There are so many adjectives and phrases that can be used to describe George and Sue Sensor's Sunshine Numbers. The venerable veteran, old war horse, durable campaigner, but there aren't enough words to define the size of the 11-year-old dark bay gelding's heart as he cruised to an easy victory Saturday, under the confident handling of Arch Kingsley, Jr., in winning the Grade 3, $50,000, 2-mile Budweiser Imperial Cup at Ford Conger Field.
The early fractions of the race were dictated by the winner of the 2012 edition of the race Pullyourfingerout (IRE) and Karen Gray's Cuse, but Arch Kingsley Jr. kept the pace setters within his sights. However, as the field began turning for home, Kingsley Jr. and Sunshine Numbers commandeered the lead at the race's eighth fence, repulsing the bid of Oakwood Stable's Country Cousin, and drew away in the stretch for a comfortable victory.
“Everyone thinks he's just one dimensional, and has to have the lead,” said a jubilant Arch Kingsley, Jr., who also conditions the son of Polish Numbers. “Ross (Geraghty, Pullyoufingerout (IRE)) was determined to take it away from him. and so was Gus Dahl (Cuse). He (Sunshine Numbers) was content to sit behind what he thought was an unreasonable pace at least in that ground, and he didn't want to go any quicker than that. And thankfully, at the end, I had a horse that saved enough that had something to finish.”
Sunshine Numbers has scored victories by large margins previously, where he's set the race's pace and never looked back in capturing the 2011 Carolina Cup by a 27 ¼-length margin, and winning the Hobkirk Hill allowance last November at Springdale Race Course in dominating fashion by 10 ½-lengths.
“He has that intangible quality of rising to the occasion, and always overcoming the problems that come his way,” said Kingsley, Jr. “He's not been a horse without problems. He's like all the good ones. He's had soundness problems and issues along the way.
He always seems to get right at the right time, and bring it when the chips are down. I'd like to tell you that I had something to do with that, but honestly I think the horse just has some inner clock that puts him right. I think he's better than the company he's running in.”
It was Sunshine Numbers 12th lifetime victory, and the New York-bred gelding had breen training well coming into Saturday's race, said Wendy Kinglsey, the trainer/jockey's wife, who had high expectations for the veteran runner in the Imperial Cup.
“If he's even close to being right, he shows up and performs better than you could ever expect,” said Wendy. “He's just a really special animal to us. We are thrilled for Sue and George.”
The Aiken Steeplechase Association is extremely appreciative for the support of the community, who came out for Saturday's races despite the rain and cooler temperatures, said Georgianna Conger Wolcott, Aiken Steeplechase Association.