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Gun Runner wins Horse of the Year at Eclipse Awards

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) Gun Runner got one last win over rival Arrogate.

The soon-to-be-retired 5-year-old was a convincing pick as Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night, the official capper to a year where he won four Grade 1 races including the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and made it look easy every time.

Arrogate, Gun Runner’s top rival for much of 2017 as well as the leading money-winner in North American thoroughbred racing history, and World Approval were the other Horse of the Year finalists.

“He stepped up when called upon and just met the challenge and, you know, how do you say, got it done,” trainer Steve Asmussen said when asked to sum up Gun Runner’s 2017 achievements. “He’s truly a special horse mentally and physically. And we’ve, you know, been on a tremendous run with him.”

The run ends Saturday, when Gun Runner races for the final time. He’ll be the favorite in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

“Just to be in his presence, to be around him, to have the privilege to train him as well as run him, you know, it’s a dream come true,” Asmussen said.

Gun Runner also picked up the Eclipse as the top Older Dirt Horse in 2017.

Chad Brown won the Eclipse Award as being the sport’s top trainer for the second consecutive year, and became the ninth trainer ever to go back-to-back in that category. Jose Ortiz – the leading purse winner in the sport last year – won his first Eclipse in the jockey category, ending the four-year run of Javier Castellano as the best rider.

Brown paid tribute to the other finalists, Asmussen and Bob Baffert.

“I’m always learning from people,” Brown said. “Those are two guys I’m always learning from.”

Juddmonte Farms was picked as top owner for the fourth time, and Clearsky Farms got its first Eclipse as top breeder.

The closest race was in 2-year-old male division, where Good Magic – who broke his maiden by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – edged Bolt d’Oro by a mere 18 votes out of 250 cast. Other close votes were in the steeplechase division, where Scorpiancer got the nod over All the Way Jose, and in the Female Sprinter class where Unique Bella prevailed over Paulassilverlining.

Most of the other votes were one-sided. Caledonia Road (top juvenile filly), West Coast (3-year-old male), Abel Tasman (3-year-old female), Forever Unbridled (older dirt female), Roy H (male sprinter), World Approval (male turf horse), Lady Eli (female turf horse) and Evin Roman (top apprentice) were all convincing winners.

Funtastic wins Monmouth’s United Nations Stakes in 23-1 upset

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Funtastic led all the way in a 23-1 upset Saturday in the $300,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Chad Brown, the Eclipse Award winner the last two years as the nation’s leading trainer, got his third victory in the New Jersey’s biggest turf race. He won with Big Blue Kitten in 2013 and 2015.

The U.N. and the $1 million Haskell on July 29 are the two Grade 1 stakes at Monmouth.

Brown saddled four of the nine runners in the U.N. and ran 1-2 as Money Multiplier rallied to finish a half length behind Funtastic and jockey Antonio Gallardo.

The other two Brown horses were Silverwave (fifth) and Kurilov (eighth).

The time was 2:12.36 for 1 3/8 miles over the firm course.

Funtastic paid $48, $15.80 and $8.60. Money Multiplier, the 2-1 favorite, returned $4 and $2.80.

Bigger Picture, last year’s U.N. winner, was third, paying $5.80 to show.

Wonder Gadot beats heat to win $1 million Queen’s Plate

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TORONTO (AP) Wonder Gadot won the 159th running of the $1 million Queen’s Plate on Saturday at hot and muggy Woodbine Racetrack.

The 3-year-old filly beat Aheadbyacentury by five lengths, running 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.26 in the first jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown.

John Velazquez rode the winner for owner Gary Barner and trainer Mark Casse.

Wonder Gadot is the second straight filly to win the event, following Holy Helena, and the fourth in eight years.

Cooler Mike was third in the 16-horse field.

The other Triple Crown races are the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on July 24 on Fort Erie Racetrack’s dirt course and the $400,000 Breeder’s Stakes turf race at Woodbine on Aug. 18.