CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - Horse racing trainer Arch Kingsley knows what it takes to make a champion.
"A lot of heart," he said. "A horse with determination. A horse that wants to do it. A horse that enjoys the job. A horse that wants to manifest their best into their actions. It takes a sound horse. It takes an athletic horse, a horse with some speed and some agility."
He found all that in Top Striker, who won the Carolina Cup in 2014 and the Colonial Cup in 2016, both by double-digit lengths.
"He's arguably the best horse I've raced because he's accomplished my highest feats in racing," Kingsley said. "He's a very talented horse, obviously. He's a very expressive horse. He communicates quite noticeably with you when you are tuned into it."
Kingsley knows a lot about communicating with horses. The Virginia native turned Camden resident has been around them all of his life, including winning several cups at Springdale Race Course: 1998 Carolina Cup on Master McGrath, 1999 Carolina Cup on Invest West, 1999 Colonial Cup on Ninepins, 2000 Colonial Cup on Romantic.
He also credits Top Striker's owners, Sue and George Sensor of Camden, with his success. Kingsley also trained the Sensors' Sunshine Numbers to a Carolina Cup win in 2011.
Although some in steeplechase racing were surprised by Top Striker's Colonial Cup win in 2017, Kingsley was not.
"Not at all," he said. "I knew he was capable of a good effort and he seemed like he was training particularly well at the time so I was not surprised to see him run like that at the Colonial Cup."
Top Striker was a finalist for the 2016 Eclipse Steeplechase Horse of the Year, the highest award in horse racing. The Irish horse that won the award, Rawnaq, finished 10 1/2 lengths behind Top Striker in the Colonial Cup last November.
"It takes years to develop a steeplechase horse and Top Striker was years in the making," he said. "He's an 8-year-old now and you're seeing him do, really his best work at age 7 and hopefully 8 and beyond. And that's not by mistake. It's taken him this long and this much of his career to develop those skills and that type of stamina and effectiveness to be good over hurdles."
"He's a great deal of pleasure to train and hopefully we've got a long future together still."