04/09/2008 6:36PM

Sunday Silence, Derby talk


"It was the type of decision the patient Whittingham has frequently made throughout his brilliant career and once again his conservative policy was to pay rich dividends.  Sunday Silence continued to go to the track after recovering from his cough but did very little over the next few months...except grow.  From the scrawny colt, light through the girth, waist and quarters, he began to put on weight and furnish out, his black coat gleaming with good health.
He was a different horse in appearance and much more mature when he made his 3-year-old debut at Santa Anita on March 2.  The track was sloppy but Whittingham never hesitated a moment in approving the start on an off track.  With good reason.  Sunday Silence had two good works in sloppy going on the training track as he was getting ready.  And in one of his final works prior to the seasonal debut, this time on the main track, he worked six furlongs in 1:11 on a strip deep in slop and did it around the dogs for a spectacular affirmation of his affinity for off going.
He ran to that work.  Favored at 9-10 in a field of seven, Sunday Silence led all the way under Pat Valenzuela, stepped the six and a half furlongs in a lively 1:15 2/5, and won off by four and a half lengths.
His second start, in the mile and a sixteenth San Felipe on March 19, was even more affirmative.  Rarely a good gate horse, he stumbled at the start and was behind the field of five in the run to the first turn.  A competitive individual, he rushed to catch up and was soon second, at a considerable cost in effort.  He kept up with the furious pace - the half-mile in :45 1/5 - and then shook clear in upper stretch.  Now he faced still another challenge from the fast-closing Flying Continental but held on gamely and won by a length and three-quarters."

Here's a partial video of the 1989 San Felipe from youtube:


"It was a very revealing performance to Whittingham, who has a high regard for horses who can overcome trouble.  Sunday Silence overcame not one but several setbacks in the San Felipe and still won.  Charlie knew he had a racehorse on his hands and polished the jewel to shine in the Santa Anita Derby on April 8.  It was a tour de force, a show of strength.  The Halo colt, jostled at the start, recovered quickly to get a position in the field of six.  He lurked off the pace to the far turn, picked up the tempo and took command turning into the stretch.  From that point it was no contest.  Sunday Silence drew out to score by 11 lengths with Flying Continental second and Music Merci third, the nine panels in a smart 1:47 3/5..."

Here's the video of the 1989 Santa Anita Derby from youtube:


"...Easy Goer, whose dam was the grand stakes winner Relaxing, arrived in Louisville hailed as the best Derby prospect in years.  In the West, Whittingham kept his own counsel and his cool.  He went easy with Sunday Silence, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 on April 19 and then flew to Kentucky the next day.  On April 24, he went seven furlongs in an easy 1:28 and then had his major Derby work on April 29 when he drilled a mile in 1:39 3/5.  Significantly, it was on a sloppy track..."

"...In a poll of newspaper handicappers and turf writers, Easy Goer was an almost unanimous selection and he and his entrymate, Ogden Mills Phipps' Awe Inspiring (by Slew o' Gold), the Flamingo and Everglades winner, were 4-5 favorites in the ultimate poll, the betting on the Kentucky Derby.  Sunday Silence was the 3-1 second choice. 
Derby Day, 1989, dawned showery and cold - coldest Derby Day on record.  By mid-afternoon the temperatures had dipped to 43, conjuring memories of the overcast, nippy afternoon of May 4, 1957, when Iron Liege leapt from obscurity to beat Gallant Man, Round Table and Bold Ruler in perhaps the greatest Derby ever run.  The heavy rains on Friday and drizzle of Saturday turned the Churchill Downs strip to congealing mud.  Some horses were able to handle it; others floundered.
Sunday Silence, who loved off tracks of every kind, was away smartly under Pat Valenzuela in a field of 15.  Easy Goer, whose dam Relaxing hated mud, inherited her distaste.  He indicated that in the fall of 1988 when he finished second to Is It True in the mud of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs as the 3-10 favorite...
...To compound his woes, Easy Goer, breaking from Post 13, was bothered out of the gate by Northern Wolf, who angled in from Post 15.  Pat Day wrapped up to get the best position possible under the circumstances and Easy Goer was still well outside going into the first turn." 

"Houston, the Seattle Slew colt who won the Derby Trial, set the pace in the 115th Run for the Roses, with Clever Trevor, the Remington Derby winner, second and Northern Wolf, winner of the Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico, a close third.  Sunday Silence, in grey-and-gold colors, stalked this threesome, Easy Goer now a couple of lengths behind as the field thundered down the backstretch. 
Though he'd had a rougher trip, Easy Goer was in good position here and should have been closer to Sunday Silence at the end.  The fact is he did remarkably well to be second on a track he couldn't handle, while Sunday Silence, reveling in the muck, flew off like an exultant eagle.  Leaving the backstretch, the black colt moved swiftly to Houston and Northern Wolf as Clevor Trevor began to retire. 
Sunday Silence was in front at the three-sixteenths pole and then, as Awe Inspiring and Dansil challenged, the leader began to weave.  Some thought he'd tired and was coming apart but he continued on strongly, despite his circuitous gyrations, and won by a convincing two and a half lengths to the acclaim of the 122,653 on hand who wagered almost $14,000,000.  Later Valenzuela commented, and Whittingham concurred, that Sunday Silence was reacting to the unaccustomed roar of the infield crowd.  The winner was inside and outside through the final furlong as if on a conga line, and the fact he won with such authority is a true measure of his superiority."

Here's the video of the 1989 Kentucky Derby from youtube:


"The best horse won that afternoon.  On a fast track, Easy Goer would have run a much better race and the finish surely would have been memorable, as it was in Baltimore two weeks later.  But Sunday Silence was so fresh and full of himself and trained so splendidly for the Derby that he was going to beat just about any man's horse under any conditions.  His keen edge was a tribute to his trainer, who has no peer - none - among today's horsemen at bringing a horse to a race.  At 76, the Bald Eagle still flies highest.
The 114th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20, showed the true value of Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in a stark light.  In one of the greatest races in the history of the Triple Crown classics, Sunday Silence prevailed by a nose to the reverberating roar of a record crowd of 90,145 who wagered a record $6,281,536.
But not before the winner's connections had a good scare. 
Sunday Silence arrived at Pimlico in midweek, approximately 10 days before the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, and the black colt settled in quietly and with the professionalism he displayed throughout the campaign.  On Saturday morning, a week prior to the Preakness, he had a useful gallop and appeared to come out of it in good order.  But that afternoon, he was dead lame.  Whittingham suspected a wing fracture of the coffin bone of the right forefoot. 
The trainer phoned his partners, Hancock and Dr. Gaillard, and early Sunday morning placed another call to a friend and associate of many years, the well-known Kentucky veterinarian, Dr. Alex Harthill.  Contacted at 5 a.m. in Louisville, Dr. Harthill was at Whittingham's barn in Baltimore before 10 a.m.  He diagnosed the injury as a bruise, a common injury often caused by stepping on a stone.  It wasn't a serious problem but it had happened at a serious time."

"Fortunately, the bruise wasn't deep; it was just under the sole.  A bar shoe was in order and Harthill had Sunday Silence step on a clean sheet of white paper.  He outlined the colt's right forefoot with a pencil, then faced the drawing to the equine foot specialist, Dr. Ric Redden of Lexington, Ky.  Blacksmith Joe Carroll was at Dr. Redden's clinic when the faxed drawing arrived and the two men crafted several bar shoes to fit the occasion. 
Dr. Redden and Carroll flew to Baltimore in a rented jet with the bar shoes and a portable X-ray machine.  The plates, developed at a nearby hospital, proved there was no fracture involved.  Dr. Harthill trimmed the sold of the injured foot to drain the coagulated blood and thus relieve the pressure and bar shoes were put on both front feet for balance.  They were made of aluminum, rather than the traditional steel, because Harthill felt Sunday Silence would be able to race in the Preakness and did not want to subject the colt to a second round of shoeing before an important race. 
The foot was poulticed and soaked in epsom salts each day to keep the circulation going and then painted with turpentine and iodine to seal the injury.  Sunday Silence remained in his stall Sunday but walked around the shedrow Monday morning and afternoon.  He galloped on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings over sloppy tracks, and then breezed on Thursday."

"A decision was made Friday morning to remove the bars from his shoes, because of his remarkably rapid recovery.  Blacksmith Carroll, who had flown to Kentucky, returned to Baltimore later on Friday to do the job, and after Sunday Silence had some light exercise Saturday morning, Whittingham was able to say he looked forward to the Preakness that afternoon with confidence.  Once again Sunday Silence demonstrated an unusual ability to overcome problems, a talent that Whittingham attributes to only the best horses.
On a warm, sunny May afternoon, a field of eight went to the post for the Preakness and the huge crowd which occupied every available inch of space at Old Hilltop anticipated a banner renewal.  The Derby had given easterners a new respect for Sunday Silence but the majority still felt that Easy Goer, on a fast track, was the one to beat.  He was sent off at 3-5 with Sunday Silence a strong second choice at 2-1.
Northern Wolf, who had been one of the leaders in the Kentucky Derby was on the lead at the start of the Preakness, dueling with the rapid Houston through a quarter in :23 2/5.  Houston then accelerated and was more than two lengths in front after a half a mile in :46 2/5.  Despite being bumped at the start by Northern Wolf, positioned just outside of him in the gate, Sunday Silence overcame once again and was in excellent position down the backstretch, laying third and looking good.
At this point Pat Day went to work.  Stung by criticism that he delayed his challenge with Easy Goer too long in Louisville, Day seized the initiative midway down the backstretch, sending Easy Goer rushing past Sunday Silence to the lead."

"It looked like a masterly stroke.  Easy Goer led into the far turn and around to the quarter-pole, but when Day looked up at this point, he must have been surprised to see Sunday Silence right alongside.  The instant Easy Goer passed Sunday Silence down the backstretch, Valenzuela immediately called on his colt and Sunday Silence responded with a dramatic thrust forward.  It was a remarkable riposte, both for its spontaneity and its power, and spoke volumes for the athletic ability of the black colt who could shift gears so quickly.
Valenzuela was part of it.  His reaction time was spectacular, too, and as he charged up behind Easy Goer, approaching the final turn, he made the decision that might well have been the final difference of a nose.  He went outside Easy Goer, when he might just as easily have gone inside.  Similarly Day could have swung wide, forcing Valenzuela to come inside with Sunday Silence.  In most duels through the stretch, the outside horse has the best of it. 
As the two fine colts battled furiously the length of the stretch, drawing a crescendo of full-throated roars from the record crowd, it seemed for an instant as if the red cap, on the inside, had a marginal edge.  But in the final yards it was the gold cap on the outside that prevailed, as the black colt made a determined lunge that produced victory by width of an ant.  Stirred by one of the most thrilling races any of them had ever seen, the crowd howled its appreciation for victor and vanquished as they awaited the decision of the placing judges.  There was another roar of intensity when Sunday Silence's number 8 was posted as the winner with Easy Goer's number 2 as the second horse.  Rock Point, five lengths back in third place, was never noticed."

Here's the video of the 1989 Preakness from youtube:


"Sunday Silence came out of the Preakness in excellent order, the foot problem healed, and he was shipped to New York to prepare for the Belmont Stakes and a sweep of the Triple Crown...
Both colts trained well during the three-week interval between the Preakness and the Belmont and both trainers complimented each other in the media and had nothing but kind words to say about the other's horse.  It was a very civil campaign for the classics and the only newsworthy incident took place during Belmont week, in which Whittingham came under siege from media sensing the first Triple Crown since 1978.
Hundreds of television cameras recorded every move of the trainer and his horse, particularly during training hours, and when Charlie took Sunday Silence to the track each morning, about 6 a.m., a pied piper's line of journalists and photographers followed in his wake like seagulls pursuing a fishing boat.  On the morning prior to the Belmont, Whittingham escorted the black colt through Belmont's wooded paddock and into the tunnel under the stands that leads to the track.  Photographers skittered in front and behind, anxious for that special shot of a colt whose name would soon be known around the world."

"As Sunday Silence emerged from the tunnel and approached within a few feet of the track, lights from a television camera lit up the early morning murk and Sunday Silence shied, rearing into the air.  Whittingham, on the end of the shank, was also startled but held on to the leather strap tightly.  As Sunday Silence's two front feet went into the air, the left hoof grazed Whittingham's bald skull, knocking his cap askew.  Pam Mabes, the exercise rider on Sunday Silence, turned sharply in the saddle as the black colt settled on all fours and her face registered shock. 
Whittingham signaled that he was all right and instructed Mabes to go on with her regular routine of galloping.  The tough ex-Marine dismissed suggestions that he retired to the first aid room but later admitted that the blow to the side of the skull caused some pain both to the head and jaw.  Whittingham said he was fortunate the hoof only grazed his skull on the way up.  If the hoof had landed a solid blow on the way down, Charlie's skull could easily have been crushed."

"The 121st running of the Belmont Stakes drew a field of 10 on June 10 and in retrospect it is easy to see that five had no business in the race.  One who did, though dismissed at 29-1 by the 64,959 on hand in pleasant weather (they wagered $8,687,018) was the American-bred and French-raced Le Voyageur (by Seattle Slew out of Davona Dale).  Shipped to New York by trainer Patrick Louis Biancone, Le Voyageur set the pace in the Belmont and held the lead for 10 furlongs, which he accomplished in a respectable 2:00 4/5.
At this point Easy Goer forged to the front and quickly opened up on his pursuers, headed by Sunday Silence.  Easy Goer kept widening his margin, led by more than four lengths at the furlong pole, and drew away to register by eight lengths, his mile and a half in a lively 2:26.  Sunday Silence, never really a threat at any time, had a length for the place on Le Voyageur, who was 12 lengths to the good of Awe Inspiring."

Here is the video of the 1989 Belmont Stakes from youtube


"Why the sharp difference in form between the first two legs of the Triple Crown and the third leg?  Perhaps it was the distance.  Easy Goer was as effective in the Jockey Club Gold Cup that fall going a mile and a half, as he was in the Belmont Stakes, while even Charlie Whittingham questioned his colt's ability to stay the trip."

"Whittingham wasn't despondent over the loss, however.  He went out to dinner with his family that Saturday evening, then joined Easy Goer's trainer, Shug McGaughey, for a congratulatory drink at the Garden City Hotel and retired at a later than usual hour,  some of his sensory skills impaired.  Questioned closely by hundreds of reporters Sunday morning, he replied quaintly to the comment that now the pressure was off.
"Pressure?" Whittingham said.  "The Triple Crown wasn't pressure.  Pressure was when 12 of us were living in High Pockets Kelly's hotel room near San Francisco 50 years ago and none of us had enough money to contribute towards the rent.  That was pressure."
Sunday Silence returned to California following the Belmont Stakes and freshened at Hollywood Park.  Whittingham originally considered giving the black colt the entire summer but the $400,000 Swaps Stakes on July 28 appeared to come up "light."  It was a pot of tempting proportions and Sunday Silence gave the impression of physical well-being at the time.  He trained smartly, as usual, and Whittingham could see no logical reason to pass the race.
Favored at 1-5 in a field of five, Sunday Silence, in front from the outset, appeared to have the Swaps safely locked up when he opened a four-length lead near the eighth pole.  But the 5-1 Prized, who had stalked him around the turn and into the stretch, was along to wear him down and win by three-quarters of a length in a major upset..."

Here is the video of the 1989 Swaps Stakes from youtube:


"...While his physical appearance in the wake of the Belmont Stakes may have left little to be desired, it is reasonable to suspect he was still a tired horse mentally.  He certainly didn't have the same responses he did in the subsequent Super Derby.  When he saw tire marks on the track in the stretch run of the Swaps, Sunday Silence seemed to hesitate and then bore out to the wire.  The sense of purpose he displayed in his best races was missing."
"Two full months passed before his next start, the $1,000,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on September 24.  Full of beans, he trained forwardly for Whittingham, both in California and in Bossier City and the only real concern the trainer had before the race involved the rider.
Pat Valenzuela had ridden Sunday Silence regularly but was having some problems involving substance abuse.  He stopped riding on a daily basis and Whittingham invited Chris McCarron to have the mount.  Whittingham made it clear the change was permanent; that as much as he admired Valenzuela as a rider, Pat had lost the mount through his own actions."

"In a field of eight, Sunday Silence was electrifying as he won the Super Derby by six lengths.  Coming off the pace under McCarron, the black colt exploded at the quarter pole and ran past his opponents as if they were tied to a tree.  It was a devastating move and drew much critical acclaim from Patrick Louis Biancone, the outstanding European horseman who was on hand for the Super Derby.
"That is a very good horse," Biancone commented. "I don't care who he beat in the Super Derby.  He made a very big move to the lead and I believe he will be very tough to beat in the Breeders' Cup."
Big Early finished second in the Super Derby and Awe Inspiring was third.  The time of the race was a dull 2:03 1/5 for the mile and a quarter, but everyone who saw him finish was impressed with Sunday Silence..."

Here is the video of the 1989 Super Derby from youtube:


"...That set the stage for the $3,000,000 Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park on November 4.  Easy Goer, coming off five consecutive Grade 1 victories, was the 1-2 favorite with the predominantly Eastern crowd of 51,342, while Sunday Silence was second choice in a field of eight at 2-1.  Both colts trained up to the Breeders' Cup beautifully and all of racing, including the many European horsemen on hand, sat back in anticipation of a great race.
They weren't disappointed.  Slew City Slew, winner of more than $1,000,000, set the pace, the quarter in 22 2/5, the half-mile in :46 1/5, the six furlongs in 1:10 2/5.  Blushing John, another winner of more than $1,000,000, was second, and Sunday Silence moved into third place ahead of Present Value, still another winner of more than $1,000,000 in this top-class field.  Mi Selecto and Easy Goer followed in that order.
With the first mile in 1:35, Blushing John was in command and now Sunday Silence was moving fastest of all.  He was second at the quarter pole and almost abreast of Blushing John at the eighth pole.  Easy Goer was in high gear now, raced wide into the stretch, and came on boldly in pursuit of the two leaders. 
Sunday Silence went to the lead near the sixteenth pole, and now the large crowd roared with excitement as Easy Goer, in full stride cut into the margin between himself and the leader.  Easy Goer passed Blushing John in a crescendo of noise and hurled himself at Sunday Silence.  But the black horse was determined to win and prevailed by a neck in one of the most memorable finished in recent years, his mile and a quarter in a zippy 2:00 1/5 on a newly surfaced track that was far from glib."

Here is the video of the 1989 Breeders' Cup Classic from youtube:


Sunday Silence returned to the races as a four-year-old, reunited with Pat Valenzuela, and won the Grade 1 Californian at nine furlongs on June 3.  In his final career start, he finished second by a head to Criminal Type in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup at ten furlongs on June 24. 
Sunday Silence was sold to Japanese breeders following his racing career, and his presence overseas changed the breed in Japan from almost the moment he stepped off the plane.  He became one of the greatest sires of all-time, and is the broodmare sire of 2007 Kentucky Derby contender Tale of Ekati.  Here is Sunday Silence's page on the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame website:


As a teenager growing up in New York, I was infatuated with Easy Goer and was constantly frustrated by Sunday Silence's victories over the chestnut.  I defended the son of Alydar most vociferously to anyone that would listen.  For years I felt that Easy Goer was the better horse, that the mud beat him in the Derby, and that Pat Day's poor judgment blew the Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic. 

I was wrong.

Sunday Silence was the better horse. 

Professional, tactical, gutsy,  Sunday Silence had it all.  It's quite possible he was the best horse I've ever seen.

Wouldn't the Sunday Silence story make a fantastic movie?  You have all of the drama surrounding the Halo colt before he even made it to the track.  Add in the legendary trainer and the charismatic opponent, and you have a box office winner, in my opinion.


I plan to be back at the track (Arlington Park) for both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, so I better find a way to get more comfortable wagering there. Does anybody have any tips on how to handle actually being at the track (i.e., making all your bets early rather than waiting for each race; the best way to analyze a race when you watch it live from the track, etc.)? One thing I found out for certain is that you have to do all your homework before you get to the track, because there will be little opportunity to handicap a race in-depth once you actually get there.
Ed Ackerley

I don't want to dissuade you from making all of your wagers early, but I will attempt to persuade you to watch the horses in the paddock and post parade before you make any big bets. Some horses will be bothered by the huge crowds expected for the Oaks and Derby, and you don't want to be stuck with a horse that becomes agitated pre-race.  I think you've already won half the battle by realizing that you need to be prepared before you come to the track.  Handicapping on the fly is never recommended as there are already so many distractions at the track. 

Anyone have some tips for Ed?


Hi Dan
I don't know, but this years 3 year crop hasn't given me derby fever yet. It has been only one horse who stands out to me and thats Harlem Rocker whats your thoughts.

We did talk about Harlem Rocker in a previous blog entry.  While that Pletcher colt has been exciting, he doesn't have the earnings for the Derby right now.  I have Derby Fever because I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen.  Is Pyro a superhorse?  Is Big Brown?  Can War Pass rebound?  Will Colonel John be as effective on dirt as he's been on synthetic tracks?  Is there a sleeper looking to pounce at a price when we least suspect it?  What will the pace be like?  Can Eight Belles beat the boys?  Wow, there are just so many stories swirling around the Twin Spires right now.  I certainly have the fever.  If you really love Harlem Rocker, keep him on your radar until he takes on the big boys.  He's talented, and he'll probably be a price.


I'm curious to hear your thoughts on El Gato Malo after the SA Derby.  I was a big fan of this horse coming, and thought he made an absolutely electrifying middle move (reminiscent of his early, brilliant wins), only to handle the turn poorly and be completely flat in the stretch.  Is he simply a miler being asked to do too much or is there potential value here after an educational move in a big field?
Aaron in NY

There are two schools of thought regarding El Gato Malo.  One is that his big win in the San Rafael was a pace-aided fluke, and that his other races are slow.  The other is that he is a talented, but green performer that is still learning the game.  He's done some nice things in his short career, and the Derby is so wide open that I would hesitate to toss anyone off one race.  If you like him, you may want to stick with him for a few bucks in the Derby.  I'm not sure I'm still on the bandwagon, but I'm not on anyone's bandwagon right now.

I am a huge Bill Mott fan and play his horses with great enthusiasm.  I would be inclined to downgrade any closer who could not pass War Pass on Saturday in a 9 panel race in which he ran the opening half in just over 46 seconds.  Would you guys either confirm that I should downgrade CV, or can you give me a reason not too?  Thanks.

You make a good point about Court Vision being unable to go by War Pass during the pedestrian final fractions of the Wood, but Court Vision may be rounding into his best form with two nine furlong preps under his belt, and a positive pace scenario looming in the Derby.  I don't think we've seen his best race and, as with El Gato Malo, it's probably too early to start throwing anyone out just yet.


Any thoughts on the "Col. John would be beat by the NY horses" argument? Dan? Anyone?

You guys know I'm a Colonel John fan, but all of the top contenders have some question marks attached to their names.  I didn't like how Colonel John drifted during the final eighth of the Santa Anita Derby.  I didn't like the slow final time of the Wood.  Pyro's two wins have been slow.  Big Brown is giving up experience.  The list goes on and on.  I wouldn't say that Colonel John is inferior to anyone right now.  Nor would I say that he is vastly superior.  That's what makes this Derby picture so fascinating.  For me, it's a confusing puzzle right now that I'm determined to solve.


Maybe they can bring Evening Attire to Finger Lakes and raise the purse of the Wadsworth Memorial again.  It worked for Funny Cide eh?

I think it's a great idea for a nice $100,000 stakes race at Finger Lakes on the Fourth of July.  Evening Attire could freshen up for the race, and there would be plenty of good local horses looking for a nice scalp to win.  It would make a nice story and, if promoted correctly, would guarantee a nice crowd to the track that day. 


Dan, any idea when Ready's Image is comming back, i've been seeing some works?

He worked at Keeneland on October 6, and we have him on our Disabled List located on the right side of the Blog (I know, I know, I have to update starting tonight!).  It looks like he'll be back fairly soon.  I would go straight to the horse's mouth.  The folks at


are extremely helpful, and they may be able to give you an timetable for his return to the races.


Would you agree a major stage of a K.Derby colt's development is it's first two turn victory?PS- Thanks for the blog and all the info herein. Posted by: Mathieu on April 08, 2008 at 07:46 PM 'm more than reasonably confident the answer would be yes so I'll save some time & space and get on with my point. OfDan's most recent Derby Top Ten how many contenders captured their first two turn win before Big Brown?
The question dogging BB has been lack of experience. If considered from the "Who was the first entrant for KD consideration from a two turn event?" it's BB.
Furthermore, of the last 15 Derby winners who broke their two turn maiden before BB's Sept 3rd date?
That means he passed (by 11 lengths) this test before Silver Charm, Barbaro, Thunder Gulch, Grindstone, Street Sense, War Emblem, and Monarchos. And he also did it w/o the benefit of a sprint prep.
Does this alleviate the experience stigma for any BB fence sitters?

Mathieu makes some great points in his excellent post.  I absolutely agree that the first two-turn victory is huge for a budding Derby prospect, and Big Brown had no problems with two turns on grass last year at the Spa.  I don't think it's the lack of two-turn experience that has folks worrying about Big Brown.  What is bothering them is that he only has three lifetime starts coming into the Derby coupled with some chronic foot problems and a questionable pace scenario.   Is he a sensational talent?  Absolutely.  Are there some question marks that need to be addressed?  I think there still are some.


Regarding Beyers over 100 on synthetics, I believe Hard Spun got a 103 or a 104 for his Lane's End last year.

You're right about the triple-digit fig.  Hard Spun received a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his win on polytrack.


Would anyone consider running Eight Belles in the Ky Derby, as her stablemate Proud Spell will be one of the top 3 choices in the Ky Oaks?
Tony Kelso

I'd certainly mull it over for a couple of weeks.  She's dominated her division over the last few months, seems physically capable of handling a demanding Derby race, and the males haven't exactly broken free of the pack just yet.  If Proud Spell won the Ashland, I'd be leaning towards the Derby for Eight Belles, but since she got beat, Mr. Jones may go the conservative route, and put his big filly in the Oaks...where she'll take a lot of beating.


Wow, hard to believe that Thunder Gulch got a 101 for a so-so fourth in the Blue Grass! What was the winner's #?

Wild Syn rode the notorious speed-favoring Keeneland dirt surface to a 109 Beyer victory.  He finished 19th and last in the Derby, and never cracked the exacta for the rest of his career.


Since I've gone this far I'll finish off a small pick 4.In the 7th I like ELITE SQUADRON to duel with  INDIAN CHANT and

Well done!  Carnacks Choice paid $26.60 to win in the seventh at Keeneland.


That said; This may be a very simplistic question, but in light of the uncertainty with 3-year-old forms this year, would you lean towards a horse that appears to be at the "top" of the class (Col. John, Big Brown) OR a horse that looks to have room to improve off a sub-par effort (Dennis of Cork, Court Vision)? I have sneaking suspicion that we may not have seen the Derby winner in any of the prep-race winners, ala Giacomo or Street Sense (granted, he was only beaten a nose in the BG but still...)
Love the Blog and read it every day. All the best to you.
Michael Marchin

I'm looking for a horse that has plenty of room to improve.  Remember that all the races we've seen thus far were merely preps.  The horse that peaks on the first Saturday in May gets to wear the Roses.  Now that doesn't mean that a horse at the top of the list can't still improve.  Pyro ran faster at two than he has at three, and that may hint at improvement.  Colonel John, Court Vision, and several others have only had two races.  They have some scope.  Denis of Cork's last race was too bad to be true, right? 
I'm looking at horses with upside.  The problem is...they all seem to have room for at least some improvement.


As I said at the time, I was very suspicious of what was going on with Coast Guard - he scratched (from the Sham I think) and then showed up at BM. His trainer said he was not working well at all at SA but they could find nothing wrong with him. So I suspect it had more to do with the horse than the surface.
Steve T

It was reported that Coast Guard had a minor ankle problem prior to the race at Bay Meadows.


Detective Afi - “Well, there's one ... the only other one I can find with only 3 races before the Derby is Showing Up.  He didn't win either, but he finished ahead of the favorite (SNS).  My data only goes back 5 years ... there may be others, but right now I found only 2 horses have even tried that feat.  Maybe it is a factor ... maybe it's not.  I'll say 'not a factor' until many more horses try it and fail.”

Afi, that was a fun post.  Thanks.  Here are the horses that raced in the Derby off only three lifetime starts (1900-2006)

2007 - Curlin - third
2006 - Showing Up - sixth
1999 - Desert Hero - 13th, Valhol (buzz) - 15th
1992 - Thyer - 13th
1990 - Pendleton Riddge - 13th
1986 - Vernon Castle - 15th
1982 - Wavering Monarch - 12th
1946 - Rippey - 10th
1942 - Fairy Manah - 13th
1915 - Regret - first


Well, my fingers are just about ready to fall off so I'm gonna call it a night.

Talk to you soon.