Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm and trained by Steven Asmussen, Gun Runner was a late-maturing type, who did not win his first Grade One race until the final start of his three-year-old campaign. However, the son of Candy Ride won five of his six starts as a four-year-old, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, and was named American Horse of the Year in 2017.
Gunner Runner raced just once as a five-year-old, but his convincing 2½-length victory over West Coast in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park – the most valuable race in the world – earned him £5.19 million and made him the third highest-earning racehorse in history, behind only Arrogate and Winx. All told, Gun Runner won 11 of his 18 starts, including six at Grade One level, and retired from racing with total earnings of £12.2 million.
Gun Runner raced just twice as a juvenile, making an impressive winning debut in a maiden race at Churchill Downs in September, 2015 and finishing a close fourth in the Grade Two Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, on sloppy going, on the same course two months later. As a three-year-old, he won twice at Grade Two level and once at Grade Three level, but came up short in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita before his ‘breakthrough’ victory in the Grade One Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Following an impressive, 5¾-length win, at odds of 1/5, in the Grade Three Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on his four-year-old debut, Gun Runner proved no match for Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, but finished clear second and collected £1.63 million in prize money. Other notable performances that season included a 7-length win in the Grade One Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs and a 10-length win in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga; the former came within a whisker of breaking the track record and the latter, achieved in a time of 1 minute 47.43 seconds, was the fastest recorded in a dozen renewals of the race at the New York venue.
Remarkably, Eclipse, who died from colic at the age of 24 in 1789, features in the paternal line of 95% of modern thoroughbred racehorses including, albeit 19 generations later, Frankel. Like his illustrious descendant – who, in 2012, became the highest rated horse in the history of World Thoroughbred Rankings – Eclipse completely dominated his contemporaries and remained unbeaten throughout his career, which lasted 18 months and a total of 18 races. However, unlike Frankel – who topped the world rankings as a two, three and four-year-old – did not make his racecourse debut until he was five years old.
Bred by Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Eclipse was acquired by Smithfield cattle salesman William Wildman at a dispersal sale following the death of the Duke, in 1765, and made his racecourse debut in the ‘Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Plate’ at Epsom four years later. An effortless win in the first heat of that four-mile contest prompted Irish-born opportunist Denis O’Kelly to famously proclaim that the result of the second heat would be ‘Eclipse first, and the rest nowhere’. Eclipse did, as predicted, pass the post before any of his rivals had reached the distance marker and O’Kelly immediately parted with 650 guineas for a half-share in the horse.
Thereafter, Eclipse won a further seven races against the best horses of the day , without coming under even the slightest pressure, before O’Kelly bought him outright for 1,100 guineas and transferred him to his stables at Clay Hill, Epsom. Further success followed, with no fewer than eleven victories in versions of the ‘King’s Plate’, run as far afield as Canterbury, Lewes, Newmarket and Winchester. Indeed, Eclipse reportedly walked 1,000 miles or more between races during his career. By the end of his career, Eclipse had proved himself the best horse of his generation so convincingly that he regularly frightened off the opposition and ‘walked over’. In fact, the lack of viable competition hastened his retirement from racing. Notwithstanding his staggering influence on modern bloodstock, Eclipse is commemorated by the Group One Coral-Eclipse Stakes, which has been run annually, over a mile and a quarter, at Sandown Park since 1886.
Owned by billionaire businessman Trevor Hemmings and trained, in Co. Carlow, by Irish champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins, Hedgehunter is best remembered for winning the Grand National, at the second attempt, in 2005, rewarding many of those who stuck with him. Ridden by Ruby Walsh, the nine-year-old survived a mistake at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit and his jockey briefly losing an iron at the fence before Becher’s Brook on the second. He was left in the lead when Clan Royal was hampered by loose horses approaching Becher’s Brook and made the rest of the running, eventually coming home 14 lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer, Royal Auclair.
On his previous attempt in the National, in 2004, Hedgehunter had been ridden more positively by Ruby Walsh, but was a spent force when falling at the final fence. Hedgehunter returned to Aintree for the 2006 Grand National, in which he was allotted top weight, of 11st 12lb, but was nevertheless a favourite in grand national tips columns and was sent off 5/1 favourite to win for the second year running. He had previously run arguably the race of his life to finish second, beaten 2½ lengths, behind War Of Attrition in the Cheltenham Gold Cup just three weeks earlier but, although left in the lead by the fall of Ballycassidy at Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit, was outjumped by Numbersixvalverde, ridden by Niall “Slippers” Madden, at the final fence and eventually went down by 6 lengths.
Hedgehunter ran in the National twice more, finishing ninth of 12 finishers behind Silver Birch in 2007 and thirteenth of 15 finishers behind Comply Or Die in 2008, after which he was immediately retired.