Nine-year-old Bet On Sunshine won the $108,400 Aristides Handicap for the second consecutive year on Saturday, and for the second straight year the Paul McGee-trained gelding set a stakes record in winning the 6 1/2-furlong Churchill Downs contest. On a fast track, Bet On Sunshine stopped the timer in 1:14.79, finishing 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Alannan. Last year, he completed the distance in 1:15.11.
"He didn't look like a 9-year-old gelding running around there," said McGee. "He looked like he had a little spark in his step to me."
Last after an opening quarter-mile run in :22.50, Bet On Sunshine improved to third-place – just over a length off the pace -- after a half-mile run by Alannan in :44.82. Bet On Sunshine took over the lead in the stretch and drew away to the victory.
"Once I got to them on the turn, it was just a matter of how far," said winning rider Calvin Borel. "You've got to keep after him, because he'll go to laying in and pulling up, Paul (McGee) said. It's a shame you have to that to him, but you just got to kind of stay after him."
Alannan finished a neck ahead of Dash for Daylight, who set the pace for the opening quarter-mile. Proven Cure, second to Bet On Sunshine in last year's renewal, came home fourth, followed by Robin de Nest, and Lead 'em Home.
Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Bet On Sunshine returned $4.40, $2.20, and $2.10. Alannan paid $2.40 and $2.10. Dash for Daylight returned $2.20. The exacta paid $8.80.
The win is the 19th in 39 starts for the son of Bet Big out of My Own Sunshine, by In Reality. He earned $67,208 for David P. Halloway Racing to push his career earnings to just under $1.2 million. The two Aristides wins are his only graded stakes victories. Bet On Sunshine has also finished third in the 1997 and 2000 renewals of the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
"I don't know how to explain his long career," said McGee. "He's blessed with good bones and his races are spread out. This is just his 39th race and that's not many. We just fell into spacing out his races. I don't know what might be next for him. I wouldn't be surprised if he raced next year, but he'll have to give us that sign." (Chart, Equibase