The Selling of the 1989 Triple Crown

It was 25 years ago this spring. There hadn’t been a sweep of the Triple Crown in what then seemed to be an interminable 11 years. Racing fans had been spoiled by the Roaring Seventies when three horses swept the Crown and two others captured the first two legs. And on three other occasions, a horse won either the Derby and Belmont or Preakness and Belmont. So in eight of the 10 years, a horse captured two legs of the Triple Crown.

And only one year into the Eighties, in 1981, we had Pleasant Colony winning the Derby and Preakness. We then had to wait six years for Alysheba to come along and sweep the first two legs.

But 1989 was different. That year, we had two superstars competing in the Triple Crown, but the horse most everyone felt would capture all three races at the beginning of the year was not the one attempting the sweep. After all, Easy Goer was the 2-year-old champ owned and bred by Ogden Phipps, was the closest thing physically to Secretariat, and had run the fastest mile in history by a 3-year-old, winning the Gotham by 13 lengths in an astounding 1:32 2/5, one-fifth off Dr. Fager’s coveted world record.

Going into March, no one had ever heard of Sunday Silence, other than a handful of Californians who had seen the colt break his maiden the previous November by 10 lengths. But he was beaten in an allowance race in his next start by a D. Wayne Lukas upstart named Houston, who was thought to be the star that would emerge out of the Golden State.

If there was portent of things to come it was the fact that the Adonis-like Easy Goer was by Alydar, who was best known for coming along in the wrong year, playing the victim to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races the last time it was swept.

Trainer Shug McGaughey was smitten with Easy Goer the first time he saw him, but really felt he had something special when he watched him for the time with a set of horses. “He gave the impression he could gallop those horses to death,” McGaughey said.

While Easy Goer was placed upon a throne at an early age and justified all the adoration after the silver spoon was removed from his mouth, Sunday Silence was unwanted as a youngster and, unlike Easy Goer, appeared to come into the world with the proverbial black cloud over his head. Bred by Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds and purchased privately by Arthur Hancock, he was consigned to the Keeneland summer yearling sale with a $50,000 reserve. There was so little interest in the son of Halo, Hancock bought him back for a meager $17,000.

Hancock then tried to sell him twice as a 2-year-old in California but found no takers. He eventually convinced trainer Charlie Whittingham to buy half-interest in the colt for $25,000. Whittingham then sold half his interest to Dr. Ernest Gaillard for the same amount.

Sunday Silence also bore severe physical and mental scars from a horrifying incident at 2. After failing to sell at one of the 2-year-old sales, he was being shipped back to Kentucky when his van was involved in an accident after the driver suffered a heart attack. The van went off the road and flipped over. Sunday Silence was fortunate to escape with cuts and bruises and was treated at a veterinary clinic in Oklahoma before being shipped home. Back at the farm, he appeared uncoordinated and unbalanced, and it was feared he was a wobbler, but he eventually began returning to normal.

So, one could say that the early days of both colts were as different from each other as two childhoods could be.

It must have been Sunday’s Silence’s toughness that helped him overcome his adversity, because once on the racetrack, he was an absolute terror and just a nasty horse to be around. His exercise rider Pam Mabes said every trip aboard the colt was an adventure.

“He’s put me through some of the most hair-raising rides I’ve ever had,” she said. “He used to hit the track leaping and bucking, and he’d rear up easily. Charlie put some long two-mile gallops into him and that took some of the vinegar out of him. It didn’t surprise me when I heard about him surviving that van accident, because he’s so tough.”

As for Easy Goer, I was at Belmont Park to see him off to Kentucky, as he walked onto the van, along with his talented stablemate Awe Inspiring. The feeling of optimism was high in New York, as most people were convinced Easy Goer was embarking on a historic journey that would bring him back to Belmont Park racing’s newest hero and with a Triple Crown in his grasp. If he could get past the first two legs, nobody was going to beat him over his home track going a mile and a half.

Most people in Kentucky were surprised how confident Whittingham was in the days leading up to the Derby. Sunday Silence’s 11-length romp in the Santa Anita Derby in 1:47 3/5 made Easterners sit up and take notice that perhaps the Triple Crown was not going to be handed to Easy Goer as first thought.

As we are well aware, Sunday Silence took advantage of a muddy track and Easy Goer’s disdain for a wet Churchill surface, as he had demonstrated the year before when upset in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over a similar Churchill surface.

The Derby was an ugly race, with Sunday Silence running like a drunken sailor down the stretch and still winning, and Easy Goer just getting up for second over Awe Inspiring. The mile and a quarter was run in 2:05 over the deep track.

The Preakness, however, was just the opposite, and many still regard the stretch battle between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer as one of the greatest races of all time.

That brings us to the Belmont Stakes, with some Easterners abandoning Easy Goer and others disheartened over the two defeats and still believing Easy Goer was the better of the two horses. Californians were in all their glory, chiding the New York “snobs” and “crybabies” for their “East Coast bias.”

While all this was going on, the New York Racing Association, despite their disappointment at the turn of events, still had one heck of a attractive product to sell to the American public.

Earlier that March, Ed Siegenfeld, NYRA’s vice president of marketing, said, “If only we could have a horse going for the Triple Crown, everything would be perfect.”

Siegenfled,, like everyone else at NYRA, was convinced that horse was going to be Easy Goer, and that their idea of perfection was beautiful weather; fans pouring into HorseFair, the spectacular equine event being held at Belmont the past couple of years; a massive crowd for the races; and Easy Goer drawing off in the stretch with the crescendo building with every powerful stride.

Well, that’s just the way it happened. The final chapter of the Easy Goer story went exactly according to the script. But no one had counted on Whittingham and Sunday Silence doing a complete rewrite of the first two chapters.

So, NYRA had its Triple Crown horse, but instead of Easy Goer, their job was now to promote the possible coronation of this California invader who had knocked their hero off his pedestal.

By now, not only was a heated rivalry building on the track, but in the media as well. When one California columnist wrote that some New York reporters actually had tears in their eyes following the Derby, it caused quite an uproar back east.

Easy Goer’s idolaters claimed it was the track that beat their hero at Churchill Downs and that the tables would be turned at Pimlico. Things didn’t look good for Sunday Silence when the colt suffered a foot bruise a week before the Preakness, and Whittingham stated if he couldn’t work him the following day he would have withdraw. That’s when noted Kentucky veterinarian Alex Harthill flew to Pimlico to work on the colt’s foot, going into his stall and closing the top and bottom doors, something no one had ever seen before.

The next day, Sunday Silence turned in a sensational work and was right back in the Preakness picture. When Sunday Silence out-dueled Easy Goer in an epic stretch battle, the latter’s followers blamed jockey Pat Day for giving the colt a bad ride.

Easy Goer, who was plagued by terrible ankles his entire career, was least effective running on the turns, which happened to be Sunday Silence’s strength, and it was on the far turn at Pimlico that Sunday Silence got the better of Easy Goer and maintained his narrow advantage to the wire. Immediately after the race came the cries to replace Day, who had gained an advantage over Sunday Silence nearing the half-mile pole, only to let the Derby winner come back around him, putting Easy Goer down on the rail. The pair battled eyeball to eyeball every step of the way, with Sunday silence prevailing by a nose.

It was on to New York and a chance of redemption for Easy Goer, who no doubt was happy to be back home. While the media battles and the many critiques were causing a strain on McGaughey, Day, and even Whittingham, Ed Siegenfeld went about his business of promoting HorseFair, while executive director of media relations Steve Schwartz dealt with the onslaught of media requests.

Siegenfeld was loving every minute of it and felt people were taking the East vs. West rivalry too seriously. A week before the race, a striking ad for the Belmont Stakes began to appear in all the major newspapers, showing the photo finish of the Preakness and a quote from Charlie Whittingham predicting a Triple Crown sweep. A radio commercial was highlighted by Dave Johnson’s calls of the Derby and Preakness finishes.

 “With the addition of HorseFair, it’s a three-ring circus going on, and I have to capitalize on that edge,” Siegenfeld said.

Meanwhile, Schwartz and his staff were trying to handle media requests from places they’d never seen before.

“Newspapers who normally send one guy are sending two or three,” Schwartz said. “I’m getting West Coast calls from people I’ve never heard of. I’ve received requests from Seattle and they have never sent anyone to cover the Belmont.”

In 1987, when Alysheba was trying for the Triple Crown, NYRA issued 1,100 media credentials. They were already up to 1,600 this year, and an auxiliary press box was set up on the third floor of the clubhouse. Schwartz also sent out postcards to some 900 TV and radio stations around the country, informing them of the availability of promotional news feeds.

“We don’t have to sell the race, because the Derby and Preakness have already done the work for us,” Schwartz said. “In publicity, they always say you sell the sizzle, not the steak. We’ve also benefited from all this East vs. West controversy.”

Several days before the race, the local newspapers began to step up their coverage. The New York Daily News had an eight-page pullout section on the Belmont, and the New York Post also had extensive coverage.

“We’ve definitely put more emphasis on horse racing the last three months, “ said Post sports editor Bob Decker. “I think having a California horse trying for the Triple Crown is good for the sport because pride is at stake.”

Post columnist Ray Kerrison said, “I’ve noticed that this year’s Triple Crown has generated a lot more interest from non-racing people. It just seems that everyone is talking about these two horses.”

Meanwhile, on the backstretch, the strain of the Belmont was taking its toll on Whittingham and McGaughey, whose wife at the time, Mary Jane, was expecting to give birth at anytime. By Belmont day, Whittingham, then 76, had had enough of the Triple Crown,

As he looked at a group of people congregating at the barn, he commented, “I think the day of the race, they should keep everyone out of here. All they can do is worry your horse. I’ll bet they’re not down there bothering Shug’s horse. They ask the same questions day after day.”

In addition to losing patience with visitors and questions from the press, Whittingham also was losing his battle with Sunday Silence, who was making a habit of sending his trainer to the first aid room. During his stay at Belmont, Sunday Silence managed to bite Whittingham on the leg, bite him on the finger, and kick him in the head. The last incident occurred when the colt became spooked by a camera crew waiting for him at the entrance to the track leading from the paddock. As Sunday Silence emerged from the tunnel, with Whittingham walking alongside, he spotted the cameras and reared up. As he came down, he clipped his trainer on the head. Pam Mabes looked back to see if he was OK and asked what to do, and Whittingham waved to her to continue on to the track and go about her business as usual.

A quick trip to the first aid room, where he had become a regular visitor, resulted only in an application of iodine, which stood out on Whittingham’s bald head. All he would say of the incident was “I zigged when I should have zagged.”

That night, every TV news telecast showed the incident, one of them using the sound of broken glass as Sunday Silence’s foot came down on Whittingham’s head.

Whittingham also had been upset over a published report about possible covert activities in Sunday Silence’s stall at Pimlico when Harthill worked on the colt behind closed doors. The day before the Belmont, a torrential rain fell on Belmont, turning the track sloppy, the last thing McGaughey and the Phipps family wanted to see. The morning of the race, Whittingham became irate when NYRA decided to close the track for training to allow the maintenance crew to get an early start drying out the track. There was no doubt this unusual move favored Easy Goer. By 9 o’clock the track was already fast or close to it.

“Charlie’s starting to run to the end of his tether,” Mabes said. “We had people come in the barn asking, ‘Is Silent Sunday here?’ You’d be surprised how many people want to give him peppermints or pet him. Before you can keep them away, they’re at his stall looking in. Let’s just say we’re looking forward to getting back home.”

Things weren’t much better over at McGaughey’s barn. Many members of Easy Goer’s once loyal legion had gone over the hill, deserting their hero. And McGaughey was receiving a great deal of mail, a good portion of it negative.

“People have written me letters criticizing Pat Day, telling me to change jockeys or to put blinkers on the horse or to put him on the lead,” McGaughey said. “Only two inches separated these two horses in the Preakness, and everybody who jumped off Easy Goer’s bandwagon and went to Sunday Silence is criticizing Pat’s ride. To tell you the truth, I haven’t read a newspaper in four or five days. I actually heard that someone wrote I was going to use Easy Goer as a rabbit for Awe Inspiring.

“I enjoy talking to the press. I’m a big racing fan and the game has been good to me. If I wrap a canvas around myself, it’s not going to help our game. We’re worn out, truthfully. The last six months have hurt our overall stable. Even with the baby coming, Easy Goer and the Triple Crown have been the center of my attention all spring. We’re glad it’s finally over.”

As for Belmont day, nearly 65,000 fans showed up on a glorious afternoon. HorseFair was a rousing success. “Sunday Silence” and “Easy Goer” T-shirts were a sellout, with hundreds of back orders taken. In some ways it was everything NYRA had hoped for.

Following Easy Goer’s resounding eight-length victory, the colt quietly grazed next door at John Veitch’s barn. Holding the shank was assistant trainer David Carroll, who would go on to become a top trainer himself.

No one was back there with the horse, other than two or three visitors, which gave one a feeling of tranquility, like the calmness following a storm. As Easy Goer continued to graze, his golden chestnut coat glimmering in the evening sun, one could almost hear the thunderous roar from the crowd off in the distance. New Yorkers had their hero back.


Leave a Comment:


Nice article. The Sunday Silence vs Easy Goer rivalry was epic that year. Its been 25 years since Easy Goer and perhaps Shug, having whetted his appetite in the Derby last year with Orb, is ready to go all the way this year with Honor Code or Top Billing or perhaps sweep the series with both colts sharing the spoils. He's been a patient trainer and is in a great position this year to make some hisory. All the best to him.

03 Mar 2014 8:08 PM

Thanks for the story Steve. I've been waiting for this one for awhile. No continuance or follow up on the summer/fall campaigns?

03 Mar 2014 8:46 PM
spitting the bit

Thanks Steve for the wonderful memory.  I was crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge during the call of the race, and I remember fearing that I was going to go flying off into the bay as I listen....rooting all of the way for the "Big Silence"!  Three Preakness's stand out in my mind.  That battle down the stretch, Afleet Alex's great recover (and win!) and Funny Cide roaring off the stretch turn.  Still gives me the chills. Here's to another exciting Triple Crown run!.

03 Mar 2014 9:52 PM

Great article!  Brings back great memories! I was a Sunday Silence fan all the way.  I was sure he was going to win the triple crown!  

03 Mar 2014 10:08 PM

A very enjoyable read, can't believe it's been 25 years. What a difference in what information we use to get back then and what we get today with things like the internet. I always remembered that tough bugger Sunday Silence and the welt he gave Whittingham on his head. I just wish they could have kept Sunday Silence in the breeding sheds in this country, he might have had a stong influence on future generations here in this country, and not just in Japan.

03 Mar 2014 10:14 PM
food fight

I still think Day should have been replaced after his ride in the Preakness stakes. he had a clear advantage at the half mile to 5/8s and slowed Easy Goer down to a crawl as to put Sunday Silence along side him and this proved to be a very poor decision.P Val forced Day down on the fence and took away the big colts fluid long stride by putting him in the tightest space to race an inch off the rail.Both of these colts are deserving of the hall of fame as are there trainers and owners. Nothing but class in this group.Hats off to you Steve for remembering one of the greatest east meets west rivalries in the game.

03 Mar 2014 10:15 PM
Mister Frisky

Can't believe it's been 25 years.I remember Veitch saying that Alydar had a lot of early foot, and he made a mistake having him make one run at Affirmed.I wonder if deep down Shug thinks the same thing about Easy Goer.

03 Mar 2014 11:06 PM

Great article, Steve.

03 Mar 2014 11:45 PM

Sunday Silence: 3

Easy Goer: 1

Charles Edward Whittingham took Shug out behind the woodshed in '89.

04 Mar 2014 3:13 AM
Fortune Pending

I love these jaunts back in time.  Please keep them up!  I don't remember (if I ever knew...) the story of the van accident.  Although, I was an Easy fan.

04 Mar 2014 5:03 AM

I would have really enjoyed viewing race replays. In my mind both Easy Goer and Sunday Silence were great ones. I feel there's a bias here in favor of Easy Goer.

04 Mar 2014 5:52 AM

Great story and slice of history for me. I was not "really" into horse racing during this period and I love knowing the truth behind the hype- thanks, Steve.

04 Mar 2014 7:38 AM
Eric Rickard

Good article. I was a senior in college at the time; on the west coast. Loved Sunday Silence. The East coast bias in my opinion was real at the time. I remember the yelling matches at the breeders cup that year. The Belmont was a perfect set up for Easy Goer and he was able to capitalize  and prove that he was a champion too. To this day I hear people talking about how Easy Goer was better and Sunday silence got lucky. I wish we had a rivalry like that again. Hope to see you at churchill.

04 Mar 2014 8:32 AM
steve from st louis

Let's not forget they carried this rivalry all the way to the Breeders Cup that year when Sunday Silence turned the Belmont tables at Gulfstream in what was called "The Race of the Decade". P. Val was off on a drug suspension and Chris McCarron guided the winner.

It was a shame they couldn't continue their rivalry at stud. Easy Goer died young yet still made his mark as a broodmare sire and Sunday Silence was sold to Japan. Even so, those were the days.

04 Mar 2014 10:16 AM

Great story, Steve, as always.  I remember that Derby well.  Had to be one of the coldest on record.  I loved Easy Goer because I was an Alydar fan too. It is amazing, though, that Pat Day won only one Derby.

04 Mar 2014 10:29 AM
Bill Rinker

Thanks for another great story Steve, 1:32:3/5's what a monster!

04 Mar 2014 10:51 AM

With the early part of my life having only brief contacts with the sport, I got into it in earnest in the last 4 years. Much of that time I have spent devouring every aspect of the sport, including reading and re-reading your "historical pieces", Steve. I was much dismayed when in your last one you indicated slowing down on these pieces due to a perceived lack of interest. I sure hope you come to reverse this decision, because of pieces like this one.  

In my journey being immersed in the sport, I early on came to fall in love with Sunday Silence. His toughness, his orneriness, his story of being "unwanted" and his ultimate definitive victory over his rival in the BC Classic are the stuff of legend. If that wasn't enough, and because he was perceived to be a "freak", he suffered the ultimate rejection of NA breeders and Arthur Hancock reluctantly sold him to Japanese interests. But, the Black Stallion has had the last word over his detractors.  And, oh, my, how the Black Stallion has shown himself to be worthy of every bit of the adulation that was heaped upon him. Single-handedly it seems he rejuvenated and reinvigorated the Japanese bloodstock industry, becoming a sire of sires, with his progeny earning nearly $1Billion USD in purses, including two Japanese Triple Crowns and a Triple Tiara winner. Yes, in Japan, the government subsidizes the breeding industry and keeps the stud fees modest and within the range of every breeder, and the purses serve to keep horses on the track longer and more successfully and keeps bringing in new fans.  Even if you discount the fat purses by 2/3, progeny earnings would be in the neighborhood of $350 Million U.S.  All of this because Arthur Hancock was a "poor salesman".  And, finally, the old warrior continued his fight over the devil malady, laminitis.  Only when he decided it was time, did he slip the surly bonds of earth and continue his journey over the Rainbow Bridge to join the other all-time greats.  I noticed recently that I'll Have Another has been visited by several Sunday Silence mares.  So far the ones who have hit the ground are fillies.  I'm hoping Mr. Reddam follows up on his promise to purchase a mare in foal to I'll Have Another and that it is by a Sunday Silence mare.  Will be fun to see just how much farther Sunday's reach might be.

04 Mar 2014 12:04 PM
Abigail Anderson

I just loved this trip back to 1989 -- and I'm betting the Japanese will get a thrill out of it too. (Yup. Even the Japanese tune in to "Hangin' With Haskin"!!!!) Like others here, I knew about the Sunday Silence - Easy Goer on-track rivalry but what I love about horse racing most are the "inside stories" and this narrative is just terrific for its anecdotes and detail of what was really happening down the shed row, so to speak. Thank you for still another memorable article, Steve. It's going to be tough to get the image of Whittingham's iodine-smeared head out of my own.

04 Mar 2014 12:58 PM

I visited Easy Goer at Claiborne after he was retired and I was struck by the fact that he appeared to have a row of pin fires up both front legs, just like you see on many older Standardbreds.  In an 8 x 10 I made from one of the photos I took that day they are easily visible.  Steve, do you know if that was done while he was running (I don't recall seeing them in any of his "active" photos)?  If so, we all should give him credit for more than just running on sore ankles.    

04 Mar 2014 12:59 PM

I was a late arriving at the track for the 1989 Belmont and parked in one of the distant parking areas behind the training track.  Walking to  the shuttle bus station I came across a trunk-of-the-car vendor selling tee shirts.  Actually, he was selling only one shirt:  SUNDAY SILENCE 1989 TRIPLE CROWN WINNER was the logo emblazoned across the front, along with a picture of the horse. The price was five dollars per shirt.

I asked him what these shirts would be worth after Easy Goer blew Sunday Silence away. To this day, I still recall his answer.  “I’m no fool. I’m taking every cent I make between now and the big race and betting it on Easy Goer.  If wins, I make out.  If Silence wins, I sell out these babies, in ten, maybe fifteen minutes.  And then the  price will be ten bucks!”   I had to laugh.  

Hours later, as I left the track I looked in vain for the tee shirt vendor.  He was nowhere to be found. In today’s crazy-quilt world of collectibles, I’ve wondered what someone would pay on eBay for one of those losing shirts.

04 Mar 2014 1:35 PM

I'm with you Deltalady - Steve, please keep the historical articles coming!  Love them!  Was a huge fan of Silver Charm also - thought sure he was a triple crown winner too.  Is there any behind the scenes info on his quest that you can share?

04 Mar 2014 1:35 PM

Steve, your historical articles always put us in a time capsule and transport us back to some great event in horse racing history, allowing us to learn something new about stories we thought we already knew.  Thanks for this re-telling of the Sunday Silence-Easy Goer Triple Crown year.  I firmly believe that had they been born in separate years, both would have been worthy winners of the Triple Crown and yet that fact makes me ask myself, "what is more enjoyable, a Triple Crown winner or a great rivalry between two top 100 of all time horses?"  If Affirmed-Alydar was the best of both worlds, SS vs EG was a close second in spite of the lack of a triple crown.  In some ways it was almost like having Seattle Slew and Secretariat in the same year.  Not that I think those results would be the same, but you have the regally bred chestnut wonder horse owned by a historically significant stable racing against a dark bay working class horse that sold for less than $18k.  Not that we need a comparison, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer were great horses in their own right and their rivalry one of the greatest ever.  It is hard to choose.  I really wish both of these horses could have their names on a Triple Crown trophy and be on a list of 14 (wishing also that Smarty Jones had won) Triple Crown winners, but then those amazing races between them....

04 Mar 2014 1:35 PM
Mark Gingery

Easy Goer had the powerful Raise A Native sire line and he never finished out-of-the-money with a record of 14-5-1 in 20 career races! Shug's Orb was no Easy Goer!

04 Mar 2014 2:38 PM

Loved your post, Deltalady, and the perfect name for Sunday Silence as the Black Stallion. The TB registry is so reluctant to list a horse as black nowadays.  You made some great points.  

04 Mar 2014 2:39 PM
Old Timer

Nice article, Steve. I still remember being at Churchill in 1988 and Easy Goer looked like a stone cold lock in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile. However it was a rainy day and he hated the mud. Is It True stole that race with Easy Goer second best.

Two great horses, without a doubt.

04 Mar 2014 6:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Racingfan, I have a ton of behind the scenes stuff on Silver Charm. One of these days I'll write about the amazing way Baffert got him and that entire Triple Crown journey with Touch Gold, Captain Bodgit, and Free House. What a year that was.

04 Mar 2014 6:46 PM

Easy Goer was my favorite that year. I had a tendency for many years to pick my favorite out of the post parade. There was just something about Easy Goer that I liked. Read his bio and did not realize that he died so young. He did leave a legacy though that still impacts thoroughbreds today. Love the behind the scenes stories, Steve. I think we sometimes forget that the owners, the trainers and the jockeys are real everyday people. And there is always a story or two about the horses.

04 Mar 2014 8:43 PM

I remember all the hype and excitement regarding Easy Goer coming up to the '89 Kentucky Derby. I had to work that day and I assumed when I got home and checked, I would see that Easy Goer had won the race. I was very surprised to learn that Sunday Silence, a colt I had heard almost nothing about had won. I was screaming as loud as anyone watching these two colts duel in the Preakness and after this race I became a dedicated Sunday Silence fan. I was disappointed after his defeat in the Belmont Stakes, but elated when he won the Breeders Cup Classic. I was looking forward to watching him race and win as a 4 year old, but injury forced his retirement way too early. I was looking forward to seeing his offspring grow and race, but American breeders had blinders on when it came to this horse and he went to Japan. And we all know what a tremendous impact he made as a stallion there. Fortunately, his son Hat Trick is in this country and there may be others. I love Sunday Silence. He was the underdog that nobody wanted and he turned into a tremendous racehorse and an incredible sire. You can't mention Sunday Silence without someone mentioning Easy Goer. These two will be forever linked because of their rivalry in 1989. Thank you for this article, Mr. Haskin.

04 Mar 2014 10:32 PM

Interesting to see and hear what Pat Day said about it. Very insightful.

04 Mar 2014 11:46 PM


"The TB registry is so reluctant to list a horse as black nowadays."

Upon what do you base that statement? Perhaps there's been a change of which I am not aware.

To my knowledge, which goes back to the 1940's, a seemingly black horse is not truly considered black unless it's muzzle hairs are black also. If not it is registered as a dark bay.

04 Mar 2014 11:49 PM

There are a few budding rivalries going on this year, namely: Honor Code vs Cairo Prince, Wildcat Red vs General a Rod and Samraat vs Uncle Sigh. Interesting. Maybe you're on to something here Steve.

04 Mar 2014 11:53 PM

Oh, I forgot to mention Mucho Macho Man vs Will Take Charge. Thats gonna be one to savour. The "Macho Man" looks invinceable but Will Take Charge is coming red hot to recoup losses. There'll be no separating these two and the track record is under threat.

04 Mar 2014 11:57 PM

I love the way you tell a story, Steve.  I have always said the name "Sunday Silence" was my favorite thoroughbred race horse name ever.  

05 Mar 2014 12:31 AM

Looking forward to the Silver Charm story Steve!  Thanks for responding!

05 Mar 2014 6:51 AM


I based my comment mainly on one that was made in a story about No Nay Never.  His owners said there were "no bay hairs" on the animal but he is still listed as dkbay.  Also, back in the day, Zev and Black Gold won back to back derbies and were listed as black.  But according to the standard, they probably were not.

05 Mar 2014 9:30 AM

A correction is in order.  Zev was listed as brown but Black Gold was black.  War Emblem listed as dr brown..

05 Mar 2014 9:42 AM

Hard to believe it has been 25 years, but at that time I was a much too busy mom trying to start a business and not paying attention to horse racing at all.  Because I was out of touch on racing back then, I truly relish the stories you tell us with all the back ground materials from your treasured memories or your research - either way, the end product of your article is so wonderful and something to be savored.  Please don't think seriously about abandoning the historical stories - you are the main source for the knowledge of the past.  Sure there are statistics you can look up on equibase, or other places but there isn't much heart in statistics and you bring these stories to life with a great deal of heart.  For which I am always grateful.  Thank you!

05 Mar 2014 10:45 AM
Melissa P

We were lucky enough to be at the 1989 Derby (even though we endured the worst weather in the history of the event). We had also been to both Claiborne to visit Secretariat and to Stone Farm to look at stallions for potential matings for our mare. We saw Halo in his muzzle and Arthur Hancock was walking around welcoming visitors. I had been such an Alydar fan, that I'd previously settled on Easy Goer as my Derby horse. But when I saw Arthur mingling with everyone it somehow came to me that Sunday Silence would win. I was so convinced that I blurted something to that effect out. Arthur smiled at me, winked, and said he sure hoped so. I told him I was certain. Sure am happy Sunday didn't make a bigger fool of me than I already had!

05 Mar 2014 12:03 PM
Steve Haskin

Txhorsefan, thank you very much for those kind words. They are greatly appreciated. I enjoy doing the historical features for reactions such as yours, whether they are from people who recall those days and appreciate the memories or people like yourself who were not following racing and are able to envision what it was like.

05 Mar 2014 12:06 PM
White Plains Eric

Imagine having a 3YO season like this - winner of the swale (fastest 7F time at gulfstream that year), gotham (steve noted the time), Wood Memorial, second in KY Derby, 2nd in Preakness, winner of the Belmont (2nd fastest time in history), whitney, travers, woodward, jockey club gold cup and then 2nd in BC classic - and only being the 2nd best 3YO???  Thanks for the post, Steve!  

05 Mar 2014 12:47 PM
Pedigree Ann

I always believed that Easy Goer had to slow on turns of a one-mile track because he couldn't keep balanced with his long strides. Now I read he had bad ankles and that was the reason he was much better at Belmont than anywhere else. Not surprising - the big bulky types like Forego, Easy Goer, et. al., often have ankle trouble.

About Sunday Silence going to Japan..., His sire Halo, leading sire in 1983, had the reputation of siring ugly yearlings. Even back around 1990, yearling sales were more important to high-end Kentucky breeders than ability down the road.

And Sunday Silence's dam was a G2 SW bred by George Pope in California. Pope made an art-form of breeding champions from inexpensive stock, most of them including crosses of Pope's homebred stallion Hillary. In many cases, the horses he bred were the only ones of any lasting merit sired by the inexpensive outside stallions he used. Those uncommon names in the pedigree made the commercial Ky breeders queasy. If Hancock had not needed to sell or syndicate the horse in order to save his farm (the big change in tax laws in '87 was it? put a lot of farms in jeopardy), he probably would have stood the horse himself. But he did need to sell him and only the Japanese were buying.

05 Mar 2014 8:45 PM

Did I read correctly - that you, Steve, thought there was too little interest in your historical articles!  No Way!! You just keep on and I (we) won/t stop reading them. They are "Awe-Inspiring" and open the doors not only to great memories and great moments but to the great"Sport of Kings".  They are filled with accuracy of facts and anyone who does not know the game can learn and even hear the thunder of hooves and know its passion and understand yours...beautiful!


I have never missed a Belmont Stakes (physically at Belmont) and recall well this day - Sunday Silence tough and tempered and treacherous, Easy Goer persistent, prevalent, progressive and powerful ending in a perfect picture.

The industry needs a repeat of the past and its greatness - to be ignited by a flame that fires it up - Speed has become a major factor in breeding and as a result stamina lacks on grueling and tough routes ....there are many "outstanding" both newcomers and proven but "withstanding" is what is needed to be focused on and then..................we have a winner!

Thank you Steve - you are an inspiration to us all...makes us want to write!

Oh!  Deltalady - what a wonderful piece!  Thank you too!

05 Mar 2014 11:41 PM
Steve Haskin

BelmontBarb, thank you very much. I really appreciate your kind and extremely eloquent words.

06 Mar 2014 2:15 AM

Sunday Silence won me over with his brillance leading up to his Derby win. Then was even happier after he beat Easy Goer in the Preakness and the Breeders Cup. Just before the 1994 Derby, I had the chance to see Easy Goer at Claiborne. I had the chance to lightly pet him on his nose and quietly told him that Sunday Silence was better than him, but thanked him for being a great horse. Great memories that will last forever!

06 Mar 2014 3:12 AM

Thanks for mentioning Awe Inspiring Steve, Slew O'Gold had such a promising stud career and then it just fizzled out.

06 Mar 2014 6:17 AM
Cynthia Holt

Thank you for another great blast from the past, Steve.  Please (please!) keep the stories coming.  

I cannot remember a more angst-ridden Triple Crown campaign than the spring of 1989.  You resurrected memories of the bitter bi-coastal sniping which surrounded the events, which sometimes turned nasty.  Sunday Silence was an unbridled beauty with an almost wild way of working who looked as if he ran right out of the pages of our favorite childhood story books.  As an aristocratic son of the adored Alydar, the elegant Easy Goer gained instant entry to my heart.  I loved them both.  However, I regret to this day that fate denied Charlie Whittingham the Triple Crown title which he so richly deserved.  

06 Mar 2014 11:22 AM

Don´t get me wrong, I really like the “Dozens” and all the articles leading to a certain event (Breeder´s Cup, etc), but this stories of the past for me are the most fascinating of the Haskin´s columns by far.

07 Mar 2014 12:37 PM

Very good article & I enjoyed recalling this rivalry that involved not only the horses & their stables, but also the media, the NYRA, & of course the fans & the non-fans who were attracted to the rivalry. This was a grand time in horse racing history, and thanks for taking us back there.

08 Mar 2014 8:49 PM
Louisville Billyo

The weather on Kentucky Derby Day 1989 was frigid and spitting sleet. Pat Day had won the 5 previous races thus had a shot at the pick 6. Easy Goer received a passive and cowardly ride by Day.. never in contention to win.. His ride on Forty Niner in 1988 was also poorly done... even though I was a Risen Star fan.

12 Mar 2014 12:29 PM

Steve, wonderful story and thank you. Why not do a small addition on their summer/fall campaigns?

13 Mar 2014 4:04 AM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs