Veteran Always Sunshine Runs ‘A Monster Race’ Off 541-Day Layoff

It was only about an hour before sunset when the sunshine blazed forth on a late winter afternoon at Laurel Park.

Always Sunshine, a Florida homebred of Gil Campbell’s Stonehedge LLC trained by Pimlico Race Course-based septuagenarian Edward T. ‘Ned’ Allard, made his triumphant 9-year-old debut Jan. 24 off a 541-day gap between races.

Guided by jockey Carol Cedeno, his regular rider since the spring of 2019, Always Sunshine recovered from a slight outward bobble at the start of the 5 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance for 4-year-olds and up to press Stroll Smokin into the stretch. It wasn’t until midway through the lane when the West Acre gelding out of the Awesome Again mare Sunny Again was able to clear the favored pacesetter and edge away to a 1 ¼-length victory.

“Carol knows the horse real well. She’s ridden him a number of times. He can go to the lead if you want him to, but he seems like he runs a much better race if you let him get his act together, and he always fires big if you have him in a good spot,” Allard said.

“Around the sixteenth pole I thought, ‘We’re not going to get by this gray horse.’ I said to Carol afterwards, ‘I was afraid you wouldn’t get by that horse,’ and she said, ‘I really hadn’t asked him yet,’” he added. “She had a ton of confidence in him.”

It was the 11th career win from 31 starts dating back to his rookie season of 2015 for Always Sunshine, who boosted his bankroll past $650,000. It may have been one of the most satisfying of 2,724 career wins for the 75-year-old Allard, a New England native best known for his work with Hall of Famer Mom’s Command.

“I didn’t want to start him off in a stake after a year and a half and being a 9-year-old. I wanted to try to find something a little softer, and I thought that was a pretty good spot,” Allard said. “Although, it was still a very competitive spot and he still needed to come up with a good race to beat those horses, which he did. So, I was tickled pink.”

Always Sunshine hadn’t raced since earning his fifth career stakes victory in the Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Aug. 3, 2019 at Mountaineer. It came just over a year after capturing the Tale of the Cat at Saratoga and well after earning his first-ever stakes triumph in the 2015 Dave’s Friend at Laurel. Always Sunshine became a graded winner in the 2016 Maryland Sprint (G3) on the undercard of the 141st Preakness (G1).

“In September of 2019, instead of going to the Tale of the Cat which we had won the year before, I thought the Tale of the Cat came up a lot tougher than the year that I won it,” Allard said. “So, I chose to go for a little less money at Mountaineer. He won very nicely with Carol on him. He came out of the race not 100 percent sound, but nothing major. We couldn’t find anything on X-rays, we couldn’t really find anything on an ultrasound, but he was definitely off.

“We gave him some time off and put him back in training and the same thing cropped up on him again,” he added. “So, we gave him practically a year off on Mr. Campbell’s farm in Williston, Florida and put him back in training. He’s been in training for the last five months and he’s been training super, so I was real pleased.”

The final time for Always Sunshine’s comeback victory was 1:02.91, three-fifths of a second off the Laurel track record of 1:02.20 set in October 2018 by 6-year-old Siralfredthegreat.

“He just needed some time off. It wasn’t really a big deal,” Allard said. “He seemed to come out of his race really well.”

The decision on what’s next for Always Sunshine will be left up to the horse, Allard said. Laurel’s $250,000 General’s Stake (G3) at seven furlongs is Feb. 13, a span of just three weeks. The next open stake for older sprinters in Maryland is the $100,000 Frank Whiteley, also going seven furlongs, April 17.

“That’s a good question. As a 9-year-old you have to be a little more careful. We’ll just have to see how it plays out. Who knows. I might be back in again for [$50,000]; then again maybe we’ll look for a stake,” Allard said. “He just ran a monster race, and I haven’t completely swallowed it yet. I was hoping he’d run really well and I thought that he would but you still have to go out there and prove it. So often, we’re wrong a lot more than we’re right, that’s for sure.”

Allard, inducted into the New England Turf Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2009, has been thrilled with his decision to stable at Pimlico after spending last winter in Tampa, Fla. Based at Delaware Park from spring to early fall, he has two wins, one second and two thirds in five 2021 starts, all at Laurel.

“When Delaware closed, I thought the logical spot was to go to Maryland,” Allard said. “I started in 1970 and I think I’ve won over 150 stakes and I don’t know how many stakes I’ve won in Maryland, but Maryland has always been very good to me. I’m there and I’m happy and things are going well.”

The post Veteran Always Sunshine Runs ‘A Monster Race’ Off 541-Day Layoff appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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