Barn Notes from Churchill Downs
When Churchill Downs-based Bet On Sunshine finished a close third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Hollywood Park in 1997, trainer Paul J. McGee figured that David Holloway's star gelding would get another chance to win the top prize. Now, three years later, the 8-year-old son of Bet Big will finally get that chance on his home track at Churchill Downs and he completed his serious training for the $1 million race with a strong five-furlong breeze over the Louisville oval.
Bet On Sunshine breezed the distance in 1:00 4/5 over a "fast" track in a move that came shortly after the mid-morning break for track maintenance.
"I thought it was real good," McGee said. "His first eighth was twelve-and-change, which is what I wanted, and he got the last half in :48 flat, with last eighth of a mile in :12 flat, so I was very pleased."
Injury forced Bet On Sunshine miss the 1998 Sprint at Churchill Downs and he was entered in the '99 running at Gulfstream Park, but did not draw in from the preference list in the overflow field. Now, at age eight, McGee believes Bet On Sunshine is in career-best form.
"He's old but he's fast," McGee said. "I think he's as good as he's ever been. He's going to run his race."
A win by Bet On Sunshine would give the Louisville native his first Breeders' Cup victory -- but to win the race at Churchill Downs would make the day extra special for McGee.
"It's very exciting, no doubt about it," said McGee. "This is my home track and it's where I live. When he was a good third out at Hollywood Park, it's just not the same as maybe doing it here at the home track. And he likes this track. He's got a track record going six and a half furlongs, so we're looking forward to it."
McGee said he is close to confirming a jockey for Bet On Sunshine in the Sprint, who has been ridden in most of his recent starts by Francisco Torres. He said he is leaning toward naming Churchill Downs-based Calvin Borel to ride and he will finalize that choice today or tomorrow.
"I have a good feeling about Calvin," he said. "He's a come-from-behind horse and I think that's Calvin's forte. The more I've thought it through I just have good feelings about Calvin. He's never ridden him, but I just like the thought of him and Calvin. I think they'd make a good set."Pletcher Trio Works
- Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled four starters in his first Kentucky Derby venture this spring, worked his three Breeders' Cup hopefuls Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. Working for the Sprint were two of Pletcher's Derby horses, Trippi (:59 1/5) and More Than Ready (1:01 1/5). Pico Teneriffe worked a half-mile on the turf in :51 2/5 with the dogs up. Cindy Hutter was aboard for all the works.
"I thought they all went terrific, and I was happy with all of them," Pletcher said.
Trippi was the first of three to work, going out before 7 o'clock.
"Trippi had had a couple of slow works since the Vosburgh, so we were looking for a nice solid work today," Pletcher said. "To me, the important thing always is not how fast they go, but we want it done the proper way with a good finish. He came home in :23 1/5 on my watch. There are good :59 and 1 works and bad :59 and 1 works, and this was a good one."
More Than Ready was on the track after the renovation break.
"More Than Ready had had three real solid breezes since the Vosburgh and this was more or less a maintenance type work," Pletcher said. "I had him in 1:00 4/5 with the last quarter in :23 4/5. That's what we were hoping for."
Pletcher said he clocked Pico Teneriffe in :51 seconds.
"It is hard to clock around the dogs here," Pletcher said. "I had her finishing up in 23 and change. She was striding out well and handled the course well."