03/26/2016 8:15PM

In tale of two trips, Gun Runner wins Louisiana Derby

Lou Hodges/Fair Grounds
Gun Runner uses a quick turn of foot to win the Louisiana Derby under Florent Geroux. Meanwhile, Mo Tom (back, on left) comes around pacesetter Candy My Boy after being checked under Corey Lanerie and losing his best chance.

NEW ORLEANS – For Gun Runner and Mo Tom, the Louisiana Derby on Saturday played out like the Risen Star last month. For Gun Runner, it was a joyous sequel. For Mo Tom, another Nightmare on Gentilly Blvd.

Gun Runner ($9.80), making full use of his tactical speed and instant acceleration, completed a sweep of the two biggest Kentucky Derby preps at Fair Grounds by rolling to a 4 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby, a result that thrilled his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Asmussen said in the winner’s circle, surrounded by his wife and three sons. “He’s a very athletic horse, handy, with a good temperament, and he stayed on to the wire.”

Mo Tom, who has a powerful late kick, was favored off his rough trip in the Risen Star last month. Once again, he ran into a roadblock while trying to rally in the stretch with jockey Corey Lanerie and wound up fourth, one place worse than the Risen Star, a result that left his trainer, Tom Amoss, fuming.

“Corey’s going to have to explain that ride," Amoss said. "It’s beyond my understanding. He was locked and loaded, so why he chose the most dangerous route is beyond me. I flashed back to all the work we’ve done with him. It’s like being an eyewitness to your kid being beaten up at the playground. He’s got such a fine move. Just go around.”

That was the ecstasy and the agony of the 102nd Louisiana Derby. Gun Runner got a first prize of $600,000, plus 100 points toward a berth in the Kentucky Derby May 7, which will be his next start. Even with the loss, Mo Tom likely has accumulated enough points to also get into the Derby, but Amoss – a native of New Orleans – was denied his first victory in a race he deeply covets.

Gun Runner had an ideal trip under Florent Geroux. He was third, tracking pacesetter Candy My Boy from along the inside through the first six furlongs, then moved in a flash to attack Candy My Boy midway on the far turn.

“He’s super athletic,” Geroux said.

“He’s got a lot of gears,” said Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s top assistant.

Gun Runner put daylight on his rivals in upper stretch and was never threatened through the lane, crossing the line in 1:51.06 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track. By comparison, the New Orleans Handicap for older horses earlier in the day was won by the longshot S’maverlous in 1:50.06, exactly one second faster.

The 30-1 shot Tom’s Ready, like Mo Tom owned by Gayle Benson but trained by Dallas Stewart, rallied into second at midstretch and maintained that position, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Dazzling Gem, who beat a fast-closing Mo Tom by a neck for third.

Mo Tom was last the first half-mile of the race, began a strong rally toward the end of the far turn, was taken inside in upper stretch, and twice was forced to steady when caught behind the tiring Candy My Boy.

Forevamo was fifth and was followed, in order, by Candy My Boy, Greenpointcrusader, Conquest Windycity, Uncle Walter, and Battery.

Gun Runner, a 3-year-old colt by Candy Ride, has now won four times in five starts, his lone loss a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall on a sloppy, sealed track at Churchill Downs. He did win first time out against maidens at Churchill Downs on a fast track.

Asmussen trains Gun Runner for Ron and Joan Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds and the Three Chimneys Farm of Goncalo Torrealba.

“He’s got talent,” Asmussen said. “What I love is how fast he is.”

And, no doubt, he loves Gun Runner’s ability to stay out of trouble.

David Benning More than 1 year ago
It's interesting that Gun Runner's only loss was on an off track. Candy Ride's are 5-star off track horses. I would not throw him out if the track came up sloppy or muddy in the KD. There's no telling if he was plain shod or wore stickers in that off track 4th place finish? Gun Runner's tracking style is very useful in a racelike the KD, especially with as many frontrunners as we have this season. There's no doubt in my mind that Mo Tom wins with a better ride, but that's always the danger with  a closer, and it's another reason they don't win as many races as speed and pressing types, generally speaking. Dirt races always favor a modicum of speed. Dirt champion closers are rare which is why we love them so much. 
David Benning More than 1 year ago
There's no question that Mo Tom would have won that race if Lanerie hadn't made the wrong move. The way Gun Runner switched off his correct lead makes that much more likely, as well. If Mo had gotten through in mid stretch he'd have been within 2 lengths with serious momentum in his favor - terrible ride. I've seen Lanerie pull this nonsense many times. All that said, it was a slowish race. But Mo Tom is the one I'd use out of here. Gun Runner had tremendous value at 7-2, I thought. He was the play. I thought it was great Tom Amoss laid into Lanerie. That's what I would have done, too. 
raypal45 More than 1 year ago
When a horse constantly gets in a bad position don't automatically blame the jock. Stephanie's kitten had that problem and look how she won in the BC. Mo Tom will win one of these days.
Christopher McKay More than 1 year ago
That Freakin Lanerie cost me a huge trifecta! I had a $10 trifecta with the top 2 and Mo Tom!!!!! Can't wait to heckle Cory in Louisville
Christopher McKay More than 1 year ago
Gun Runner lacks respect because of 2 "what if's" after 2 fantastic wins
Johnson Smith More than 1 year ago
"what if's" are always about something that didn't happen.  Back to back wins and you tearing up losing tickets are something that did.
Chris More than 1 year ago
mo tom will beat gunne in KD. fire corry he couldn't ride a f#####g STICKHORSE!!!!!!!
Sharon Rose More than 1 year ago
looks like he's favoring that hind left foot-dammit
Jim Pitura More than 1 year ago
Let's see sired by Candy Ride? Will he go 1 1/4?My money says perhaps.
Joseph More than 1 year ago
how do you bet a "perhaps"?
Christopher McKay More than 1 year ago
Candy Ride's will run all day.....Candy Ride won from 6 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles
Felton Suthon More than 1 year ago
I got my butt beat bad in this race, but you guys should have seen Asmussen running towards the finish screaming "Gun Runner" - he may have passed some of the field in the last 1/8 mile.
Michael Monsour More than 1 year ago
If he follows Gun Runner he is within 2 lengths of the lead with a ton of horse. At that point there was almost an eighth mile to go.
Christopher McKay More than 1 year ago
Gun Runner had a ton of horse also