First-crop sires: Record-setting Gun Runner passes $4 million mark
With Sunday’s newly-minted Gun Runner S. on the Fair Grounds Road to the Kentucky Derby, it’s an opportune time for an update on the race’s namesake. The 2017 Horse of the Year is now a record-breaking freshman sire, a meteoric rise we’ve chronicled all season.
$4 million and counting
Led by his sure-to-be-champion Echo Zulu, the unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner, Gun Runner’s progeny have amassed more than $4 million in earnings. That’s a record for a North American first-crop sire, and an accomplishment that puts the Three Chimneys stallion in rarefied company.
Gun Runner has eclipsed champion Uncle Mo (2015), who racked up $3.67 million per Blood-Horse tabulation, or $3.71 million according to Thoroughbred Daily News. Uncle Mo had himself supplanted Tapit as the freshman record-holder.
As a result, Gun Runner will receive even more high-profile mares, including four-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder in 2022. His stud fee has accordingly been hiked as well. Gun Runner had stood for $70,000 before pandemic uncertainties prompted a cut to $50,000 for the 2021 breeding season. Now the red-hot sire will command a $125,000 fee, payable when the foal stands and nurses.
Three Chimneys owner Gonçalo Torrealba commented in a farm press release:
Gun Runner’s record start at stud is a crowning achievement for the farm and its philosophy. To surpass a record established by Uncle Mo, and Tapit previous to that, clearly compares Gun Runner favorably at this point in time with two of the most influential sires at stud today. He not only established a new progeny earnings record but he is also the Leading Sire in America by percent stakes winner to runners among all sires, pretty astonishing.
Three Chimneys’ whole team is grateful to the breeders who continue to support him with great mares, and a special thanks to partner Ron Winchell. He has been fantastic. I am grateful for his continued commitment to breed his best mares and race their progeny. Trainer Steve Asmussen has created his legacy through Horse of the year Gun Runner and his progeny. Thank you, Steve.
Since our previous installment following the Breeders’ Cup, four new winners have arrived to increase his tally to 24. Moreover, past winners Optionality and Radio Days have burnished their resumes recently, so we’ll lead off with them.
Building momentum after her breakthrough at Indiana Grand, Optionality has romped in the Nov. 23 Zia Park Princess S. and Dec. 17 Trapeze S. at Remington Park. In both, the Winchell Thoroughbreds/Steve Asmussen filly posted times slightly faster than the colts in comparable stakes on the same card.
The 11-10 favorite in the Zia Park Princess, Optionality stormed from just off the pace to dominate by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:09.16. The Zia Park Juvenile, over the same six-furlong trip, went in 1:09.30.
Optionality made her two-turn debut in the Trapeze, where she ominously tracked the leader before easily taking over on the far turn and widening her margin to 8 1/2 lengths. The 2.10-1 chance clocked the mile in 1:41.10, while unbeaten Springboard Mile winner Make It Big needed 1:41.23 to prevail in a far more competitive stretch run.
Two other Gun Runners updated their records at Remington as well. Concept finished third in the Springboard Mile (but did not earn the available Kentucky Derby points because he raced on Lasix).
Hern, after a seventh in the Oct. 29 Clevor Trevor, rebounded in a big way Nov. 22 when stretching back out to the same mile trip as his maiden score. The Asmussen trainee was entered for the $75,000 tag in the optional claimer, but there were no takers, and he accomplished an eight-length coup in 1:41.05.
Judging by how Radio Days won on debut at Belmont Park for Shug McGaughey, it was a reasonable assumption that she’d move forward second time out. But the Allen Stable colorbearer took a mighty leap in an entry-level allowance at Aqueduct Dec. 2, despite getting bumped at the start and negotiating a wide trip.
The 1-4 favorite advanced relentlessly from fourth early, circled the leaders on the turn, and maintained her attack mode in the stretch to draw off by 8 1/2 lengths. Radio Days looked a class apart while negotiating seven furlongs in 1:25.83, and raising hopes of what the future might hold for the half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Bowies Hero. That’s exactly why Thoroughbred Daily News tabbed her as a “Rising Star,” the second for Gun Runner after Echo Zulu.
Entered in Sunday’s Untapable S., the Kentucky Oaks (G1) points race prior to the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds, Shotgun Hottie broke her maiden in her first chance over a route. The Tom Amoss pupil, second and fourth in her first two starts sprinting at Churchill Downs, went last-to-first in a 1 1/16-mile maiden beneath the Twin Spires Nov. 28.
Shotgun Hottie likely wouldn’t have been last early, especially sporting new blinkers, if not for being pinballed at the break. But the 2.30-1 chance launched a move on the far turn and kept finding. Although she appeared to hang briefly in upper stretch, Shotgun Hottie responded when tackled by 7-10 favorite Butterbean and edged three-quarters of a length clear in 1:46.13. Indeed, her big, loping stride suggests she wants at least that distance.
Bred by Vincent Colbert in Kentucky, Shotgun Hottie was a $45,000 OBS Spring juvenile purchase by Jeff Ganje, her co-owner along with Omar Aldabbagh. She is out of the Malibu Moon mare Re Entry, who is herself a half to Grade 1 winner Sky Diva, the third-placer in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and multiple Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Quick Little Miss. This is the further family of multiple Grade 1 star and near $2 million-earner Pure Clan.
As a debut winner at odds of 4-5 for the tandem of Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables, Early Voting has marked himself as an obvious one to follow. The dark bay also boasts pedigree power. His dam, the Tiznow mare Amour d’Ete, is a full sister to 2017 Blue Grass (G2) victor Irap and a half to champion and terrific sire Speightstown.
Early Voting showed an appealing blend of tactical speed and stamina over a mile at Aqueduct Dec. 18. Breaking from the outside post 7, he forced the pace through fractions of :23.23 and :47.19, and appeared well within himself opening up at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.65. Early Voting saw his margin reduced to 1 1/2 lengths, but he was always in command in a final time of 1:38.41.
Bred by Gun Runner’s home of Three Chimneys Farm, Early Voting was sold for $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His second dam is Canadian champion Silken Cat, by Storm Cat, so he’s yet another example of Gun Runner’s affinity for that pedigree angle. Since Gun Runner is himself out of a mare by Giant’s Causeway, any mare with Storm Cat in her ancestry would duplicate that supersire’s influence in the resulting foal.
Edward A. Seltzer’s homebred Running Legacy opened her account at first asking for Saffie Joseph Jr. Debuting Dec. 9 on Gulfstream Park’s new Tapeta course, the 2.90-1 chance was nestled midpack on the inside, deftly split foes turning for home, and quickened to a 1 1/4-length decision. She covered about one mile and 70 yards on Tapeta in 1:43.34.
Out of the A.P. Indy mare True Legacy, the Kentucky-bred is out a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Verdana Bold (the dam of stakes winners Lucrezia and Ghalia), from the family of Grade 1 vixen Game Face.
The Ron Moquett-trained Ruggs rolled in his 6 1/2-furlong unveiling at Remington Park Nov. 15. The 19-10 favorite flashed speed on the inside, disposed of his pace rivals including a 45-1 pesterer, and kicked away by three lengths in 1:19.25.
Ruggs faced a stiffer test in the Dec. 3 Advent S. at Oaklawn Park, where he tired to fourth as a 12-1 shot. Considering that he advanced into the teeth of a much hotter pace (:21.61 and :44.96), Ruggs remains a promising prospect.
Bred by Bridlewood Farm in Florida, Ruggs brought $110,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Current owner Gus King secured him for $170,000 as an OBS Summer juvenile. Ruggs is out of 2013 Schuylerville (G3) winner Brazen Persuasion, an Indian Charlie half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Thankful.
Ruggs is one of several Gun Runners nominated to the Smarty Jones, a Kentucky Derby scoring race, over Oaklawn’s mile on Jan. 1.