Always Sunshine basks in strong finish to win Tale of the Cat
by Brian Bohl
Always Sunshine ran down My Boy Tate in the stretch, overtaking his challenger from the outside to win the fifth running of the $100,000 Tale of the Cat for 3-year-olds and up on Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Stonehedge and trained by Ned Allard, Always Sunshine won his second consecutive stakes start overall and earned a trip to the winner's circle in his Spa debut, besting a five-horse field by two lengths in completing six furlongs in 1:09.79 on the main track labeled fast.
Off at 5-2, Always Sunshine stayed just off Silver Ride and My Boy Tate, who set the early fractions of a quarter-mile in 22.52 seconds and the half in 45.14. Out of the turn, jockey Frankie Pennington used a right-handed whip to urge Always Sunshine from the four-path with My Boy Tate directly to his inside and Silver Ride contending from the rail.
Always Sunshine kept pushing and gained command in the final furlong, improving to 2-2-1 in his last six starts at the Tale of the Cat distance.
"He was doing it nice and easy. When I asked him, he was there for me and I knew he was going to finish up good," said Pennington, who won his first career race at Saratoga. "He's an unbelievable horse. It seems like whatever track you put him on he gives it all which makes it easier for me. This is my first win in Saratoga and for it to be a stakes race, you couldn't ask for anything better than this."
Always Sunshine paid $7.20 on a $2 win wager. The 6-year-old son of West Acre improved his career bankroll past the half-million dollar mark, totaling $517,650.
"He's a horse with a lot of talent and it seems like if you time him right, he's kind of a dangerous racehorse," Allard said. "I was real pleased with his effort. I thought he kicked real hard the last part of it, and that's when it counts.
"He's a big, heavy horse and he's always had some foot problems, but this year he has really come around super. Frankie [Pennington] just fits this horse really well. The horse seems to like him and Frankie loves the horse. They're just a good combo."
For Allard, the win marked his first stakes race at the Spa in almost 30 years, when Fuller's Folly won the Grade 3 Seneca Handicap on August 25, 1988. Allard also won the 1985 Grade 1 Alabama exactly 33 years to the day.
"It's been a long while since I won a stakes here," Allard said. "Mom's Command won the Alabama here and Fuller's Folly won the Seneca here, but they were in the 80s. It's been a while since I've come to Saratoga and done that. It was fun."
My Boy Tate, who entered with a five-race winning streak for trainer Michelle Nevin, finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Silver Ride for second. Pop the Hood and Mr. Crow completed the order of finish.