Sire Profile: Gun Runner makes expected mark on Triple Crown

May 25th, 2022

When Gun Runner made an impact in 2021 like few first-crop sires ever do, it seemed inevitable that his progeny would be serious players in the 2022 Triple Crown series.

Unsurprisingly, this has come to pass, crowned by Early Voting’s Preakness (G1) victory. What has really highlighted Gun Runner's prepotency, however, is that his progeny that have been prominent in the Triple Crown are different horses to the ones that propelled him to leading first-crop sire status last year.

In 2021, Gun Runner had six stakes winners. Two won Grade 1 races: champion filly Echo Zulu and Hopeful S. (G1) winner Gunite. Pappacap was a Grade 2 winner who placed twice at Grade 1 level, while the filly Wicked Halo also won at Grade 2 level. Other black type winners were Concept and Optionality.

Interestingly, only Echo Zulu among these has won at three, scraping home in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) before a fighting effort for fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Pappacap performed well on the Kentucky Derby trail without winning and at his last start finished second in the Pat Day Mile (G2); of the others, Wicked Halo and Optionality have both been placed at black type level, Concept finished fourth in a Listed race, while Gunite hasn’t raced this year.

As they have faded, others have made their way into the spotlight.

Early Voting is clearly the most prominent. He ran just once as a juvenile, winning a maiden at Aqueduct in December, but this season he’s won the Withers (G3) and finished second in the Wood Memorial (G2) prior to the Preakness.

However, he’s not the only one. Gun Runner had two different horses in the Kentucky Derby starting gates, both of which won Grade 1 races at their previous starts: Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Cyberknife and Santa Anita Derby (G1) victor Taiba.

Cyberknife, the winner of the final of his three juvenile starts, has this year scored twice in four starts. Taiba didn’t start at all at two, remarkably winning the Santa Anita Derby at his second career start.

Neither made much impact at Churchill Downs, with Taiba finishing 12th of the 20 runners and Cyberknife 18th. Both, however, were close to the punishing early speed in the Derby, a speed which proved ruinous to the chances of all those near the lead. Those runs are probably best forgiven, and it wouldn't surprise if they prove themselves up to the best three-year-olds in the country.

In addition to Early Voting, Cyberknife, Taiba, and Pappacap, two other Gun Runner colts earned points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series: McLaren Vale, third in the San Vicente (G2), and Bendoog, fourth in the UAE Derby (G2).

Gun Runner’s fillies were also prominent in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. Along with Echo Zulu and Optionality, Gun Runner was also represented by point scorers Shotgun Hottie, Radio Days, Running Legacy, and Beguine.

Outside the Derby and Oaks preps, Shotgun Hottie and the colt Red Run also won stakes races, bringing Gun Runner’s tally of stakes winners to 11 as of May 24. A further eight of his progeny are stakes-placed.

Given that Gun Runner didn’t peak as a racehorse until he was four, there should be plenty more to come from the most exciting new stallion in the United States.