Gun Salute Shoots Down Channel's Bonus

Gun Salute took aim on the odds-on favorite English Channel in the stretch run of the $400,000 Secretariat (gr. IT) and shot away to a two-length victory Saturday on a yielding Arlington Park turf course.

With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, the Kentucky-bred son of Military was in perfect position on the turn for home, ranging up on the outside of pacesetters Purim and English Channel as they turned for home and pulling away from English Channel in deep stretch. Chattahoochee War closed mildly for third as the 1 1/4-mile event for 3-year-olds was completed in 2:03 3/5.

"My horse felt good under me and he put me in good position. At the three-eighths pole I knew I had a lot of horse and I let him go at the top of the stretch," Velasquez said.

The Bill Mott-trained Gun Salute spoiled English Channel's bid for a $5 million bonus in the first year of the "Grand Slam of Grass." English Channel had won the Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT), the first two legs of the series, previously, with the final leg, the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) still to come.

Mott noted that Gun Salute has won three of four races since blinkers were added before his 2 1/2-length win in Keeneland's Forerunner April 21.

"He was a little erratic running early on," Mott said. "He wanted to get out, wanted to get away from horses. He's obviously becoming more professional now. It looked like the horse was willing to run anywhere down the backside."

Ridden by John Velazquez, the Todd Pletcher-trained English Channel was somewhat compromised by his rail starting post. Forced to go early, he broke with Purim and pressed that one before taking the lead after fractions of :24 3/5 and :49 1/5. English Channel led through six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 and the mile in 1:38 4/5 while Purim continued to press on his outside. Meanwhile, Velasquez enjoyed a great trip on the winner while slightly off the rail.

"Being on the inside, he was pretty aggressive and he never really got off the bridle," Velazquez said. "It's hard to get them to relax when they have to go the whole time. Everybody wanted to go at the same time and he got to throwing his head around and I never could get him to relax."

Gun Salute was proven over the course, winning the American Derby (gr. IIT) in his last start July 23, and is now two-for-two on the Arlington lawn. Gun Salute earned $240,000 for breeder and owner Brant Laue with his fifth win in nine starts and increased his bankroll to $538,344.

"This colt is by Military, a very nice son of Danzig," Laue said. "My mare is Hail Roberta, a daughter of Roberto. It's really a pedigree I designed to go a mile and a quarter on the turf and exciting to see it work out like this today."

"Maybe next year we'll be back for the Arlington Million," Mott added. "He's probably due for a little bit of a break and then we'll research what comes up in the fall."

The Irish-bred Grand Central finished fourth.

Gun Salute paid $14.80, $4.60, and $3.60. English Channel returned $2.40 and $2.10. Chattahoochee War, who ran second to English Channel in the Virginia Derby, was $4.40 to show with Patrick Valenzuela riding.

(Chart, Equibase)