You've got to admit, it would be a great story.
At age nine, and with two Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) third-place finishes to his credit, Bet on Sunshine would make a great story. The grand old man of the sprint division is headed to the big dance once again, winning his final prep on Oct. 6, the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland. Unbelievably, it was the fifth time Bet on Sunshine had run in the Phoenix.
In the five-horse Phoenix field, Bet on Sunshine was sent off the slight second choice at $1.30-1, he and Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. II) winner Snow Ridge ($1.20-1) both solid choices. Bet On Sunshine, under Calvin Borel, sat in last until the stretch drive, then powered home to finish 1 3/4 lengths in front of Robin de Nest. Erlton ran third, followed by Crucible and Snow Ridge. On a track early in the meet not very kind to closers, Bet on Sunshine covered the six furlongs in 1:09.65.
There is always a celebration when Bet on Sunshine wins, but it was an even bigger party at Keeneland than usual because the gelding's owner, David Holloway, was celebrating his 71st birthday with family and friends. Keeneland's gift to Holloway was a check for $166,470.
Of course part of those earnings go to Louisville, Ky., native Paul McGee, who has trained Bet on Sunshine throughout his career. In Bet on Sunshine's previous Breeders' Cups, he has been beaten a half-length and a length in two gutsy performances. Last year, He was beaten a length by Kona Gold, who blazed the six furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:07.77. Honest Lady was second. In the 1997 Sprint, Elmhurst won by a half length, with Hesabull a neck better than Bet on Sunshine.
Speaking of Kona Gold, he showed he was human by losing a race, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Swept Overboard in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I). Swept Overboard, a son of End Sweep, ran the six furlongs in 1:07.67, the Santa Anita track record being 1:07.20. Like Bet On Sunshine, Swept Overboard also came from last, guided by a jockey known for his late runs, Eddie Delahoussaye. Swept Overboard was in receipt of 11 pounds from Kona Gold.
Despite the loss, Kona Gold should be the Sprint favorite once again. In New York, Delaware Township won the last major prep over the track the Breeders' Cup will be run on. He took the Forest Hills Handicap (9gr. II) by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:09.49. Trained by Ben Perkins Jr. and ridden by Eibar Coa, the 5-year-old Notebook horse beat some of the East Coast regulars, Hook and Ladder, Yonaguska, Peeping Tom, and Disco Rico. Delaware Township has won three of four at Belmont and should be tough on his home ground.
All that is left now is for pre-entries to be taken Oct. 15 and shipping plans to be made. The Sprint has had the full 14-horse fields each of the past four years.
Odds are it will again.