Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 36 Days to Go!!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 36 Days to Go!!

Sunny’s Halo was the second Canadian-bred, following Northern Dancer, to win the Kentucky Derby. Sunny’s Halo was by important sire Halo (also the sire of Sunday Silence), the 3rd Maryland based stallion to sire a Kentucky Derby winner, trailing Northern Dancer (Kauai King), and Saggy (Carry Back).  His dam was by the *Princequillo stallion, Sunny, a $3900 Canadian yearling purchase named Mostly Sunny.  She would race for three years, winning $30,000 in 48 starts, before being retired to life as a broodmare. Owned by David J. Foster, Mostly Sunny was Foster’s only broodmare. After losing her first two foals, Foster decided to breed her to Halo for $7500. Sunny’s Halo was the result, a shiny chestnut with 3 white legs and a wide blaze.

As a 2YO, his first start was in a five furlong maiden race, that he won by a head. After that victory, the colt never ran in a non-stakes race. Having won five of his first eleven races, including four Canadian stakes, the chestnut earned Canada’s 2YO Sovereign Award. Following his last two races that resulted in out-of-the money finishes, it was discovered that he had sore ankles and stress fractures in both of his front shins. Trainer David Cross, who gave up his public stable of 35 horses to train Sunny’s Halo, believed in the colt and talked his owner into taking a shot at the Kentucky Derby. Cross placed all of his horses with other trainers to take off to California with Sunny’s Halo. Heading to Hollywood Park, Cross’s trainee was one of the first to be treated at an indoor swimming pool for horses. The winter was bad in California, with lots of rain, so the choice was made to move to Oaklawn Park. There Sunny would win the Rebel, followed by an Arkansas Derby victory by 4 lengths over Caveat. He would be the first horse since Jet Pilot in 1947 to go into the Kentucky Derby with only two starts.

The week leading up to the Kentucky Derby brought more rain, with rain even showering down on race day, yet the track was made fast for the running. In the race, with jockey Eddie Delahoussaye aboard (rider of ’82 winner, Gato Del Sol), the combo would trail the leader, Total Departure, until the final turn.  As Total Departure began to tire, Sunny’s Halo would take over the lead. After a mile, Desert Wine poked his head in front, only to be denied by Sunny’s Halo and Delahoussaye, who hadn’t asked his mount for his run. Leaning low and forward, Delahoussaye urged Sunny on, with the flashy chestnut drawing off to win over Desert Wine in a time of 2:02 1/5. Caveat (3rd) and Slew O’ Gold (4th) both had troubled trips, although the pace was slow and Sunny’s Halo wasn’t asked to run until they neared the end. Trainer Cross would get $42,600 for his percent of the winnings, in addition to his score from a winter book bet on Sunny’s Halo at 100-1, earning $50,000 from a $500 wager.

Preceding the Preakness, Sunny would get a rash that plagued the colt off and on, causing a poor showing in finishing 6th. His ankle issues returned, therefore he wouldn’t compete in the Belmont. His next start would be in the Arlington Classic, though he finished 4th, the colt would later be disqualified due to an antihistamine that was found in his system, a medicine that he was given to help his skin condition.  After a 3rd in the Whitney and an off-the-board finish in the Jerome, the Derby victor found the winner’s circle once more with a stirring tour-de-force in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, crushing the field by 10 lengths and equaling a track record for the mile and ¼ race. He was retired and syndicated for $7.5 million to stand at Domino Stud, where he stood until 1988, when he was moved to Walmac. From there he would eventually relocate to Double S. Thoroughbred Farm in Texas, where he became the top sire in the state. Sunny’s Halo passed away in 2003 and was buried at the farm. In 2006, they had his remains moved to the Kentucky Derby Museum.

(Photo courtesy of KDM archive)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum