Updated on 09/16/2011 8:40AM

Bet on Sunshine's form is hazy


In the history of Churchill Downs, only two horses have won three consecutive runnings of a stakes race. On Saturday, the venerable 10-year-old gelding Bet on Sunshine will seek his third straight win in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aristides Handicap. If he wins, he would join Indian Maid (Falls City Handicap, 1959-61) and Chorwon (Louisville Handicap, 1997-99) as the only horses to threepeat.

Unlike past years, Bet on Sunshine comes into the 6 1/2-furlong Aristides under a cloud. In his seasonal debut May 15, he finished fourth as the odds-on choice, which resulted in huge show payoffs. Rather than question Bet on Sunshine's ability at an advanced age, trainer Paul McGee thought the disappointing effort was more the result of his preparation.

"I probably overworked him before that race," said McGee. "He had a couple [bullet] works and that was too much, but he's always been a horse who needs a race."

Calvin Borel will ride Bet on Sunshine.

The Aristides will be a family affair of sorts, as McGee's brother-in-law, trainer Ron Ellis, has sent No Armistice from California. No Armistice has made the trip to Kentucky before, for an allowance race at Keeneland in April, which he won by seven lengths. In his last start, No Armistice was a sharp second behind champion Kona Gold in the Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood.

"He was a bit closer to the pace in that race than I would have liked," said Ellis. "I hope to get a more patient ride from Pat [Day]."

McGee and Ellis have faced off in stakes company before, in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Sprint, where Bet on Sunshine finished ahead of the Ellis-trained Exotic Wood. McGee referred to the race Saturday as the "grudge match," but echoed the sentiments of Ellis saying that if he did not win, he hoped the other would.

The Aristides is far from a two-horse race, however. Orientate, from the barn of D. Wayne Lukas, has solid credentials as a sprinter, having beaten a good field in the seven-furlong Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in April. He has disappointed in two subsequent starts on turf, but might make amends here.

The field is rounded out by Binthebest and Twilight Road, both graded stakes placed this year, and U.S. Jets.