Jan 6, 2011

"Records are made to be broken" is one of sport's hoary cliches that proves itself with some regularity. Ask Bret Favre, UConn basketball and Sunny Blossom. Sunny Blossom, you say?

In recent weeks a couple of team sport idols bit the dust while Sunny Blossom lost the distinction of Santa Anita's fastest sprinter since the l989 Palos Verde Handicap.

A snappy 1.07.1 was all that Sunny required to set a standard that lasted more than two decades. A highly touted juvenile named The Factor broke the previous time barrier.

Extenuating circumstances contributed to The Factor's suddenly newfound fame. First of all, there was no comparison between the racing conditions. The new champ showed his stuff over a Santa Anita strip that was posting absurd fractions in every race, at every call. That pattern became a habit in the early days of the Santa Anita meet, propelled by a souped up dirt track.

Second, Sunny made his mark in a graded stakes at the expense of arch-rival Olympic Prospect. The Factor was beating maiden juveniles.

Finally, a significant gap between running times convinced me that my hero had indeed demonstrated something exceptional. Horses were running in 1.11 on the 1989 card, for instance, a sign of a dead track. Everybody was flying around the Ã…rcadia oval a few weeks ago.

Gary Stevens rode Sunny Blossom that fateful afternoon and he saw no need to even uncock his stick. "No one could have beaten me on that horse that day", he repeats whenever a little nostalgia surfaces.

Sunny could be a quirky ride. He had back troubles which probably accounted for the fact that he invariably broke slow enough to spot rivals a length or two. Once in gear, he would take the front and go as fast as he could go. He rarely ever changed leads during a race, another costly habit.

A more endearing attribute was winning the final leg of big money Pick-six wagers
at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields.

While we no longer see his name on the program, Sunny Blossom will be a fond memory in years ahead.