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Sunday Silence (Thoroughbred Legends) Hardcover – March 25, 2002
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While the paths of the now-three-year-old Sunday Silence and Easy Goer would not officially cross until the Kentucky Derby, ABC Sports telecast two of their derby prep races on April 8, 1989.
"Easy Goer was simply brilliant in his race, the Gotham Stakes from New York's Aqueduct racetrack....he [bounded] away from the field to win by thirteen lengths. His final time of 1:32 2/5 was just one-fifth of a second off the world record for a mile, set in 1968 by the great champion Dr. Fager."
Sunday Silence ran a good race, too, winning the Santa Anita Derby by eleven lengths and coming within three-fifths of a second of the stakes record set by Lucky Debonair in 1965.
Easy Goer's trainer, Shug McGaughey wasn't so much worried about the cow-hocked black's running style as he was about Sunday Silence's trainer: the ex-marine, hall-of-fame trainer, Charlie Wittingham, the Bald Eagle. "I sure wish somebody else besides Charlie Whittingham was training that horse," McGaughey said.
He was right to be worried. The Bald Eagle was a master at bringing a horse up to a classic race.
Easy Goer was the favorite to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but Sunday Silence was all alone at the wire for the Derby. He went on to win the Preakness by a nose, and was finally made the favorite for the third race in the Triple Crown series: the Belmont. The bettors were wrong, again. Easy Goer was on his home track and he relished the mile-and-a-half distance, winning the Belmont by eight lengths. The two rivals would race together one more time in 1989 to determine who was going to be Horse of the Year.
Luckily, the Breeders' Cup races weren't held at Belmont that year, or things might have turned out differently. The Gulfstream track had relatively tight turns, favoring a nimble horse like Sunday Silence over the long-striding, slow-to-turn Easy Goer. Once again, Easy Goer was hammered down to 1-2 favoritism by the bettors (he was a beautiful horse). Once again, Sunday Silence outmaneuvered his rival on the track and won by a desperate neck.
Sunday Silence was voted Horse of the Year.
Both horses were expected to renew their rivalry as four-year-olds, but both sustained injuries and had to be retired to stud. Easy Goer was bedded down in the same stall at Claiborne where Secretariat had held court, and he attracted the cream of the regally bred mares. Unfortunately, he only produced four crops of foals before his premature death, with only three grade one winners among them.
On the other hand, no one was interested in breeding to a cow-hocked son of Halo, no matter how well he had run, so Arthur Hancock sold Sunday Silence to Zenya Yoshida of the Shadai Stables in Japan. Sunday Silence has been doing extremely well at stud in Japan, breeding champion after champion. This spring, a contingent of his yearlings sold for an average of more than $700,000 apiece in Australia.
Handsome is as handsome does, as my grandmother used to say.
Ray Paulick also tells the interesting story of how Arthur Hancock, who was written out of his father's will as owner of Claibourne Farm, picked himself back up and made his own Stone Farm an outstanding success.
Another story related to the success of Sunday Silence is that of his jockey Pat Valenzuela, a gifted athlete whose career was side-tracked on numerous occasions because of drugs. He is making what is hopefully his final comeback from drugs in 2002, and has already won a few stakes for the trainers who still put their trust in him.
Well researched and written with great photographs.
Another excellent addition to the Thoroughbred Legions series of books.
The Sunday Silence book is probably the longest of the books dealing with a single horse (the Affirmed and Alydar book is longer, but is that way because it deals with the lives of both horses). Author Ray Paulick has thoroghly researched the life of Sunday Silence and has used interviews to tell a great tale about a horse nobody wanted who went on to win two-thirds of the Triple Crown, including a victory in what is arguably the greatest race of all time, the 1989 Preakness, where he went nose-to-nose with his arch-rival Easy Goer in an exciting stretch duel.
Sunday Silence's rags to riches story is told alongside the story of his breeder, Arthur Hancock, who was passed over in the succession of his father at the great Claiborne Farms (his younger brother was chosen instead), but who went on to develop his own farm successfully. Also intertwined is the story of his jockey Pat Valenzuela, a talented jockey whose career was later stunted by substance abuse (he is making a comeback and doing well, I understand).
The book also tells of Sunday Silence's breeding career in Japan, where he became a superstar sire and a nation's hero. Reading this part of the book might let you understand why his Japanese owners elected not to euthanize Sunday Silence when he came down with laminitis in August 2002, letting nature eventually take him on her own. He was loved so much in Japan, they obviously didn't want to let him go.
Many of the Legends books were written by people who obviously didn't do much but look at old newspaper and horse racing trade articles to write their stoies. Paulick made an effort, with interviews, and it shows. I believe this is the only book he has written in the series, but I hope to see more from him in future books. There are still many great horses who haven't been written about (Secretariat, Kelso, Count Fleet) who could use the Paulick treatment.