Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. had a pretty good feeling about his horse’s chances in the $50,000 Carolina Cup Grade III Hurdle Stakes. But even at his most optimistic, Kingsley wasn’t expecting him to win by more than 27 lengths.
To say Kingsley’s horse Sunshine Numbers dominated the field in Camden, S.C., April 2, would be an understatement. Sunshine Numbers and jockey Jody Petty shot to the early lead, immediately leaving the other four horses to play catch up.
This wasn’t the first time Sunshine Numbers had jumped the much larger Carolina Cup stuffed brush hurdles. The 9-year-old son of Polish Numbers won the allowance hurdle in 2009, and in 2010, he won at the fall Colonial Cup meet, which also uses these fences.
Kingsley was confident Sunshine Numbers would have no issues with the course. However, the allowance hurdler was up against some of the top grade I stakes horses on the circuit, including last year’s winner Randleston Farm’s Spy In The Sky (Paddy Young) and the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (Tenn.) winner Irv Naylor’s Tax Ruling (Darren Nagle).
But those giants turned out to be no threat; in fact the only horse to get close was Gil Johnston’s Swagger Stick. The gray made a dash for the wire with Spy In The Sky in his shadow but remained a distant second to Sunshine Numbers, who just cantered in.
Kingsley, who lives in Camden, was all smiles—not just for himself but also for the horse’s hometown owner Sue Sensor.
“Sue and her husband George have been in the game for such a long time,” Kingsley said. “They have never won this race. I’m just so happy for them.”
Sunshine Numbers is Kingsley’s only jumper right now. Normally Kingsley would have put up his regular rider Bernie Dalton, but Dalton had committed to a ride on Red Letter Day, who was later scratched.
“I told Jody to go out there and just have fun,” Kingsley said. “Let the horse dictate pace and placing in the field.”
William Dowling rode second-placed Swagger Stick. A versatile horse, the 10-year-old son of Cozzene galloped around this course at the fall meet in 2010, where he placed fourth. In addition to his hurdle abilities, the Jack Fisher trainee sometimes moonlights as a timber horse.
Dowling was just as impressed with Sunshine Numbers as he was with his own horse.
“We were all scratching our heads afterwards,” Dowling said. “How did this allowance horse just beat four grade I stakes horses and by so much? There was no way that any of us were going to catch Jody. That horse was a good fence in front of us for most of the race. We were all struggling just to keep up.”
Kingsley said Sunshine Numbers has two distinct personalities: “When you put a saddle on him he’s very aggressive, strong willed and a little hard to settle. It’s tough to keep him happy on his works, but on the ground he’s very mild mannered and easy as you please.”
Don’t expect to see Sunshine Num-bers at any of the hunt meets; he’s not so happy to gallop along when hills are involved.
“He likes a nice flat surface,” Kings-ley said. “The Iroquois won’t suit him. I’m going to put him on ice until probably this summer at Saratoga Springs [N.Y.]. I think he’ll like the course up there.”
In 2007, Lucy Horner brought Music To My Ears from England to see how he would do over American timber. After placing second with him at the Morven Park Races (Va.), she sold him to White-wood Stable.
Under trainer Richard Valentine, he posted good results, but in 2008 he was sold again, this time to George Hundt Jr.’s Anna Stable to be used for amateur races. Again, Music To My Ears usually picked up a check for his efforts, but by late spring of 2010 he had jumped Hundt out of the tack four times.
Valentine switched tactics for the fall season and put jockey Robert Walsh up. Things appeared to be back on schedule until the horse fell at the last fence in the 2010 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup allo-wance race.
Valentine decided to make a bigger change; he kept the jockey and opted for a hackamore this season instead of the usual snaffle.
It worked. Music To My Ears galloped happily around the $20,000 allowance timber and dug in to keep his lead by a nose in the end.
Last spring, Walsh shattered his right leg in a car accident, and just before he was to ride at the Colonial Cup meet that fall, he had a schooling accident and re-broke the same leg.
“We were both pretty unlucky last year,” Walsh said. “It’s nice to get this monkey off my back and finally get a win again.”
He added, “Music’s been a puzzle. I’m not going to say we have figured him out, but the hackamore definitely made a difference. I could leave his mouth alone, and he was happy and dragged me to the front for a change.”
According to his jockey Xavier Aizpuru, Devil’s Preacher was traveling well in the $30,000 allowance race until leaving too long before one of the National hurdles.
“He took a chance at the fence, and tragically this time he didn’t get away with it,” Aizpuru said. “He hit it hard and flipped on the other side, breaking his neck.”
Aizpuru was thrown clear and only suffered bruises. The 8-year-old son of Pulpit, owned by Colvin Ryan and trained by Julie Gomena, had three jump wins to his name. He started over hurdles in April of 2009, placing third, and went on to win his first race that September at Fox-field (Va.) with Ryan up.
The horse raced once in April of 2010, winning the amateur/novice rider hurdle at Old Dominion Hunt Point-To-Point (Va.), also with Ryan.
This season, Devil’s Preacher fell with jockey Carl Rafter at the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-To-Point (Va.) on March 12, but the pair came back to win the following weekend at the Warrenton Hunt Point-To-Point (Va.), March 19.
In 2004, the Kentucky-bred great grandson of Seattle Slew was sold for $475,000 to R.A. Hill Stables at the Keene-land September sales. Devil’s Preacher made $258,864 in combined flat and jump wins.