There are different weapons horses use to win a race, and
the key is to get a chance to use those weapons. But sometimes the battlefield
is not conducive to a particular weapon.
In the case of Gunnevera, he has one main weapon, and that
is a wicked turn of foot and an explosive move on the far turn. As powerful a
weapon as that can be, it is not meant to be sustained over a distance of
ground. Gunnevera's move is so quick and powerful and is made so early, he can
sustain it for about a quarter of a mile, perhaps a bit farther.
That is why his two biggest victories have come in races run
with extremely short stretches, and why his least impressive races have come
when the stretch is extremely long.
As an example, he won the rich Delta Jackpot last year by
coming from last in the field of 10 and blowing by the entire field on the turn
and then drawing away to win by almost six lengths. Delta Downs is what is
known as a bull ring track with an extremely short stretch of only 660 feet.
This past winter, Gunnevera ran an almost identical race,
again rallying from last in the field of 10 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at
Gulfstream and again going from last to first and drawing off to a 5 3/4-length
score. Gulfstream normally has a short stretch of 898 feet, but when running 1
1/16 miles they finish at a secondary finish line inside the sixteenth pole
that is only 668 feet from the head of the stretch. In his previous start, the
Holy Bull Stakes, also at t 1/16 miles, he was way too close to the pace
couldn't deliver that big move on the turn, but still ran well to finish second
to the brilliant Irish War Cry.
It is that natural speed he has that enables him to make
such a rapid-fire move. We saw that speed at Saratoga last year when he
captured the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special, flying home the final eighth of a
But when Gunnevera ran this spring in the Triple Crown races
he failed to threaten when moved late at Churchill Downs, where the stretch
1,234-feet long and at Pimlico, where it is 1,152-feet long. He also waited too
long to move in the Florida Derby, winding up third behind eventual Kentucky
Derby winner Always Dreaming.
In the Travers Stakes, with new rider Edgard Zayas aboard, he
again made that monster move on the far turn, going from 11th to second and
looked like a winner turning for home. But with Saratoga's 1,144-foot stretch,
he was unable to sustain his run and couldn't match strides with West Coast in
the stretch, finishing second by 3 1/4 lengths, while finishing well clear of
the third horse.
You would think a horse who comes from far back and who is
bred to run all day would run better at bigger tracks with longer stretches.
But because his move on the turn is so quick and explosive it makes it more
difficult to sustain.
That brings us to Del Mar. Although this track is nothing
like Delta Downs and Gulfstream at 1 1/16 miles, its stretch is only 919 feet,
which is 315 feet shorter than Churchill Downs, 233 feet shorter than Pimlico,
and 225 feet shorter than Saratoga. So it is possible that Gunnevera could make
his patented move and show that turn of foot and be able to sustain it longer
on the shorter stretch.
This is not to suggest that Gunnevera can beat the likes of
Arrogate, Gun Runner, Collected, and West Coast. But it is distinctly possible
that he will be able to make that big run on the far turn and sustain it
farther than he did in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and even in the
Travers, where he at least showed he can beat top-quality horses using his
explosive style of running going 1 1/4 miles, with the exception of West Coast,
who is at the top of his game and in line for an Eclipse Award.
It may be a far-fetched angle, but it is food for thought,
especially if you're looking for a big price horse to include in your exotics.
Let's see how he moves over the Del Mar surface all week. He looked good
physically in this morning's jog. So maybe he too is at the top of his game.