06/23/2004 12:00AM

Lincoln: Distance-loving Gun Runner holds on


LINCOLN, Neb. - Gun Runner showed he still enjoys a route of ground last Sunday when he won the 1 3/8-mile leg of the Budweiser Marathon Starter Series.

Trained by Danny Smith and ridden by Dennis Collins, Gun Runner, 7, had just one previous start this year, a dismal last-place finish versus $4,000 claimers at a mile. But he rebounded strongly last Sunday, stalking the pace, and then kicking in through the stretch to score by a neck over the late-charging My Dad's Bad. Pacesetter Dark Magic led to the final sixteenth then settled for third, a nose farther back.

The outcome makes Gun Runner and My Dad's Bad looks like the leading contenders for the $10,000 finale of the series, on July 4 at two miles. My Dad's Bad won that race last year.

* Leading rider R.D. Williams registered consecutive four-win days to close out last weekend. His victory aboard Irish Flyer in the $15,700 Matchmaker Handicap wrapped up his four-bagger on Saturday. He returned on Sunday to win four races, for four different trainers. Williams holds a 44-27 lead over Collins entering the final three weeks of the meet.

* More than $700 was raised for the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund through a four-man scramble golf tournament on June 16.