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Switch in Sunshine's saddle

Kingsley unfazed as Petty takes over for Dalton

Posted: March 31, 2011 4:16 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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SUNSHINE NUMBERS CARRIES Bernie Dalton over a fence in last fall’s Hobkirk Hill. On Saturday, Jody Petty will be in the irons aboard the Sue Sensor-owned 9-year-old.

Before rumors begin swirling as to a possible jockey controversy involving who would ride Sunshine Numbers in Saturday’s $50,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup Steeplechase (Gr. III), Arch Kingsley wanted to get the word out that he did not plan to upset the apple cart when it came to the hometown horse which he trains.

Last year, Sunshine Numbers made five starts over fences and won three times. Two of those victories came with Bernie Dalton in the saddle, the third came with Kingsley himself breaking out the green and gold silks and piloting the then-8-year-old gelding to victory at the Aiken Fall Meet. That was the only time in 2010 in which Dalton was not on Sunshine Numbers.

In 2009, Dalton was in the irons as Sunshine Numbers captured the $20,000 Hobkirk Hill at the Colonial Cup. The duo repeated the feat last November, beating stablemate Riddle and Jody Petty to the wire in a 1-2 finish for Kingsley and Camden’s Sue Sensor, owner of both jumpers.

Wednesday morning, with rain pinging off the roof of the barn which his stable of horses occupies on the grounds of the Springdale Race Course, Kingsley sat on a couch and spelled out the scenario of why it will be Petty aboard Sunshine Numbers for Saturday’s feature rather than Dalton.

"When I offered the ride to Bernie," the former National Steeplechase Association riding champion explained, "Janet (Elliot) was planning to run Red Letter Day in the Cup and Bernie already said he would ride for her. So, I called Jody and asked him if he would ride Sunshine and he said yes."

As it turned out, Elliot sent Red Letter Day to Aiken last Saturday for what turned out to be a fourth-place finish in the $45,000 Imperial Cup. That left Dalton, a Camden resident, without a ride in Saturday’s Camden spring classic.

Kingsley said whether it is Petty (who has ridden Sunshine Numbers on several previous occasions) or Dalton aboard the six-time winner over fences in the past three years, they will give a veteran horse a similar ride. In fact, Kingsley said they have to, given Sunshine Numbers’ size, disposition and experience.

"Sunshine is a big, strong horse and all you can really do is steer him … ride him," he said. "I don’t think there is a whole lot of difference between Bernie and Jody; either one of them will give him a good ride. I’m comfortable with Jody."

Fourth in last year’s Carolina Cup feature, his first start of the season, the son of Polish Numbers out of Saturday Sunshine, ended his 8-year-old campaign with a win in the fall to put the lid on a campaign in which he earned a career-best $44,750.

Sunshine Numbers was given the month of December off as he was turned off on Kingsley’s farm in Camden. The time off, his trainer said, seemed to have paid dividends when he was returned to Springdale to begin training.

"He came back to work looking great and acting like he hadn’t missed a whole lot of training," Kingsley said. "(The time off) helped keep his mind and his body where we want it to be."

It would also appear that there is nowhere else that Sunshine Numbers would rather be and race than over the going at the adjoining Springdale Race Course. His back-to-back wins in the Hobkirk Hill have come at the same distance (2 ¼ miles) as Saturday’s feature and over the same Colonial Cup fences, which will be used for the last time on Saturday.

The combination of the distance and upright fences, Kingsley said, suit his horse perfectly. But, he interjected, he has heard of and noticed changes to the packed brush fences for their swan song. While not coming out and saying it, Kingsley has an affinity for the Colonial Cup fences, having won two Colonial and a pair of Carolina Cup features over them in his riding days.

"He likes running at home; I know that. He likes the bigger fences," Kingsley said of sunshine Numbers. "Unfortunately, they cut the fences down (in height) because, I think, a couple people were intimidated by them last year. So, they cut the fences down to make the fences less imposing for a couple riders.

"Sunshine really handles those fences; he jumps them real well. He seems to really do well over those fences."

When Sunshine Numbers hits the course Saturday, he will be joined by two horses which he faced a year ago in this race. Defending champion Sky in the Sky comes in after a 50-week, injury-induced layoff from NSA-sanctioned chases.

Another returnee from 2010 is Tax Ruling, which finished sixth after shipping to Camden from Maryland last spring. This time around, however, trainer Desmond Fogarty moved his operation to Springdale for the winter and believes he has a more fit horse this spring for this race.

Swagger Stick, no stranger to the Colonial Cup fences after having finished fourth in last fall’s Colonial Cup is in the field as is The Price of Love, who is looking to regain his form of two years ago.

Kingsley said there severalvariables as to how Saturday’s feature will shake out.

"Swagger Stick looks like speed and Spy in the Sky probably won’t be too far out of it," he said of the possibility of which horse will make the early move to the point in the five-horse chase. "The Price of Love is a class horse, as well, while Tax Ruling likes to sit back and wait to make his run.

"It doesn’t seem as if there is a real solid speed horse. By the same token, if nobody wants (the lead), I’m sure Sunshine will make the pace."

Kingsley said, at this stage in Sunshine Numbers’ career, he will run his own race rather than trying to take on a horse which may go to the lead early. "He’s going to hit his lick and if that puts him at the front, that’s OK. If somebody is setting an honest pace, that’s fine for him, too" Kingsley said.

"I have to have faith in my horse that he knows his way around out there and knows how to get that trip. It’s going to be Jody, mainly, staying out of his way and the horse cooperating with Jody."

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