The first 3-year-old thoroughbred in North America to earn more than $1 million in a single season was a Canadian-bred colt – Sunny’s Halo, who was bred and owned by D.J. (Pud) Foster of Toronto and trained by David C. Cross Jr.
The tall, striking chestnut colt accomplished the feat in 1983, a year in which he took his place along side Northern Dancer as the only Canadian-breds to have won the Derby. He thrilled Canadian fans with his two- length victory before a crowd of 134,400 at Churchill Downs. His incredible season also included a record-equalling track effort in the $1 Million Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, winning by 12 lengths. He began the season with wins in the Rebel Handicap at Oaklawn Park and the Arkansas Derby.
At age two the colt by Halo, out of Mostly Sunny, displayed enough talent to convince Cross that he had a Derby horse in his stable. He won a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion juvenile with victories in the Grey Breeders’ Cup Stakes along with the Swynford, Colin and Coronation Futurity. Stress fractures in both front shins were later discovered after a poor showing at the Meadowlands in the Young America Stakes, ending his 2-year-old campaign.
That winter Cross decided to concentrate “Sunny’s” 3-year-old training in California, first at Santa Anita and then Hollywood where he galloped, walked and swam, using the equine pool two or three times a week to build up muscle tone and stamina without putting pressure on his healing shins. The training program produced a horse tough enough to win his first three starts – the Rebel and two Derbies. A stumbling start on a sloppy track spoiled his chances in the Preakness at Pimlico and a mysterious skin virus that vets were unable to diagnose knocked him out of the Queen’s Plate. Later he finished third in the Whitney at Saratoga before his Super Derby triumph.
During his career Sunny’s Halo strung together nine wins, eight of them in stakes races, with four coming in Gr. 1 events, and was three times second and twice third in 20 starts. He retired to stud with earnings of $1,247,791 and at the time was Canada’s leading money-winning thoroughbred. He died in June 2003, at Double S Thoroughbreds in Tyler, Texas. At the time of his death he was Texas’ leading sire by lifetime progeny earnings, with more than $26 million in worldwide purses won. During a career that included stints at Domino and Walmac Farms in Kentucky and several shuttle trips to Brazil, he sired Grade 1 winners Dispersal, Irgun and Race the Wild Wind.