After two hectic days last weekend which did little to clarify the pecking order among Derby runners, things are a bit quieter for the first weekend of August – apart from two “guns.”
Gunnevera, who at one time was close to favoritism for the 2017 Derby, returns this weekend for the first time since the Triple Crown series Preakness Stakes for the 1 ¼-mile Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream Park Sunday.
He faces five opponents, none of whom have his resume, and was a 2-5 morning line favorite when entries were declared.
The Dialed In colt began 2017 by finishing second to Irish War cry in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) before scoring an impressive victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He ran on late to finish third to Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby (G1), and then finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness Stakes.
A good effort will likely see him head to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 26.
Meanwhile, Gun Runner, the best-performed horse from last year’s Derby runners that remains in training, seeks to continue his strong 2017 form when he contests the Whitney Handicap (G1) at Saratoga Saturday.
The Candy Ride colt, third to Nyquist and Exaggerator in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, has had a good year to date. He won the Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park, finished second to the impressive Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, and then scored a very easy victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) June 17.
Gun Runner will concede between three and seven pounds to his six opponents, among them Keen Ice, the upset 2015 Travers Stakes victor. He is a warm 4-5 morning-line favorite for the historic Whitney Handicap.
Two of Gun Runner’s opponents in last year’s Derby will be seeking to find their old form when they race at Saratoga Aug. 6 in the Alydar Stakes over 1-1/8 miles. Neither Mohaymen, fourth in the Derby, nor Mo Tom, who finished eighth prior to winning the Ohio Derby, have won this year, though Mo Tom went close when finishing third in the Michael G. Schaefer Stakes behind Eagle at Indiana Grand July 15. Metropolitan Handicap sixth-place finisher Rally Cry is the 8-5 favorite.
Potentially these former Derby starters will be found facing one-another in the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar later this year.
(Coady Photo/Churchill Downs)