Riboletta Sent to Churchill; Behrens' Future Up in Air

Barn Notes From Churchill Downs
Aaron and Marie Jones' brilliant Riboletta, winner of Saturday's Beldame Stakes (gr. I), led a planeload of Breeders' Cup contenders who arrived at Churchill Downs Monday morning following a weather-delayed flight from New York.

Failing to make the flight, however, was Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) hopeful Behrens. He suffered a cut on his leg in his sixth-place finish in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park and trainer H. James Bond removed from him from his scheduled flight to Louisville. Bond said the horse's future is in jeopardy (see related article). The plane's arrival at Louisville International Airport was delayed by heavy fog, but the horse vans carrying Riboletta and several others arrived at Churchill Downs around 11:00 a.m. (EDT).

Another plane from New York, carrying a group of horses that includes Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) contender Fusaichi Pegasus, was scheduled for a late afternoon arrival in Louisville. The plane, which was supposed to arrive around 1:30 p.m. was also delayed due to the thick fog in the area this morning.

Riboletta would be a heavy favorite in the $2 million Distaff, but has also been mentioned as a candidate for the Classic. But there's no guarantee she will run in either as she is not Breeders' Cup-eligible and her owners would have to play a hefty fee to make her a supplemental entry in either spot.

Also on the plane with Riboletta were stablemate and Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) candidate Forest Camp; D. Wayne Lukas-trained Juvenile (gr. I) hopefuls Yonaguska and Scorpion; Classic candidate Skimming; and Beautiful Pleasure, the defending champion in the Distaff. All but the latter were taken to Churchill Downs as Beautiful Pleasure was shipped by van to Keeneland.

McGee Plays Waiting Game With Sunshine
It's deja vu for trainer Paul J. McGee and his 8-year-old star sprinter Bet On Sunshine.

For the third time in four years, McGee feels he has his stable star primed for a big effort in the $1 million Sprint -- and for the third time in four years he's wondering if his horse will get the opportunity to run.

The situation for David Holloway's veteran Bet Big gelding was clouded Saturday when he finished third to Five Star Day in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Keeneland. The loss was the first of the year for the winner of the Aristides (gr. III) and Arlington Sprint Handicap. McGee was confident that Bet On Sunshine would be chosen for the Sprint field by the selection committee that makes those decisions. Now he's not so sure.

"He came out of the race fine," McGee said. "Our hope is to run him -- committee willing."

If anyone knows about the workings of the selection committee, it's McGee. He entered Bet On Sunshine in the 1997 Sprint at Hollywood Park, but did not make the original field. After several defections, he drew into the race off the preference list and finished a close third to Sprint winner Elmhurst. He was entered again in the 1999 Sprint at Gulfstream Park, but was excluded from the race.

One difference this year is that Bet On Sunshine has graded stakes earnings to his credit and his trainer hopes that makes a difference. "It's out of my hands, but I could stand here and lobby for him," McGee said. "I think they ought to look long and hard at Bet On Sunshine."

McGee's horse was at a tactical disadvantage in the Phoenix as he rallied from last over a racing surface that has been biased toward frontrunners like Five Star Day, who made a relatively easy lead and pulled away in the stretch.

"He was up against it the other day, no doubt in my mind," said McGee. "But we had to run. I have no regrets. He needed to run. But not to make mention of the Keeneland bias right now would be a mistake, because it's pretty prevalent."

Barn Talk: Commendable No Longer Classic Contender
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that Robert and Beverly Lewis' Commendable, winner of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), is not being pointed toward the Breeders' Cup Classic. Lukas said the son of Gone West will be pointed toward the Strub series at Santa Anita, which begins in late December with the Malibu (gr. I). Lukas also said the Scorpion, ninth in the Champagne (gr. I), displaced his soft palate in that race and will be given another chance in the Juvenile...Trainer Tom Amoss said Heritage of Gold, fourth as the beaten favorite in Saturday's Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland, now has a Tuesday appointment for an examination at the Rood & Riddle equine clinic in Lexington, Ky. Amoss wants to be sure that there is no medical problem that contributed to her poor performance. The weekend ended on a tough note for Amoss as his Williams News, winner of the Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup (gr. III) and runner-up in the Louisville Handicap, lost the Canadian International at Woodbine by a nose to European invader Mutafaweq.

WORK TAB -- No works were recorded on Monday at Churchill Downs because of
thick fog.