06/30/2001 12:00AM

Bet on Sunshine puts youngsters in place

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It seems not even old age can slow Bet on Sunshine. On Saturday the 9-year-old gelding taught his younger rivals a lesson in the $108,400 Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs, rolling to a 3 1/2-length victory.

Competing in a field with little pace, he raced in last but not far behind leaders Lead Em Home and Dash for Daylight, who set fractions of 22.50 seconds and 44.82. Bet on Sunshine began to advance midway on the turn of the 6 1/2-furlong race, and he quickly reached contention.

He passed leaders Dash for Daylight and Alannan at the top of the stretch and drew off to give jockey Calvin Borel his fourth win on the card. He raced 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.79, breaking his stakes record of 1:15.11, set in last year's Aristides.

Alannan, a multiple graded winner and who had recently finished third in the Met Mile, finished second.

Alannan's trainer, Carl Nafzger, obviously impressed with Bet on Sunshine's performance, jokingly asked reporters after the race, "What happened?"

Borel, who last rode Bet on Sunshine to a third-place finish to Kona Gold in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, said, "He ran about the same as when I last rode him."

Alannan, winner of the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup and the Churchill Downs Handicap, outfinished Dash for Daylight for second by a neck, but lacked his customary late punch. He was close to the slow early pace and took the lead leaving the turn.

Following Bet on Sunshine, Alannan, and Dash for Daylight were Proven Cure, Robin de Nest, and Lead Em Home.

In winning the Aristides for the second straight year, Bet on Sunshine improved his record to 19 wins from 39 starts and boosted his earnings to nearly $1.2 million.

Trainer Paul McGee said Bet on Sunshine would probably follow a schedule similar to the last couple of years. Last year Bet on Sunshine raced in the Arlington Sprint Handicap and the Phoenix Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.