Sunday Silence

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Sunday Silence
Sunday Silence at Shadai Stallion Station,Hayakita(Abira) Hokkaido Japan.
Sunday Silence at Shadai Stallion Station Hayakita(Abira), Hokkaido, Japan.
Sire Halo
Grandsire Hail To Reason
Dam Wishing Well
Damsire Understanding
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1986
Country USA
Colour Black/Brown
Breeder Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds, Ltd.
Owner H-G-W Partners
Racing colors: Gray, yellow sash, sleeves and cap
Trainer Charlie Whittingham
Record 14: 9-5-0
Earnings $4,968,554[1]
Major wins

Santa Anita Derby (1989)
San Felipe Stakes (1989)
Super Derby (1989)
Californian Stakes (1990)

American Classics / Breeders' Cup wins:
Kentucky Derby (1989)
Preakness Stakes (1989)
Breeders' Cup Classic (1989)
U.S. Champion 3-Year-Old Colt (1989)
United States Horse of the Year (1989)
United States Racing Hall of Fame (1996)
#31 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
Sunday Silence Stakes in Louisiana Downs
Leading sire in Japan 1995 through 2007
Last updated on January 12, 2008

Sunday Silence (March 25, 1986 - August 19, 2002) was an American-bred Thoroughbred racehorse and Sire. In 1989 he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes but failed to complete the Triple Crown when he was defeated in the Belmont Stakes. Later in the same year he won the Breeders' Cup Classic and was voted American Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and American Horse of the Year. Sunday Silence's racing career was marked by his rivalry with Easy Goer the 1988 American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt who defeated him by eight lengths in the Belmont and finished second in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic. Both horses were later voted into the American Hall of Fame.

After his retirement from racing, Sunday Silence attracted little support by breeders in the United States and was exported to Japan. Sunday Silence was Leading Sire in Japan on thirteen occasions, surpassing the previous record of ten titles by Northern Taste. Although the relatively insular nature of Japanese racing at the time meant that Sunday Silence's success was initially restricted to his home territory, his descendants have since gone on in recent years to win major races in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the United States and Dubai.[2]

In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, Sunday Silence is ranked #31.

Early years[edit]

Sunday Silence was foaled March 25, 1986, by Halo out of Wishing Well by Understanding. Though he was registered as a dark bay/brown, he was in fact a true black. Sunday Silence was bred by Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds, Ltd. He escaped death on two separate occasions: first as a weanling when he nearly died from a freak virus;[3] and later at age two, traveling in a van when the driver experienced a heart attack, with the van subsequently flipping over.[4] He was passed over twice at the sales ring as a yearling, before he was finally sold in California for $50,000 as a two-year-old in training. Arthur B. Hancock III bought him as a "buy-back" (he had bred him), hoping to ship him to Kentucky. However, the above-noted van accident kept Sunday Silence in California. Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham bought a half share of the colt and then sold half of that to Dr. Ernest Gaillard. (Ownership designate: H-G-W Partners)[5]

Racing record[edit]

1988: two-year-old season[edit]

Although he showed ability, he didn't make it to the races until late in his two-year-old season, winning a maiden special weight race and finishing second in a maiden race and an allowance race from three starts.

1989: three-year-old season[edit]

Sunday Silence began his three-year-old year by managing to win an allowance race. In the build-up to the first of the Triple Crown races ("the Run for the Roses"), Sunday Silence won the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for a start in the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby[edit]

In the build up to the 1989 Triple Crown, a rivalry developed between the west coast-based Sunday Silence and the east coast-based Easy Goer, winner of the 1988 Eclipse Award for best Two-Year-Old Colt. In the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, Sunday Silence and jockey Pat Valenzuela proved victorious, defeating Easy Goer by 2½ lengths over a muddy track in the slowest time(2:05) for a Kentucky Derby since 1958.[6] Easy Goer had a history for his difficulty to handle a muddy track at Churchill Downs.[7] Easy Goer's jockey Pat Day and his trainer Shug McGaughey expressed their thoughts and explanations on the race.[8][9][10][11][12] Daily Racing Form writer Dan Illman stated his opinion after Sunday Silence's victory that "the best horse won that afternoon."[13] Daily Racing Form chairman Steve Crist stated his opinion that "Easy Goer had a legitimate explanation for his defeat, as he didn't handle the muddy Churchill track."[14]

Preakness Stakes[edit]

While both horses were preparing for the 1 3/16 mile Preakness, each had minor ailments. Sunday Silence came up dead lame after a gallop 7 days prior to the race. Trainer Whittingham became concerned, and contacted well-known Kentucky veterinarian, Dr. Alex Harthill. Dr. Harthill arrived in Baltimore without delay and diagnosed a bruise under the sole, a common injury that "wasn't a serious problem but it had happened at a serious time." Dr. Harthill had Sunday Silence step on a clean sheet of white paper which was subsequently faxed to Dr. Ric Redden of Lexington, Ky., and from which Dr. Redden prepared a set of aluminum bar shoes. Dr. Redden and his assistant then flew via rented jet to Baltimore with the bar shoes and x-ray machine to confirm that no fracture was involved. After the shoes were fitted Sunday Silence was able to resume training 4 days prior to the race. After seeing the colt's "remarkably" rapid recovery from the injury, the bar shoes were removed one day prior to the race.[13][15]

Meanwhile at his rival's stable, throughout Preakness week(as late as Friday, the day before the race), Easy Goer's front feet were being soaked in a tub of Epsom salts due to small scratches or cracks on both heels. Easy Goer's ankles and knees were also having to be ultrasound. There were some wondering if minor ailments could compromise the chances of both horses.[16] Easy Goer had "problematic, puffy" ankles that he had to deal with throughout his career. Trainer Thad Ackel(trained Breeders Cup Turf winner, Great Communicator) observed and stated, "Easy Goer has got a couple of osselets (enlargements of the fetlock joints usually caused by excess fluid), and it looked to me like there's come calcification there. I was surprised that such a good horse could have ankles like that."[17]

Sunday Silence again prevailed over his arch-rival, this time by a nose, in an exciting head-and-head battle down the entire home stretch.[18] This race has been proclaimed by many experts to be the "Race of the Half Century." Some Easy Goer loyalists in the media maintained their horse's superiority, attributing the loss to the fact that Easy Goer had dwelt at the start and his jockey Pat Day reined Easy Goer's head to the right when he had a short lead in the home stretch. Pat Day, who lodged a failed objection against Valenzuela, has called his ride "a mistake."[11] Bill Christine of the Los Angeles Times, and trainer Shug McGaughey, also expressed their opinions on the mistakes they thought Day made during the race.[19][20][21]

Belmont Stakes[edit]

One day prior to the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes, known as the "Run of the Carnations" and "Test of a Champion",[22] Sunday Silence, with exercise rider Pam Mabes up, was spooked and kicked trainer Whittingham in the temple, a glancing blow that came close to killing the trainer.[23] The Belmont track, which received several inches of rain in the days leading up to the race,[24] was rated fast with Sunday Silence the 9:10 post time favorite, and the entry of Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring at 8:5.[25]

Easy Goer would go on to defeat Sunday Silence by eight lengths in the running time of 2:26 [26] producing the second fastest Belmont Stakes in history, behind only Secretariat, and denied Sunday Silence the elusive Triple Crown.[27] In the process, Easy Goer seemed to vindicate his reputation as the reigning champion two year-old. By virtue of his two Classic wins and his runner-up performance, Sunday Silence was awarded the third $1,000,000 Visa Triple Crown Bonus for best three-year-old in the series.

Breeders' Cup Classic[edit]

After the Belmont Stakes, Sunday Silence finished second to eventual Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized(Easy Goer defeated Prized by over 20 lengths in the Jockey Club Gold Cup[28]) in the Grade II 1 1/4 mile Swaps Stakes on July 23,[29] and won the Grade I Super Derby on September 24. Easy Goer proceeded to win 4 successive Grade I stakes after the Belmont, consisting of (in chronological order) 1 1/8 mile Whitney Handicap, 1 1/4 mile Travers Stakes, 1 1/4 mile Woodward Stakes and 1 1/2 mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, with three of those wins against older horses.

This set up one final face-off between Easy Goer and Sunday Silence at the season-ending $3 million 1 1/4 mile Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park, run on November 4. The contest was highly anticipated and expected to decide the winner of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.[30] Sunday Silence's jockey Pat Valenzuela had earlier been suspended for cocaine use and was replaced by veteran Chris McCarron. Sunday Silence was the post time 2:1 second choice behind Easy Goer at 1:2. In the early part of the race, Easy Goer was positioned 11 lengths behind the leader early and about 6 lengths behind Sunday Silence. Sunday Silence was positioned 5 lengths behind the leader in the early part of the race, and with 3 furlongs remaining Sunday Silence was 4 lengths behind the leader and 1/2 length ahead of Easy Goer. Daily Racing Form chart caller noted Sunday Silence "went after Blushing John approaching the stretch, headed that rival just inside the final furlong, lugged in slightly while edging away and turned back Easy Goer under good handling and Won driving" to win by a neck over Easy Goer.[31] The chart also noted Easy Goer " lost his position when he tried to head towards the gap leaving the chute, advanced quickly from the outside to reach contention nearing the end of the backstretch, wasn't able to stay with the leaders while continuing wide around the far turn, then finished boldly."

At this point, Sunday Silence had earned at that time a single-season record $4.59 million[32][33] (but has since been surpassed by horses such as Cigar (1995 and 1996), Silver Charm (1998), Curlin (2007 and 2008), Smarty Jones (2004) and Pleasantly Perfect (2004),[34][35][36] and won seven times in nine starts for the 1989 campaign, earning him Eclipse Award for Outstanding 3-Year-Old Male Horse and Horse of the Year honors. For the latter award, Sunday Silence received 223 of 242 votes, making him the most decisive winner since John Henry eight years earlier.[37] Former New York Times racing writer and current Daily Racing Form chairman Steve Crist stated in his N.Y. Times article in January 1990 that had the question on the ballot been, "Who is the better horse, Sunday Silence or Easy Goer?" a lot more than 19 would have voted against Sunday Silence.",[38] while concluding in the same article "by any standards last year [1989] belonged to Sunday Silence."[32] Paul Moran of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday agreed, stating "Sunday Silence is Horse of the Year, but most still believe Easy Goer is the better horse."[39] In 1996, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.[40] Sunday Silence was ranked #31 in the Bloodhorse Top 100 Horses of the 20th Century, while Easy Goer ranked #34. Though Blood-Horse stated its rankings “will generate debate for years to come."[41] The electoral friction was ultimately reflected in the introduction to the Blood-Horse's “Top 100 Racehorses” book, which conceded, “For all the work and dreaming that went into it... one approaches the list... with a nagging sense of its folly as a rational exercise and of the maddening arbitrariness of its outcome.”[42]

1990: four-year-old season[edit]

At the age of four, Sunday Silence won the Californian and placed second in the Hollywood Gold Cup behind Criminal Type.[43] He suffered an injured ligament that eventually led to his retirement.[44] Out of 14 career races, he never finished worse than second. He won nine of his races and placed second in the other five.

Stud record[edit]

After being ignored by most American breeders, Sunday Silence was eventually sold to Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida to stand at his Shadai Stallion Station in Shiraoi, Hokkaido. Yoshida had acquired a 25% interest in Sunday Silence early in his 4-year-old season and bought out the other partners for an undisclosed amount.

Sunday Silence flourished in Japan and became their leading sire in the last decade of his life, taking over from perennial leading sire in Japan Northern Taste (10 time leading sire in Japan), and topping their sire list from 1995 through 2007. His progeny have won many races in Japan, and including 20 out of 22 JRA Grade 1 flat races (the only exceptions are NHK Mile Cup and the Japan Cup Dirt). His progeny also have won International Grade 1 race like Hong Kong Vase, Hong Kong Mile and Dubai Sheema Classic.

Descendants of Sunday Silence break earnings records, mainly in Japan where the purses are significantly higher than the rest of the world. Conservative estimates on total winnings made by Sunday Silence descendents place the total near JPY 80 billion (approximately $800 million.) [45]

Major winners[edit]

c = colt, f = filly

Foaled Name Sex Major Wins
1992 Fuji Kiseki c Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes
1992 Genuine c Satsuki Shō, Mile Championship
1992 Dance Partner f Yūshun Himba, Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup
1992 Tayasu Tsuyoshi c Tokyo Yūshun
1993 Bubble Gum Fellow c Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, Tennō Shō
1993 Dance in the Dark c Kikuka Shō
1994 Silence Suzuka c Takarazuka Kinen
1994 Stay Gold c Hong Kong Vase, Dubai Sheema Classic
1995 Special Week c Tokyo Yūshun, Japan Cup, Tennō Shō
1996 Admire Vega c Tokyo Yūshun
1996 To the Victory f Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup
1997 Agnes Flight c Tokyo Yūshun
1997 Air Shakur c Satsuki Shō, Kikuka Shō
1998 Agnes Tachyon c Satsuki Shō
1998 Manhattan Cafe c Kikuka Shō, Arima Kinen, Tennō Shō
1999 Durandal c Mile Championship, Sprinters Stakes
1999 Gold Allure c February Stakes
2000 Neo Universe c Satsuki Shō, Tokyo Yūshun
2000 Still in Love f Oka Shō, Yūshun Himba, Shūka Shō
2000 Zenno Rob Roy c Japan Cup, Arima Kinen, Tennō Shō
2001 Daiwa Major c Mile Championship, Yasuda Kinen, Satsuki Shō, Tennō Shō
2001 Dance in the Mood f Oka Shō
2001 Hat Trick c Mile Championship, Hong Kong Mile
2001 Heart's Cry c Dubai Sheema Classic, Arima Kinen
2002 Deep Impact c Satsuki Shō, Tokyo Yūshun, Kikuka Shō, Japan Cup, Arima Kinen, Takarazuka Kinen, Tennō Shō
2003 Matsurida Gogh c Arima Kinen

Sire of sires[edit]

Deep Impact winning Kikuka Sho 2005 on October 23.

Several of Sunday Silence's sons have gone on to become successful breeding stallions. These include:


In August 2002, Sunday Silence finally lost his battle with laminitis, suffering a fatal heart attack. In May, infection in his right leg brought on laminitis in his left leg. His owners had been discussing whether to euthanize him or not for days. On the day of his death, he lay down in his stall, could not get up, and eventually died of heart failure.[5]

Sunday Silence was buried at Shadai Stallion Station.

Tabulated pedigree[edit]

Pedigree of Sunday Silence (USA), brown or black stallion, 1986[46]
black 1969
Hail to Reason
brown 1958
Turn-to (IRE)
bay 1951
Royal Charger (GB)
Source Sucree (FR)
bay 1948
Blue Swords
Galla Colors
brown 1953
Cosmic Bomb
dark brown 1944
Pharamond (GB)
Banish Fear
chestnut 1947
Mahmoud (FR)
Wishing Well
brown 1975
chestnut 1963
Promised Land
gray 1954
Pretty Ways
brown 1953
Pretty Jo
Mountain Flower
bay 1964
Montparnasse (ARG)
brown 1956
Gulf Stream (GB)
Mignon (ARG)
bay 1959
Dowager (Family: 3-e)

Pop culture[edit]

In the horse racing game Derby Owners Club, Sunday Silence is one of the sires available to breed in the game. He is also pictured on one of the official game cards.


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  2. ^ "Leading Sires of Japan". Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  3. ^ "History/Tributes". Stone Farm. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  4. ^ "Sunday Silence roars in '89 Derby". ESPN. 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  5. ^ a b "From unwanted colt to racing immortality". Thoroughbred Times. 2002-08-31. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  6. ^ "THE KENTUCKY DERBY : Sunday Silence Is Golden Despite the Mud : California Colt Defeats Easy Goer". Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  7. ^ "BELMONT STAKES; A Wet Track Could Dampen Bid for Crown". New York Times. 1989-06-10. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
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  13. ^ a b "Sunday Silence, Derby talk". Daily Racing Form. 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
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  15. ^ "Sunday Silence Iffy for Preakness". Philadelphia Inquirer. 1989-05-15. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  16. ^ "Looking For Word To Whys Will Easy Goer Have Answers?". Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  17. ^ "HORSE RACING : Maybe It's Time Easy Goer Gets a Different Rider". Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  18. ^ "HORSE RACING; Sunday Silence Wins Preakness by Nose - New York Times". 1989-05-21. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
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  21. ^ "Easy Goer gets last shot". Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  22. ^ "Run for the Carnations". 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
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  25. ^ "The Belmont Stakes (G1)". 2012-06-09. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
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  28. ^ "HORSE RACING; Easy Goer Surges To Win Gold Cup". Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  29. ^ "Sunday Silence Surprised By Prized In Swaps Stakes -". 1989-07-24. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  30. ^ "VIEWS OF SPORT; Best vs. Best, Not East vs. West - New York Times". 1989-10-29. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  31. ^ "Daily Racing Form Chart of 1989 Breeder's Cup Classic". Daily Racing Form. 1989-11-04. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
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  35. ^ "National Museum of Racing, Hall of Fame, Thoroughbred Horses". Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
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  39. ^ "RACING VIEWS : Too Long a Wait for Rematch of Top 2 Horses". Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
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  42. ^ Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Racehorse of the 20th Century. Blood Horse Publications. Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
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  44. ^ "Sunday Silence Joins Easy Goer In Retirement After Leg Injury - New York Times". 1990-08-03. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  45. ^ "JBIS-Search Result (in Japanese)". Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  46. ^ "Classic Winner: Sunday Silence". Retrieved 2011-12-29.