Defending champion Mountain General faces a rematch with veteran sprint star Beau's Town in Saturday's $150,000-added Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
The six-furlong Aristides drew a field of six. The purse has been boosted by a $50,000 supplement from the Breeders' Cup Stakes fund and its distance has been reduced from 6 1/2 furlongs.
Mountain General will represent the father-son combo of owner Keith Asmussen and trainer Steve Asmussen as he bids to become just the second two-time winner of the Aristides. David Holloway's star sprinter Bet On Sunshine won the 2000 and 2001 renewals of the race.
The 6-year-old gelded son of Mountain Cat has not won in five races since last year's Aristides, in which he defeated the favored Beau's Town at odds of 10-1 But he is coming off a strong runner-up finish to Aristides rival Cloud Walker in a Churchill Downs allowance race and appears to be approaching a top effort.
"He hasn't been in the winner's circle this year, but he's had a couple of decent races," said Steve Asmussen. "He needs the race to set up well for him -- he's just a hard-knocker. Like Bet On Sunshine, he's an older gelding that seems to take advantage of the speed around here and hopefully we'll have a similarity."
Cornelio Velasquez will ride Mountain General, who has been assigned 115 pounds. Despite his defending winner status, he's listed as the co-fifth choice at 6-1.
Beau's Town has been installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite to avenge last year's Aristides loss in his return to Churchill Downs for trainer Cole Norman. The 6-year-old son of Beau Genius zipped six furlongs in a sizzling 1:07.89 in a victory in the Ford Express Handicap at Lone Star Park on May 8. The win was his first in two starts this year and his 11th in 17 career races. The multiple stakes winner has earned $548,900.
Norman's star will carry high weight of 121 pounds and will be ridden by Calvin Borel.
Along with two-time allowance winner Cloud Walker, the field includes 2003 Northern Dancer winner Champali; Battle Won, an impressive allowance winner last time out; and stakes-winning Great Notion. Battle Won was a 3 1/2-length winner in a May 19 allowance race at Churchill Downs in his only start for trainer Chuck Simon. The colt had flashed talent for previous trainer Frank Brothers. He was purchased in a private transaction by Jay Manoogian in May and moved to Simon's care. Simon was aware of the colt's ability and potential before the sale and has been very pleased with what he has seen from the new acquisition."So far he's lived up to our expectations," said Simon, "but we haven't asked him to step up in company like we are this Saturday, so we'll see."Battle Won sports a record of 4-2-0 in eight races and earnings of $119,197.
$150,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup (gr. III), 3 & up, 6 furlongs
PP. Horse (Weight) Jockey ML Odds
1. Battle Won (114) John McKee 9-2
2. Cloud Walker (115) Robby Albarado 5-1
3. Beau's Town (121) Calvin Borel 8-5
4. Great Notion (114) Mark Guidry 6-1
5. Champali (116) Rafael Bejarano 5-2
6. Mountain General (115) Cornelio Velasquez 6-1