06/16/2004 11:00PM

All 6 starters have a shot in Aristides


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Six starters, zero tosses. The half-dozen older horses in the Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap bring a nifty array of accomplishment and ability to the Churchill Downs table Saturday, and horseplayers figure to be hard pressed to eliminate a single one of them, even after some hard-core handicapping.

, the 121-pound highweight, will spot each of his rivals six or seven pounds, a spread that seemingly would make the gelding a solid favorite in the 16th running of the six-furlong Aristides BC. But that's not the way the race shakes out, at least not on paper, especially considering the way Beau's Town faltered on his last trip to Kentucky in October.

Duly regrouped by Cole Norman since that last-place finish in the Phoenix at Keeneland, Beau's Town enters off a front-running score in his second start following a layoff, the Ford Express at Lone Star Park. A 6-year-old with 11 wins from 17 starts, Beau's Town will face far tougher competition when he returns to Grade 3 company in the $150,000 Aristides.

Foremost among those worthy rivals is , who also will be making his third start since a layoff. Champali is quite familiar to Churchill horseplayers, having posted three wins and two seconds from seven career starts at this track.

The rest of the capable Aristides field consists of Cloud Walker, a rapidly improving Phone Trick colt who already has won twice at this meet for trainer Tom Amoss; Great Notion, a speedy 4-year-old who ran a huge second last summer in the King's Bishop at Saratoga; Mountain General, the defending Aristides champion, trained by Steve Asmussen; and Battle Won, a romping winner of a May 19 allowance for Chuck Simon.

"We haven't asked him to step up in company like we are Saturday, so we'll see," said Simon.

Mountain General, who narrowly defeated Beau's Town last year in the Aristides, will bid to become just the second two-time winner of the race, following Bet on Sunshine (2000-01).

The purse for the Aristides, the lone stakes here this weekend, includes $50,000 in Breeders' Cup bonuses. All six starters are BC nominees.

The Aristides is the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that also includes three allowances (races 4, 6, and 8) and the third leg of the Cutter Championships for starter-allowance horses (race 2). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

Hootie and the Blowfish will perform in the infield shortly after the last race.