Is Gun Runner One of the Best?

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D.S. Williamson

November 10th, 2017

Gun Runner, I doubt anyone can deny this, performed the best of all the favorites in the 2017 Breedrs' Cup Classic. The son of Candy Ride trained by Steve Asmussen ran about as well as he's run before.

That speaks volumes because ever since his second place finish to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup, Gun Runner has won 4 straight Grade 1 races.

The performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic easily makes Gun Runner the 2017 Horse of the Year. Where does Gun Runner rank in terms of one of the greats, though? Below, I attempt to answer that question.

How Great Was Gun Runner's Breeders' Cup Classic Win?

From a purely time point-of-view, Gun Runner's win in the Breeders' Cup Classic this year was the slowest in the past 5 years. In 2012, Ft. Larned won the BC Classic in 2:00.11. In 2013, Mucho Macho Man won it in 2:00.72. Bayern won the BC Classic in the second fastest time of all time the very next year. Bayern won the Classic in 1:59.88. American Pharoah won in 2:00.07. Arrogate won the BC Classic in 2016 in 2:00.11.

Gun Runner's winning time ended up at 2:01.29. That's slow from a purely time point-of-view. However, Gun Runner ran a 117 Beyer Speed Figure. If you believe in Beyer Speed Figures, I don't really but many handicappers I know do, Gun Runner won the BC Classic in a great time.

There's also the fact that he raced against a solid field. Arrogate won the BC Classic last year. Arrogate also won the inaugural Pegasus World Cup. Collected won the Pacific Classic. West Coast won the Travers Stakes.

Naysayers will point out that Arrogate had been off form since this summer, Collected just recently became a great horse while West Coast is a three-year-old. The fact that War Story finished in the superfecta at over 56 to 1 adds validity to what the naysayers have pointed out.

It's up for debate as to how good Gun Runner's Breeders' Cup Classic win actually was. Those who truly believe in Beyer Figures care nothing about the field that Gun Runner beat. Those who don't believe in Beyer Figures, like me, wonder why the winning time was so slow, and why only War Story appeared to make up ground.

Where Does Gun Runner Rate From Steve Asmussen's Barn

A question for me is where Gun Runner fits into Steve Asmussen's historical barn. Asmussen has trained some of the best horses to run in the past 10 to 15 years. Most of the horses are listed below.

As you can see, I believe Gun Runner is ahead of Rachel Alexandra, but behind Curlin. Rachel Alexandra peaked, like so many fillies do, in her 3-year-old season when she won the Preakness Stakes. Rachel wasn't a dominating 4-year-old. Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic as a three-year-old. He also won the Preakness Stakes.

In 2008, he won the Dubai World Cup. He probably should have won the Breeders' Cup Classic. The 2008 BC Classic was the first one run over an artificial surface. It's a good bet that the artificial surface had an effect on Curlin's race in the 2008 BC Classic.

Steve Asmussen - Top 5 Best Horses (So Far!)

1. Curlin

2. Gun Runner

3. Rachel Alexander

4. Untapable

5. Creator

How Can Gun Runner Become One of the Best?

Could Gun Runner overcome Curlin? No. That doesn't mean he can't become one of the very best. To me Curlin is one of the very best horses to ever run. Winning the BC Classic as a three-year-old isn't easy. It takes a horse like Curlin, or American Pharoah, to pull it off.

If Gun Runner can win the Pegasus World Cup, he will become one of the best ever. The 2018 Pegasus World Cup is much deeper than last year's Pegasus World Cup. Sharp Azteca, Forever Unbridled, West Coast, Collected, and Gunnevera, could all improve before the race.

If Gun Runner pulls off his fifth straight Grade 1 win, this time versus the very best dirt horses in the world, he becomes one of the greatest ever to race.