05/21/2016 2:31PM

Always Sunshine impresses in Maryland Sprint

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Justin N. Lane
Always Sunshine, with Frankie Pennington aboard, wins the Maryland Sprint by 2 1/2 lengths Saturday.

BALTIMORE – The rapidly improving Always Sunshine scored his first graded stakes win in easy fashion at Pimlico on Saturday, taking the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint by 2 1/2 lengths.

Always Sunshine has now won four of his last five starts for trainer Ned Allard and his longtime client Gil Campbell. Frankie Pennington, the leading rider at Parx Racing, has ridden Always Sunshine in his last five races.

"He's a special horse," Pennington said. "In midstretch, after he made the lead, he switched off."

Always Sunshine's recent wins include a first-level allowance at Parx, the Dave's Friend Stakes at Laurel Park, and a third-level optional race at Parx. His one loss during that run came to Salutos Amigos in the Grade 3 Tom Fool at Aqueduct, where Always Sunshine had to work his way through traffic in the stretch. The late-running Salutos Amigos finished fifth in the Maryland Sprint as the 13-10 favorite.

On Saturday, Always Sunshine took up a stalking position behind the front-running Cinco Charlie. Always Sunshine moved up to challenge under confident handling on the far turn, then took the lead in upper stretch and drew off.

Always Sunshine paid $5.80 as the second choice in the seven-horse field. He covered six furlongs in 1:10.33 over the sloppy track. He is now 3 for 3 over wet tracks.

"He trains like a nice horse, he acts like a nice horse," Allard said. "He needs to be tested again. He's got a good stalk to him. If you can stalk and relax, it can be an advantage."

All Star Red, who raced close to the pace while saving ground, finished second, two lengths in front of 54-1 shot Rockinn On Bye. Cinco Charlie set fractions of 23.54 and 46.75 seconds before tiring to finish sixth.

Allard said Always Sunshine would be considered for the six-furlong, Grade 2, $250,000 True North at Belmont Park on June 10.

Campbell, who has had horses with Allard since the 1980s, bred Always Sunshine at his Stonehedge Farm South in Florida. He is from the last crop of West Acre, an unraced son of Forty Niner whom Campbell owned and stood at the farm.

"He's just coming into his own," Campbell said of Always Sunshine. "We could have a big summer with him. If he keeps running like this, we'll make him a stallion out of him, too."

Allard said Always Sunshine has matured in the last year.

"At the beginning, he didn't like getting dirt in his face," Allard said. "He didn't like it if he got in a bad spot in a race. Now, nothing upsets him."

Always Sunshine, a 4-year-old, is now 5 for 11 with earnings of $313,950.