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Camden's horse wins Camden's race

Sunshine Numbers eclipses Cup field with 27 1/4-length romp

Posted: April 3, 2011 12:42 p.m.
Updated: April 4, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

SUNSHINE NUMBERS AND Jody Petty bear down in going over a fence en route to a dominating win in Saturday’s 79th running of the $50,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup at the Springdale Race Course.

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Having successfully cleared the final of 14 fences aboard Sunshine Numbers, jockey Jody Petty took a peek back to check on the rest of the field in Saturday’s 79th running of the $50,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup (Gr. III) Steeplechase.

Petty really enjoyed the view.

In a scene which contradicted the famous Satchel Paige quote, there was nothing gaining on Petty and his mount. All the jockey could see in his rear-view mirror was space and four other pursuers in the distance as Sunshine Numbers carried Petty to a dominating 27 1/4-length victory in a winning time of 4:23 for the 2 1/4-mile steeplechase which was run over the Springdale Race Course and its Colonial Cup fences.

Swagger Stick (Willie Dowling) was a well-beaten second with defending race champion Spy in the Sky (Paddy Young) third. Tax Ruling (Darren Nagle) and The Price of Love (Danielle Hodsdon) came home fourth and fifth, respectively, in the five-horse field.

The victory made for a wild scene in and outside of the winner’s circle for the 9-year-old Polish Numbers gelding, which is owned by Camden’s Sue Sensor and trained by Camden’s Arch Kingsley, a retired steeplechase jockey who had a pair of wins in the Carolina Cup feature during his riding career.

Noting that he did not check behind him until after he had cleared the final packed-brush fence, Petty said that even with a lead of more than 20 lengths with less than a quarter-mile to go, he was still waiting on some other horse to come on with a big kick. That scenario never transpired.

"I was absolutely convinced that they would be coming at any second," the 39-year-old, semi-retired Petty said. "You never take anything for granted. You always know there is something back there that’s ready to devour you whole. Luckily, they just weren’t there today.

"When I turned around and looked and saw how much I stayed in front, it was quite an amazing feeling. I probably had the biggest smile on my face crossing the finish line."

In the days leading up to the race, Kingsley wondered which horse(s) would move to the front and set the early pace. On Saturday, he and Petty decided if no other horse wanted the lead, then Sunshine Numbers would take it. They did and never gave up the point.

"Jody and I talked in-depth about it, at great length, that Swagger Stick or Sunshine Numbers … who would it be?" Kingsley said of which horse would go to the lead first. "Jody and Willie Dowling talked about it, agreed about it and said, ‘Let’s jump the first (fence) and see who wants (the lead) more. There wasn’t any doubt who wanted it more today. Sunshine just took it."

Sunshine Numbers, which closed his 2010 campaign by winning the $20,000 Hobkirk Hill Steeplechase over the same course at the Colonial Cup, led virtually every step of the way in winning for the third time in as many starts, dating back to a victory in the Aiken Fall Meet last October.

After the first circuit around the Springdale layout, Sunshine Numbers led by some 20 lengths as he led the field before the grandstand for the first time.

As the made his second trip around the course, Petty said he thought about giving his mount a chance to relax. Sunshine Numbers would have none of that as he never let his foes close the gap.

"He was a bear and jumped unbelievably," Petty said. "Once I got out there in front a little bit, I actually choked him to a couple fences just to get him to pop off the bridle and relax for a little bit.

"What’s amazing is that we went down the back side and actually got him to relax. It was either one of two things would happen; either I got him to finally relax or he was getting tired. ‘Let’s hope for the latter.’

"He came right up on the bridle and pinged the last three fences and again, coming to the last fence, I thought, ‘We’ve done a lot of work. Are you going to give it to me?’ He picked up the bridle and ran right down to the spot and jumped it as good as you would ever want to jump a last fence."

With no suspense as to the winner of the chase, the last over the Colonial Cup fences, the "race within a race" was limited to that for second. It took Swagger Stick and Dowling’s holding off a charging Spy in the Sky, to win by a length. It would be another 17 ¼ lengths back to Tax Ruling which came home four lengths in front of The Price of Love.

Kingsley, who on Wednesday said he felt the Colonial Cup fences were not being built as tall for their finale following complaints from some riders after last fall’s Colonial Cup, said his horse loves going over the fences. The win was the third for Sunshine Numbers over the Colonial Cup fences and all at the 2 ¼-mile distance. A four-time winner over the fences in his two Carolina and two Colonial Cup victories as a jockey, count Kingsley among those who would have liked to have seen the fences retained.

The switch to National fences, beginning this fall, is a cost-cutting move by the Carolina Cup Racing Association which will save $30,000 a year by not having to build the unique fences. That being the case, Kingsley said he could not argue a case for the fences to continue to stay in place.

"If I had this much power," Kingsley said in pressing his thumb and forefinger together, "before today, I would have raised hell and lobbied hard to keep them up. But the winds of change are rolling over me, so I’m not going to make a peep about it.

"But tt’s a shame … It’s a real shame."

On this day, though, Kingsley was not about to worry about what he had no control over. The 1997 National Steeplechase Association’s co-leading rider said winning the Camden spring classic as a rider as compared to a jockey were "two different kettles of fish." What made Saturday’s win on a sun-splashed but windy afternoon were the owners of the horse.

Sue Sensor and her husband, George, have several of their horses in Kingsley’s barn. They have been among the trainers’ most staunch supporters since he stopped riding to begin the next phase of his career in racing. This win, Kingsley said, could not have been sweeter for all parties concerned.

"The biggest. It couldn’t be bigger," he said when asked how important it was to train a Carolina Cup winner for the Sensors.

"They’ve been my biggest supporters and my greatest friends. Here in town, in front of our mutual friends, it couldn’t be better. It’s just a very sweet moment for all of us."

Sue Sensor, who is also a member of the CCRA Board of Directors, smiled broadly while being a picture of comportment as she held the Carolina Cup trophy and talked about Sunshine Numbers’ victory.

"Absolutely unbelievable … unbelievable," she said.

"There are no words to describe the feeling of doing it at home. It was pretty exciting."

The stakes win, the first of his career, was worth $30,000 to Sunshine Numbers. That figure is a little more than $14,000 less than what he earned from five starts a year ago. As for the rest of the National Steeplechase Association campaign, Kingsley said he anticipates giving the only jumper he currently has in training the rest of the spring off before returning him to the track this summer.

Until then, Kingsley said he would savor this win for a little while and let Sunshine Numbers enjoy the spoils which befit a Carolina Cup champion.

"He’s just a real honest horse. There really aren’t any surprises with him. When he’s right, he runs well. It’s that simple with him," Kingsley said. "He’s just dead-honest. He’s a fun horse to have in the barn."

Saturday, Sunshine Numbers was even more fun to watch on the track."

More Cup coverage to come:

Due to space limitations, more coverage from the Carolina Cup races will be included in Wednesday’s edition of the C-I.




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