The Search for Sunny Boy

January 13, 2023

Jillian Wainwright and Sunny Boy have that special bond between friends. (photo courtesy of Jillian Wainwright)

Chris Lomon/Woodbine Communications 

TORONTO, Ont. – Jillian Wainwright had all but given up on finding a riding horse she could connect with. Then she saw the photo.  

For months, she had visited various locales in and around her farm about an hour’s drive from Ottawa, Ontario, hopeful, on each occasion, of discovering a horse she could bring home to the 35-acre property and teach to ride. 

Each time, Wainwright would head back by herself. 

“My previous riding horse – she’s now 26 – is a Quarter Horse mare. Nothing really stood out. I had the chance to see some horses in person, but there was really no connection. They were nice horses, but there wasn’t really a connection. I had sort of given up, that there was nothing really out there for me.” 

A conversation, an exchange nearly three years ago, would change that outlook.  

“I have friends, Wayne and Wendy Catherwood, who used to live in Uxbridge [Ontario], and they asked me if I had looked at LongRun. I had no idea, at that point, what it was. They told me to Google it and their website will come up, and there might be some horses that you are interested in. So, I did that, and it was a moment of, ‘Wow… look at all these horses.’ But I saw that they were racehorses, and I wasn’t sure if that would be right for me. I’m used to my little Quarter Horse mare. There is that myth about racehorses, that they are very hyper and hot, that you can’t manage them.”  

Cooling down after a ride. (Photo courtesy of Jillian Wainwright)

A tree-lined 100-acre home to over 50 retired Thoroughbreds, LongRun, established in 1999, is regarded as one of the most respected horse retirement and adoption organizations, and the first industry-funded adoption program in Canada. The picturesque, pristine property is situated a little less than an hour’s drive north of Woodbine Racetrack, in Hillsburgh.  

One of its residents is a gelding who was known as Money Talks during his racetrack life.   

The dark bay son of champion and multiple stakes winner Mobil raced 49 times over a career that yielded four wins and 18 top-three finishes accompanied by $195,248 (U.S.) in earnings for trainer Bill Tharrenos. 

Bred in Ontario by Fred W. Pace, Money Talks was a $23,320 (U.S.) purchase at the 2012 CTHS Canadian-bred Yearling Sale. He debuted on August 11, 2013, at Woodbine, getting up in the final strides to secure a second-place finish in the 5-furlong main track race. 

Two weeks later, Money Talks broke his maiden courtesy of a 4 ½-length romp at 7 panels over the Woodbine main as the 2-5 mutuel choice. 

The gelding would contest four stakes races, including the 2014 Prince of Wales Stakes, second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, with his best result coming in the Elgin Stakes that same year when he was fourth. 

Money Talks final start came on November 11, 2019, at Woodbine, when he finished ninth in the 1 1/16-mile main track race for the ownership group of Natural Eight Stable, Peter McLaughlin, and Stu and Donna Kreis. 

Money Talks aka Sunny Boy sweet talks Jillian. (Photo courtesy of Jillian Wainwright)

“I was kind of hesitant, but my friends talked me into finding out more about LongRun’s horses. They said to get in touch with them and that there was no obligation. If there wasn’t a horse for me, that would be okay. I reached out to them and sent an email. I emailed them and they got back, and said they have a few horses that might be a good fit. I filled out the adoption form – which is very detailed – and I sent that in. It wasn’t long before I got an email from Lauren [Farm Manager, Millet] at LongRun, saying that they had this horse, Money Talks, who might suit us. They sent some videos and just from seeing that, I thought, ‘Woah… this is kind of interesting.’ I liked the look of him. We made arrangements to come to the farm to see him. It’s a six-hour drive from where our place is. We left really early in the morning.” 

The journey seemed much longer for Wainwright. 

She thought about a myriad of things throughout the trip, optimistic, but not wholly convinced, the trek back to the farm would be different this time. 

When she saw the sign on the pathway leading into LongRun, anticipation and nervousness were running stride-for-stride in her mind.  

A few minutes later, Wainwright was led into the barn to meet Money Talks.  

“He was in his stall. I walked over and he made eye contact. He looked at me and my heart just soared. And then he put his head out of the stall door, looked me right in the eye, and put his head on my shoulder. Honestly, the feeling was like I was being reunited with an old friend. I thought to myself, ‘This is it. I want this horse in my life. Even if I can’t ride him, I want this horse. It was that instant spark and instant connection I had hoped for. I walked him around in the arena, but it was hard to do that because he kept turning and looking at me. Literally, we couldn’t take our eyes off each other. I completely fell in love with him the minute that I saw him. There was that instant bond I hadn’t felt with any of the other horses I had gone to see.” 

But there was still work to be done before the pair could be united. 

“The next month or so was very tense. Our barn had to be inspected and we had to get references. I was so worried that we were going to fail. I wanted to have him in life so badly.” 

On the morning of June 17, 2020, at Longrun, Money Talks was led into a trailer with the Catherwood’s son, Darryl, at the wheel. 

Wainwright, who couldn’t make the trip, paced around her house for what felt like the entire six hours.   

“I was on pins and needles the whole day waiting for that trailer to arrive. And when it did, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger smile on my face.” 

That look soon changed to one of disbelief when she walked Money Talks into his stall. 

Wainwright anticipated her stable of three at the time would give their new roommate an enthusiastic vocal welcome. 

It was, in fact, quite the opposite. 

“I’ve had horses for a long time and usually when you bring a new horse in, there is whinnying and squealing, and some level of excitement. The trailer pulled into our yard and there was nothing, it was silent. My horses could see through the barn that there was a trailer there, but there was no sound. We took him off the trailer, and he didn’t call to them, and they didn’t call to him. We let him run around for 20 minutes and so, and then we took him into the barn. His stall in the end – there are three other horses in the barn – and he had to walk by all of them. They looked up as if to say hello and that they knew him. It was a weird feeling. It was as though they knew who he was and that he was supposed to be there.” 

The next step was for Money Talks to get accustomed to his new surroundings, stablemates and life as a riding horse. 

Wainwright wasn’t going to rush any of it. 

“We let him chill out for a while. Obviously, it was much different than what he was used to competing at Woodbine. The flies are pretty bad here in the summer during the day, so he came at peak fly season. I typically turn out my horses at night, and I don’t think he had ever experienced that. The first night, I left him out until dusk. He had been out for a couple of hours. The next night, I put him out in the late afternoon and in the night, he was standing under these lights, with a look of, ‘Take me in. I don’t think I’m supposed to be out here.’ It took him a week of transition before he spent a whole night outside. Once he got used to it, he was fine. He was very happy.” 

And, in some moments, Money Talks displayed his racehorse roots. 

“You would watch him run and he would run in circles in the field. The others would run all over the place and he would run in circles. You could see the racetrack side of him.” 

Two months after he first came to Wainwright’s farm, Money Talks was tacked up for his first ride. 

Wainwright wasn’t sure what to expect.  

“The same friends who had mentioned LongRun, they came over because they have done a lot of re-training of Thoroughbreds. They helped and it was really great to have that and get to this point. I got up on him, and he was just so quiet. It was incredible. I felt so safe. I was a bit nervous. I was going to get on a racehorse and thought he could just take off and gallop off into the sunset. But he didn’t. He was so quiet and so gentle. It was as though he could read my mind. I didn’t have to say anything to him. He knew instinctively what he needed to do, and I felt so safe. 

“From the minute he looked at me… I feel so good with him. He makes my day every day. We ride, but it’s just low-level dressage and flat work. He’s a perfect fit for me. We started our dressage training and he accepted everything. You could see he was puzzled at certain points, but he’s done well. We did a schooling show last year and he was fifth. I went in with no expectations because it was just for experience. He did great for a first show. He’s coming along and I’m just so happy.” 

Money Talks also has a new name, two, unofficially. 

Both of them, Wainwright offered, quite fitting. 

“I call him my “Sunshine Boy,” because he lights up life. He was called “Money,” and he knew that name. He’d pop his head up when you would say that, so I thought that was going to be his name. But he ended up being called “Sunny.” 

Apropos, considering the bleak outlook Wainwright once held in her search for the right horse, and to how she views life in the present. 

In the end, it was a road worth travelling. 

Jillian riding Sunny at LongRun. (photo courtesy of Jillian Wainwright)

“When I ride him, I think of just how beautiful and powerful he is. It’s pure joy to ride him. I’m thinking of nothing else except the two of us riding together. I love being with him. He’s an amazing horse. We just fit together perfectly.” 

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