Sue and George Sensor won the Grade 1 Colonial Cup, the biggest race of their lives as steeplechase owners, with Top Striker Saturday at Springdale Race Course in their hometown of Camden, S.C. Trained at Springdale by Arch Kingsley, Top Striker produced a win for the locals on a day that honored the memory of the ultimate local - former race chairman Austin Brown who died in May.
The Sensors won the Carolina Cup, Springdale's spring feature, in 2014 (with Top Striker) and in 2011 (with Sunshine Numbers) but the Colonial Cup is a far bigger thing. First run in 1970, the Grade 1 was the first $100,000 race in U.S. steeplechase history and counts among its previous winners Hall of Famers Cafe Prince, Zaccio, Flatterer, Lonesome Glory and McDynamo.
"You always want to win here," said Sue Sensor, "but to win this race on Austin Brown Day it's pretty special, pretty bloody special."
Thoroughbred breeder, horseman, bloodstock agent and sales consignor - and friend of the Sensors - Rick Abbott heard the news and sent in the five paragraphs below. He spoke for many.
George and Sue Sensor had a problem. George was a rising star at the McDonald's Corporation and the couple was living near the Unionville, Pa., hunt country. They really loved their life there with horses and dogs on a small farm. Their problem was that George was expected to move back to Chicago if he wanted to advance any further in his career and Sue, having grown up there, wanted no parts of the Windy City in the winter.
They struck a compromise. They would get a place in Chicago and a place in Camden, S.C. Sue would live in Camden full time and George would commute between there and Chicago. This arrangement had the inevitable consequences. Not divorce, but an eventual decision that George would jump off the corporate fast track, move to Camden full time and acquire a chain of McDonald's restaurants in the South Carolina region. From that decision, they never looked back.
George and Sue had their biggest win as racehorse owners Saturday when their Top Striker won the Grade 1 Marion du Pont Scott Colonial Cup on their home track in front of their many friends and admirers by a convincing 10 1/2 lengths. It was a superb performance by a horse that has been knocking on the door of a huge effort all summer and fall. And, as Sue tells it, it was trainer Arch Kingsley who convinced them to run in one of the signature races of the waning steeplechase season.
If the racing world knows and admires anything about Sue and George it's that they are loyal to the people to whom they entrust their horses. As true horsemen, who keep horses at home and deal with them every day, they understand the ups and downs of working with racehorses. The Sensors don't go through trainers and horses like tissue paper. They stay the course when many others would bail. They have had some lean years on the racecourse, they have bought expensive horses that didn't work out but they never blamed the horses or the people. They know that you have to pat a lot of noses before you touch a Colonial Cup winner.
As competitive as steeplechasing is, very few of its fans and participants weren't warmed by yesterday's result when a great thing happened to great people.