08/02/2006 11:00PM

Rider's choice may tip balance in Bullit

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Faced with a choice of mounts in the $75,000 John Bullit Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf contest for older horses, Derek Bell and his agent, Richard Grunder, were forced to make a decision that could affect this year's choice for horse of the meet honors at Canterbury Park.

Bell is named on , and is getting off Al's Dearly Bred.

Bell rode Al's Dearly Bred in the Claiming Crown Emerald last month, and the pair gave their local backers a storybook ending when they charged from last in the field of 11 to prevail on the wire. A winner of seven of his eight starts on the Canterbury Park turf, was claimed in June in his start before the Claiming Crown by owners Larry Cronin and Marvin Johnson. The race was the first in a year for the 9-year-old Al's Dearly Bred. Paul Nolan is listed as the rider of Al's Dearly Bred on Saturday.

Bell's presence in the irons on Dontbotherknocking should merit additional parimutuel support, and Dontbotherknocking might prove the favorite in the John Bullit. A winner of six of 11 starts over the Canterbury turf, Dontbotherknocking had a slow start and a wide trip and finished second in the Brooks Fields Stakes two starts back. Shipped next to Chicago to compete in the Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Handicap, Dontbotherknocking set the pace before succumbing in the final furlong and finishing sixth.

His two subsequent breezes over the Canterbury Park strip indicate Dontbotherknocking has lost none of his sharpness.

The John Bullit field includes several potent Chicago-based shippers, including . A winner of the John Henry Stakes at Arlington last year, Home of Stars finished third in his most recent outing when he chased Fort Prado home in the Black Tie Affair Handicap. James Graham makes the trip from Arlington to ride for trainer Bobby Springer.

Majestic Zeal finished second, just in front of Home of Stars, in the Black Tie Affair. Carlos Marquez Jr. rides for trainer Moises Yanez.

Gin and Sin won the Independence Day Stakes at Mountaineer last season, and he has faced strong company in three starts this season, including Honor in War and Miesque's Approval. Dean Butler has the call on Gin and Sin, who is trained by Darrin Miller.