Monday, August 19, 2002

Sunday Silence, former Kentucky Derby, Preakness winner, dies



The Associated Press

        TOKYO — Sunday Silence, winner of the first two legs of the 1989 Triple Crown, died Monday in Japan from complications of a disease in his left foreleg.

        “For the last three days, his condition has been getting worse, and we used a lot of strong medicines,” said Eisuke Tokutake, spokesman for the Shadai Stallion Station. “But today, he lay down and couldn't get up.”

        The 16-year-old horse died of heart failure on Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan.

        The stable said last week it was pondering whether to put the horse down. Sunday Silence had developed laminitis — a debilitating disease of the hoof — a little over two weeks ago. The stallion's condition gradually worsened, requiring veterinarians to administer pain killers.

        Sunday Silence was the son of Halo, by Wishing Well. He was taken to auction both as a yearling and as a 2-year-old, and both times, he was bought back by principal owner Arthur Hancock after bidders didn't meet his minimum price.

        “He was the perfect example of an ugly duckling that turns into a swan with age,” Hancock said. “Like the skinny teenager that develops into a big strong athlete, some horses are just a little late in maturing.”

        In 1989, Sunday Silence became the fourth horse since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 to win the first two legs, only to fall short in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes. Four horses have done it since, including War Emblem this summer.

        Sunday Silence's battles with Easy Goer during his Triple Crown chase stirred memories of Affirmed's duels with Alydar a decade earlier.

        Easy Goer, a son of Alydar, was the 4-5 favorite at the start of the 1989 Derby, but Sunday Silence took the lead in the final turn and beat him by 2 1/2 lengths. The win made then-76-year-old Charlie Whittingham the oldest trainer to capture the Run for the Roses.

        Sunday Silence missed two days of training for the Preakness with a sore right foot, but Whittingham never lost confidence.

        “In the paddock, Charlie said, 'This horse is plenty fit, boy. Don't worry,”' said jockey Pat Valenzuela. “And when Charlie says that, I believe him.”

        Easy Goer took the lead in the final turn, but Sunday Silence caught him in the Pimlico stretch. The two charged stride for stride to the wire and Sunday Silence won by a nose in one of the most thrilling finishes in any Triple Crown race.

        Pat Day, who rode Easy Goer, cried foul, but stewards denied his claim.

        Three weeks later, Easy Goer avenged the earlier losses with an eight-length win in the Belmont.

        The two met again in November 1989, with Sunday Silence and jockey Chris McCarron holding off Easy Goer and Day by a neck in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

        Sunday Silence was chosen 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year in 1989.

        In June 1990, the horse was sold to Shadai Farm in Japan and was the country's champion sire from 1994 to 2000. During that span, his progeny produced 457 winners, 43 in stakes races.

        Sunday Silence won nine races in 14 career starts, earning $4,968,554, and he was inducted into horse racing's Hall of Fame in 1996.

       



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