Sunshine for Life, sent off as the longest shot in a field of seven fillies and mares, took advantage of a soft pace and uncontested lead, going gate-to-wire while pulling off a shocking upset in the $110,300 Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Oct. 11 at Belmont Park.
Under the handling of Channing Hill, Sunshine for Life never trailed while making her stakes debut. Trained by Richard Schosberg, she returned $49 to win while turning back odds-on favorite Criminologist, who finished third. The final time for 1 1/16 miles on the "firm" turf was 1:41.55.
Sunshine for Life entered off a similar front-running victory in optional claiming company Aug. 22 at Saratoga. But that was her only win in four starts this season.
“That helped our economy a little bit,” Schosberg joked. “I really didn’t want to run her short – there was a mile and a quarter stakes that kept on not filling. Our option was a `three other than’ yesterday, or take a shot here. She’s coming into her pedigree. Channing did a fantastic job on her. He calls it `walking the dog.’ I think her race at Saratoga was indicative. One of these days, she’s not going to pay $49.
“For her next start, the timing is good for the Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT, Nov. 1 at Aqueduct).”
Breaking from post six, Sunshine for Life shot to the front without a problem. She clicked off easy splits of :24.50 and :48.34 while taking a comfortable 3 1/2-length lead over Waquoit’s Love after a half-mile. Criminologist, entering off a win in the Noble Damsel (gr. IIIT), positioned herself in third along the rail under Edgar Prado.
Waquoit’s Love ate into the pacesetter’s lead a bit after six furlongs in 1:12.16, but when they came off the turn, Sunshine for Life was still going well. She carried a two-length advantage into the final furlong and responded willingly to Hill’s urging to win by a half-length. She held off a late bid by Darley’s English-bred Criticism, who finished well to get second under Chris DeCarlo while making her U.S. debut.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to make the lead,” Hill said. “She settled really nicely the first three jumps. I gave her a little chirp. No one really wanted to go with me, so I thought, `I’ll show them the way to the finish line.’ I have to give kudos to Mr. Schosberg; he had this filly perfect.”
Sunshine for Life is owned by Jane Schosberg, who is the mother of the Athenia winner's trainer. The 4-year-old filly was bred in Kentucky by Buckram Oak Farm and is out of the Exclusive Native mare Million Stories. She is now 4-1-1 from 11 starts with earnings of $201,072.
The winner paid $17.20 to place and $5.80 to show. The exacta (6-2) returned $492, while the trifecta (6-2-3) was worth $1,415.
Waquoit’s Love finished fourth, followed by Oh Deanne O, Social Queen, and Classic Neel.