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The first running of the Gun Runner S. at Fair Grounds appropriately went to the former Horse of the Year’s trainer Steve Asmussen, whose charge Epicenter put himself into the Kentucky Derby picture with his victory.

Starting second favorite in the 1 1/16-mile event, Epicenter was second for much of the race before being sent to the front at the top of the stretch. He packed far too much of a punch for his rivals in the final quarter-mile, winning by 6 1/2 lengths and earning 10 points for the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Tejano Twist came from well back to take second and earn four points on the 2022 Road series. Early leader Surfer Dude held on for third and took two 2022 Road points, while fourth-place finisher Kevin’s Folly earned one point.

Epicenter is from the second crop of Not This Time, the leading second-crop sire of 2021. A half-brother to Grade 1 winner Liam’s Map, Not This Time won the Iroquois S. (G3) and finished second to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) but didn’t race after his two-year-old season. Epicenter’s dam Silent Candy (by Candy Ride) was a stakes winner and Grade 3-placed.

Sold for $260,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Epicenter is raced by Winchell Thoroughbreds. He is likely to continue on the Derby Road at Fair Grounds in the Lecomte S. (G3) Jan. 22.

Tejano Twist made up a number of lengths heading around the final turn, but his pedigree is full of sprinting form, and his competitiveness will be questionable as distances increase.

By Alastair Bull