Ridden by Florent Geroux for trainer Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner established the early lead from the start in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn, fought off a brief challenge on the far turn, and pulled away to win by 5 1/4 lengths over Gray Sky, with Texas Chrome third and Virtual Machine fourth. The Candy Ride colt's winning time of 1:41.12 on a fast track is a stakes record and was only :0.08 off the track record set by Successful Dan in 2012.
Gun Runner, who paid $2.20 to win, finished third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in his last start May 7. His connections opted to pass on the next two legs of the Triple Crown to have a fresh colt for the second half of 2016.
"We're just happy to get him back after the Derby," co-owner Ron Winchell said. "So, we're looking forward to the Haskell."
The $1 million Betfair Haskell Invitational (gr. I) for 3-year-olds will be run July 31 at Monmouth Park.
Gun Runner, bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables out of the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant, won the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby (both gr. II) in his other two starts this year. He broke his maiden in his career debut last September at Churchill.
The fractions for the Matt Winn were :23.99 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.73 for a half-mile, and 1:11.66 for six furlongs. Gray Sky, who tracked the leader for most of the way, engaged Gun Runner on the final turn through one-mile in 1:34.96 but couldn't keep up with him in the stretch.
"When I broke I was hoping that somebody went but when nobody went I had to start going," Geroux said. "I couldn't like try to take him back or something crazy. I just had to put him whenever he is the most comfortable."
"Visually, looking at him I think that the horse has matured," Asmussen said. "He's stronger than he was. He was beautiful in the gates and went away smoothly. I thought he handled nicely and he has got beautiful speed. His confidence should be exactly where we're hoping for going into an extremely competitive Haskell."
Unbridled Outlaw, second choice on the morning line behind Gun Runner, was scratched earlier in the day.