Sunday Silence. Blacker than a seam of bituminous coal in Cucumber, West Virginia. Sire of thoroughbreds in Japan that won over $800 million. Engaged in a rivalry in 1989 with the highly-touted Easy Goer. Widely seen by race writers and industry people east of the Mississippi River as not the equal of his long-time rival . . . a rival that just happened to be from the East Coast.
Sunday Silence. Never worse than second in any of his 14 races. The winner of nine of those races, including a muddy Kentucky Derby and the breathtaking Preakness Stakes where the Californian ran side by side with the Pride of the East for nearly the entire length of the Baltimore stretch.
Sunday Silence. Twice shunned by buyers at auction where he finally had to be bought back by then-owner Arthur Hancock, III. Given his marching orders by trainer Charles Whittingham, who was even a part-owner himself in the “H-G-W Partners” that eagerly divided the $4,968,554 the black-maned Californian won.
Sunday Silence. Winner three times in his four races against Easy Goer. Competitive to the bone . . . winner once by a nose and once by a neck over the sweet-striding Easy Goer. Winner only once in three tries as a late-starting two-year-old.
Sunday Silence. Bought for $50,000 as a two-year-old in training. Winner of the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby to actually qualify him for the Kentucky Derby. Despite the terribly slow time (in the mud) of 2:05, he won The Derby by 2 1/2 lengths.
Sunday Silence. Had his nose in front of Easy Goer’s at the finish of the stomach-tightening Preakness Stakes. Finished off a seven wins-in-nine-races three-year-old season with a neck win over guess who? East Goer. Horse of the Year in 1989 and then 1996 inductee into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.
That Sunday Silence.
Do yourself a favor. Go to the internet and find a video of the 1989 Preakness Stakes. Watch in subdued astonishment the stunning stretch duel between the two thrown-together rivals. It’s Sunday Silence and Easy Goer only inches apart as they come to the end of their classic duel. In the last 25 yards, the maligned-by-the-East Sunday Silence edges ahead. And he lasts. And he wins the second jewel of the Triple Crown . . . giving him a chance to sweep the 1989 series if he could duplicate that effort in the Belmont Stakes in New York.
He doesn’t win in New York. The longest race of the Triple Crown — at 1 1/2-miles — easily goes to his rival, Easy Goer. By eight lengths. The Eastern writers drink to that race as if the liquid Chateau Brion were provided to them straight from the vineyards in old France.
The rivalry through the Triple Crown shows Sunday Silence with a 2-1 lead. But he has been denied the succor of the Triple Crown.
At the very end of the 1989 racing season, the two come together a fourth time in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
If one or the other won, that horse would be named the Eclipse Award Award winner of Horse of the Year honors.
Sunday Silence’s regular rider, Pat Valenzuela, had been suspended for cocaine abuse. Chris McCarron replaced Valenzuela. Easy Goer and jockey Pat Day were made the 1-2 betting favorite with Sunday Silence going off at 2-1 odds.
An overlooked leader, Blushing John, gave way to Sunday Silence as the long Belmont stretch came into view. And then Easy Goer joined the fun. He was a little over four lengths behind the big black executioner. At the end, the black silks of jockey Day were still a long neck shy of reaching McCarron and his yellow and gray silks on the back of Sunday Silence.
Sunday Silence led the much-chronicled series, three races to one. He was the Horse of the Year.
After a nondescript two-year-old campaign, Sunday Silence had made the next year one where the writers and commentators in New York and Florida had to sup on three-day-old hard tack washed down with skim milk or warm near-beer.
Coming back to the races at age four, Sunday Silence had one win in two stakes tries before falling to an injured ligament that forced him into retirement.
Even though he was the son of Halo and the grandson of Hail to Reason, with Turn-to, Pharamond, Mahmoud, and Stymie as limbs on his family tree, Sunday Silence was paid no mind by American breeders. A Japanese breeding interest brought him to the Far East where he sired enough success stories that they won $800 million between them.
Sunday Silence. Did pretty well in his racing series against Easy Goer. Against all comers, he was never worse than second. Never.