Who to fear?

- -

Nor should he really be about the 4-year-old son of Candy Ride who is the heavy favorite for today’s 90th running of the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes. Gun Runner comes into the 1 1/8-mile Whitney off a dominating victory in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs June 17, his first start since finishing second to unofficial horse of the world Arrogate in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. He won two starts before that, including the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill, and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Pennsylvania Derby before that.

Ranked as the second best horse in training behind Arrogate in the latest NTRA poll, Arrogate, Gun Runner would most likely be the favorite in many recent renewals of the Whitney. He’s the overwhelming choice in this year’s edition, which attracted only one other Grade 1 winner in 2015 Travers winner Keen Ice from the other six entrants.

Still, Asmussen knows full well when he throws the pack over Gun Runner’s back and gives the leg up to Florent Geroux in the paddock that just about anything can happen 10 minutes later when the Whitney goes off at 5:46 p.m. The Hall of Famer acknowledged as much when post positions were drawn for one of Saratoga’s signature races this week.

“I’m more concerned with what we’ve seen over the last two weeks in horse racing,” Asmussen said about a recent spate of upsets. “We’ve seen Arrogate in the San Diego with an unexplainable race, a surprising Jim Dandy here at Saratoga last week.”

Asmussen could have tossed in another puzzler in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby last weekend at Del Mar, when champion sprinter Drefong dumped Mike Smith after the start and ran loose much to the chagrin of horseplayers who bet him down to 8-5 in his first race since the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“I’m trying to worry about what we have control over with Gun Runner,” Asmussen later said. 

To read the rest of the Whitney preview, download Saturday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special.