There are still plenty of qualifying races for the 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on the horizon, but the final chance to pick up some points as a juvenile comes Monday, Dec. 26, with the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds. Named for the 2017 Horse of the Year, the Gun Runner offers 2-year-olds a chance to battle around two turns at a mile-and-a-sixteenth distance that should be quite telling about their potential as a Triple Crown contender in 2023.
1.Hayes Strike (7-2): Was third and second in graded stakes from outside posts and now switches to the rail for a ground-saving trip. His late-running style is suited by the distance and he should be a major player.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez TRAINER: Ken McPeek
2. Jace’s Road (3-1): He had a forgettable day last time out in the Grade 3 Street Sense Stakes, dumping his jockey before the start and then losing by 36 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs. He was the 2.07-1 favorite that day and has worked fine since then, indicating he just might rebound with a better showing here.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux TRAINER: Brad Cox
3. Determinedly (7-2) He was a distant second to a highly regarded Bob Baffert runner and then romped in a maiden win at seven furlongs. He’s traveled two turns previously on the turf and seems to be a horse on an upswing who is ready for a big effort here.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez TRAINER: Mark Casse
4. Old Alliance (10-1): Won his debut nicely then was a distant third in an allowance race against two quality rivals. His workouts have been sharp since then and he appears capable of taking a step forward here.
JOCKEY: Colby Hernandez TRAINER: Michael Stidham
5. Mazing Mark (8-1): He broke his maiden in a stakes while running for the third time. Maybe he’s getting better, but the time was on the slow side and perhaps a weak group of rivals is the best explanation for the win.
JOCKEY: Juan Vargas TRAINER: Lonnie Briley
6. Raise Cain (8-1): He was third in a sprint stakes last time out and might prefer more distance, but will need to step up his game a notch to be a major player here.
JOCKEY: Luan Machado TRAINER: Ben Colebrook
7. Andthewinneris (7-2): His two wins are on turf and his lone dirt race is hard to gauge since he was third in a sprint stakes. His pedigree leans toward turf so we’ll take a pass on him in this spot.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie TRAINER: Wayne Catalano
THE PICK: Determinedly
LIVE LONGSHOT: Old Alliance