Second Career Star: Gun Battle

The Land of Enchantment fan favorite Gun Battle is rolling in retirement.

Q-Racing Journal

In this barrel run, Gun Battle turned so quickly the reins flew over his head and are flying out sideways. PHOTO: Courtesy of Dena Milner

Gun Battle’s streak across racing’s sky began in 2006. Retired in 2009, what is he up to now?

Gun Battle is the highest-money-earning horse ever sired by the very good stallion Dash Ta Fame. The Grade 1-winning son of First Down Dash sired more than $18.6 million in progeny race earnings, putting him among the sport’s all-time leading sires. Dash Ta Fame also stands No. 1 all-time among barrel racing sires.

Bred and owned by Robert and Del Rae Driggers of Anthony, New Mexico, Gun Battle is out of On A Bunny, the Driggers’ homebred stakes-winning mare by On A High. This immediate family has produced the likes of such stars as champion and all-time leading money earner Ochoa ($2,781,365), champions Six To Five ($290,159) and Feature Mr Bojangles ($899,434), significant producer Beat Your Pants Off (dam of champion Splash Bac and champion/champion-producer Jumping Tac Flash, etc.), and world champion barrel racer FM Radio, Gun Battle’s full brother.

Gun Battle started each of his more than two dozen lifetime races in his home state of New Mexico. The gray bullet began his career explosively, qualifying to the $293,745 New Mexican Spring Futurity (RG1) with his first out and running back fourth in the final. He would go on to win the $356,410 Zia Futurity (RG1) and then, over a sloppy track on Labor Day, would finish a mere neck short in the fastest All American Futurity (G1) ever run. His own time of :20.925 in the prestigious $1.9 million race, just a fraction off the stakes mark set by No Secrets Here, is faster than any other All American winner has ever run that race.

For the next few years, the fan-favorite gelding would continue to post solid performances in stakes races around the state, eventually closing his career with a record of 28-9-7-2 and earnings of $669,449.

Gun Battle is now enjoying his retirement with the Driggers family. He makes his home with their daughter, Dena Milner, who ensures the horse is spoiled and cared for.

“Gun Battle is treated like royalty,” says Milner. “He earned his keep long ago and I don’t expect much from him, but he is an overachiever, so a little just isn’t good enough.”

Milner describes Gun Battle’s life as ‘semi-retirement.’ For the most part, Gun Battle enjoys life as a horse – turn out, relaxation and a little bit of spoiling. Milner gives him regular “spa” treatments – making him a mud hole, which he enthusiastically wallows around and rolls in, layering his white coat in brown mud and earning him the fond nickname of ‘Pig-Pen.’

“He likes the mud as much now as he did when he was racing,” Milner notes with a laugh.

When the horse retired from the track, it didn’t take him long to start looking for some new entertainment. Milner trained him to be ridden in a stock saddle and uses him to barrel race, rope and sort cattle. As time allows, she takes him to barrel races, where his speed and intelligence regularly puts him into the 1-D category (the highest level in the sport’s 4-D formula), and almost always brings home a check. The 110-speed index gelding also sorts cattle as needed, and Milner uses him while helping her husband and son rope, and also ropes off him herself.

The formerly fierce racehorse is so good-minded that he runs the barrels in a gentle snaffle bit, but don’t think he has lost his competitive fire with retirement.

“He always gives 110 percent at whatever you ask of him, and is one of those horses that has the talent and mind to do anything,” says Milner. “I have roped off of him some, and he loves it. But he gets mad because when I breakaway and stop him, and the steer keeps going. To him that is defeat, and he stomps his feet and gets so annoyed because in his mind, it is a race and it isn’t over until he stops them in their tracks. To say he has a big personality is probably an understatement!”

Gun Battle is now 10 and thoroughly enjoying his life and the love of his owners.

“To this day, I believe he is what kept my mom fighting her stage 4 breast cancer while he was running,” says Milner. “I love all of the horses we raise, but with Gun Battle we have been very blessed. He will forever have my love, respect and gratitude. My mom says he would do anything for me, but the truth is, I would do anything for him.”

This regular feature highlights the versatility of the American Quarter Horse by spotlighting racing American Quarter Horses enjoying second careers. If you know of a retired American Quarter Horse racehorse with an interesting story, contact us.

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