Horse Racing Odds: Gun Runner Leads Favorites at Stephen Foster Handicap

David Schwab

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 1:30 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jun. 14, 2017 1:30 PM UTC

The 2017 Triple Crown racing series for thoroughbreds may be in the books, but the summer racing series for all of the top horses in the sport is just starting to heat up, led by Saturday night’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

2017 Stephen Foster Handicap

The Stephen Foster Handicap is a Grade 1 stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds and up with a total prize purse of $500,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Churchill Downs over a distance a 1 1/8 miles on Saturday.

Gun Runner comes into this race ranked No. 3 by Horse Racing Nation with a lofty rating of 8.94, and I would have to agree that he is the best horse in the field. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt placed second in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup on March 25 behind Arrogate over a distance of 1¼ miles. Gun Runner has been able to place in the money in 10 of the 11 events he has run over the past two years. Trained by Steve Asmussen, his biggest victory during that time frame was in Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill last November at 1 1/8 miles.

Sired by Candy Ride, Gunner Runner has seven career victories, including five in a major graded event. He has finished first or second in his last five races.

My second choice would be trainer Thomas Amoss’ Mo Tom as a pedigree of Uncle Mo. This 4-year-old colt bred in Kentucky recently placed second in an allowance race at Churchill on Derby Day over a distance of one mile as part of a mini-comeback trail after placing fifth or higher in his previous three runs. During last year’s run to the Kentucky Derby, he placed third in the Grade 2 Risen Star and fourth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby before finishing eighth in the 2016 Run for the Roses.

While his recent performance on the track might be a cause for concern, there is still something about this colt that leads me to believe that his past experience at this track will be a major plus in Saturday’s race.

Rounding out my trifecta pick for this year’s Stephen Foster would be Breaking Lucky, who finished second to Gun Runner in the Clark Handicap last year. Trained by Reade Baker, he was sired by Lookin At Lucky with his sibling Lookin At Lee making a name for himself in this year’s Triple Crown racing series. Breaking Lucky is a 5-year-old Canadian-bred horse and he comes into this race ranked No. 88 by HRN with a rating of 7.81. He faded to fifth his last time out in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill on May 5 over a distance of 1 1/16 miles, but prior to that he took second in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds behind Honorable Duty at a distance of 1 1/8 miles.

This is another horse who has some solid racing experience at this track, and he has finished in the money in six of the last nine events he has run.  

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