Bet On Sunshine Breaks Track Record

David Halloway Racing's Bet On Sunshine earned his fourth consecutive victory and broke the Churchill Downs course record for 6 1/2 furlongs, winning Saturday's $109,700 Aristides Handicap (gr. III) by 1 3/4 lengths. The 8-year-old gelding stopped the timer in 1:15.11, trimming .35 seconds off Wild Escapade's 1997 mark which was equaled by Runaway Venus on May 4.

Over a fast track, Bet Me Best and Sun Bull set the early pace, before Run Johnny ranged up along the rail to lead into the turn. The fractional times were fast--:21.97 and :44.03--and disputed, with Bet On Sunshine settled in sixth. At the top of the stretch, Sun Bull opened up on the field before weakening in deep stretch. Bet On Sunshine, under Francisco Torres, took over in the final 1/16-mile for the win.

"It's just a matter of how the pace is to how far back he races," said Torres. "I called on him at about the 1/2-mile pole and I felt confident with the way he responded. The last 70 yards I eased up on him or he would have had an even better time. He ran like a 3-year-old."

Bet On Sunshine was the 7-5 favorite and returned $4.80, $3.20, and $2.60 across the board. The winning exacta paid $72.

Paul McGee-trained Bet On Sunshine (Bet Big--My Own Sunshine, by In Reality) has won 17 of 34 career starts and earned $68,014 for the Aristides win. His current four-race win streak includes two allowance wins and a nose victory in the $40,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park on New Year's Day. He finished third, beaten by only 3/4 lengths, in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). The Aristides is his first graded stakes win. He was bred in Florida by Janet Gomez.

The Aristides win is the second for McGee as a trainer. The conditioner won the inaugural running in 1989 with Bet the Pot, who set a track record of 1:16 in the race. (Chart, Equibase)