing four furlongs around the dogs over a firm turf course in 48.01 before galloping-out with great energy on the turf.

Other workers of note over the main track here Sunday included MOONSHINE MEMORIES, a sharp and very easy half-mile in 48.09 for the Juvenile Fillies and CURLIN’S APPROVAL, who finished up strongly without urging to complete a bullet four furlongs in 47.61 for the Filly and Mare Sprint.

On the turf, CAMBODIA was visually impressive gliding over the course in 36.53, 1:01.29 in preparation for the Filly and Mare Turf while LADY AURELIA topped a trio of Wesley Ward grass workers breezing an easy, maintenance half-mile in company in 49.23 finishing with nice energy while well within herself throughout. Her younger mates HEMP HEMP HOORAY and ULTIMA looked good in company, the latter pulling away while showing terrific energy on the gallop-out.