10/26/2006 11:00PM

Honorable end to Sunny's Halo saga


Sunny's Halo, one of only two Canadian-breds to win the Kentucky Derby, was in the local news again this week when his Derby trophy, presented to trainer Dave Cross Jr., finally found a permanent home at the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame at Woodbine.

Cross had sold the trophy late in 2002 on eBay for $8,900, but this past summer the trophy resurfaced and was donated to the Hall of Fame by the trophy's current owners, Patti Cross, Earl Daynes, and Joe Trdak.

The flashy chestnut Sunny's Halo, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1983, is being remembered by Canadian fans again these days as his grandson Skip Code will tackle the best 2-year-old colts in the world in next weekend's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Skip Code, a steel-colored gray who looks more like his sire Skip Away than Sunny's Halo, is a Kentucky-bred based at Woodbine and trained by top local trainer Mark Casse.

The leggy Skip Code has developed quickly and won the Grade 3 Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes on Oct. 9 in his fourth start.

You could have purchased Skip Code (originally named Skipping to Heaven) for $20,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale. Stedham Stud picked up the Summer Wind Farm-bred colt at that time and then resold him for $60,000 in February at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company 2-year-old sale.

The colt worked a sharp two furlongs in 22.60 seconds for that sale and was bought by agent Tim Kegel.

He is the ninth foal to race for Heavenly Note, a stakes-winning daughter of Sunny's Halo.

Foaled in 1988, Heavenly Note raced in California, Arizona and New Mexico, mostly at middle distances up to 1 1/16 miles, and won seven races, including the La Primavera Stakes, and $110,257.

In his first few years at stud in Kentucky at Walmac International and Domino Stud, Sunny's Halo sired Grade 1 stakes winners Dispersal, Irgun, and Race the Wild Wind, but after several shuttle trips to Brazil, he found his home in Texas at Tom and Marcia Slack's Double S Thoroughbred Farms for majority owner Billy Hanna.

Three years after Sunny's Halo was euthanized after suffering a stroke, the stallion remains the all-time leading sire in Texas. Charming Socialite, a multiple stakes winner this year and earner of $345,000, is his current top horse.

Not only has Sunny's Halo's Derby trophy now found a home, the stallion's remains rest at the Kentucky Derby Museum, one of four Derby winners to be interred at the famous Churchill Downs site.

According to the Texas Thoroughbred Association, when the 70 acres of land at Double S were sold to real estate developers, David Hooper, executive director of the TTA, was notified by horse owner Rita Nugent.

This past June, Sunny's Halo was exhumed by Double S manager Pete Sackett and the horse was cremated.

"Having been awestruck by the striking chestnut color and physical stature of Sunny's Halo when I first saw him in his stall before the Kentucky Derby, I became an immediate fan and rooted him to victory," said Hooper in quotes that appear on the Texas Thoroughbred website. "Now I feel privileged to have played a role in relocating Sunny's Halo to his final resting place at the Kentucky Derby Museum."