Steal Sunshine Shines Bright in Runhappy Ellis Park Derby

August 14, 2022

HENDERSON, KY— If his last couple of starts are any indication, Steal Sunshine is most comfortable when operating in the shadow of others.

The son of Constitution may not have gotten the level of pre-race chatter inspired by some of his rivals in the Aug. 14 $200,000 Runhappy Ellis Park Derby but when it came time for the real running, the dark bay colt made it impossible to ignore his presence. Under steady handling from jockey Leonel Reyes, Steal Sunshine uncorked a last-to-first rally to earn a 3 ¼-length victory in the signature race on the top day of stakes during the Pea Patch’s centennial meet.

The sight of Steal Sunshine making a winning charge has become commonplace of late for the Bobby Dibona-trained colt. After halting a four-race losing skid with a victory at Gulfstream Park on May 26, Steal Sunshine upset heavily favored Strike Hard with another last to first run in the seven-furlong Carry Back Stakes on July 9.

“I’m not surprised at all. I wouldn’t be here if I was surprised,” Dibona said after his charge notched his third straight win Sunday. “He’s just a great horse. From Day One, I thought he was a special horse and he’s developing and learning the game and relaxing. He’s getting better and better.”

The incremental progress Steal Sunshine has been making took another step forward in his first start outside of Florida.

With pacesetter and 57-1 shot Rome taking the nine-horse field through fractions of :22.94 and :46.01, Steal Sunshine was content to set up shop at the back of the pack under Reyes. The 5-1 shot worked his way up to sixth around the far turn and, after advancing in the two path, Steal Sunshine angled in on the rail for his stretch run, blowing past Rome and hitting the wire in a final time of 1:38.19 for the eight-furlong distance over a track rated fast.

“When he hit the hole in the stretch, he ran all the way to the wire,” Reyes said. “I’m so happy because this is my first time at Ellis Park.”

Steal Sunshine walks into the winner’s circle, a happy Leonel Reyes aboard (Coady Photography)

Rome held for second after his front-end exploits with Strava a neck back in third. Race favorite Top of the Charts faded to eighth after prompting the early pace.

“Yesterday we had a City of Light win at Saratoga then….we had (Top Recruit) today win the Juvenile and now this,” said Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall, who bred and co-owns Steal Sunshine along with Little Red Feather Racing. “I hope I live a long life because I’m going to enjoy every minute.”

Brogden’s Machmer Hall bred Steal Sunshine in Kentucky out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Warm Sunshine. With Sunday’s win, he improves his record to four wins from nine starts with $233,910 in earnings.

Ellis Park Press Release

Main photo: Steal Sunshine steals the Ellis Park Derby (Coady Photography)

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