12/27/2012 4:17PM

Hovdey: Silentio speaks volumes on Sunday Silence's influence


Most of the headlines from Santa Anita’s opening day Wednesday were a variation on the Mandella & Son angle, lauding the intergenerational stakes double laid down by Richard and Gary in the Malibu on the main track and the Sir Beaufort on turf. Gary is the tall one. Richard is in the Hall of Fame. Both of them have a sense of humor that can be generously described as arid.

The victory of Jimmy Creed in the seven-furlong Malibu for the elder Mandella and owner B. Wayne Hughes was a thoroughly professional piece of work by a handy chestnut colt who would seem to have a bright future in doing anything from six to nine furlongs, depending on his trainer’s mood. Jimmy C. was going very fast at the end of the Malibu in chasing down Private Zone, who was not exactly stopping.

It should be noted that there was nothing original in Richard Mandella winning the Malibu. He’d done it four times before. If Jimmy Creed can live up to the level of Afternoon Deelites, Oraibi, Dixie Union, or Rock Hard Ten, he’ll do all right.

In winning the Sir Beaufort with Silentio, bred and owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Gary Mandella was doing his bit for family values as well. Silentio is a son of Silent Name, who in turn was a son of Sunday Silence, trained by the younger Mandella to win the 2006 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita and the 2007 Commonwealth Handicap at Keeneland.

“There are very few similarities,” Gary Mandella said, referring to Silentio and his sire. “This horse is a whole hand, hand and a half taller than Silent Name, and he was heading that way as a yearling, which is why we had to give him time to grow into himself.”

Silentio also needed a little work on his hocks, and time to recover from the suggestion of a possible tibia fracture. Now, on the brink of age 4, he’s an imposing sight to behold.

“He’s tall, leggy, and athletic, and he’s a little easier on himself in his races than his sire was,” Mandella said. “Silent Name had a real head of steam all the time. He wanted to be close and didn’t want to be taken hold of, where this horse is an easier horse to ride, which could make the difference in him being a little bit better horse than his father was.”

Silentio defeated the Giant’s Causeway colt Battle Force by a half-length at the end of the Sir Beaufort’s mile in 1:34.27 on a damp turf course otherwise untroubled by an early morning storm. The result eerily replicated their maiden race encounter at a mile over the Santa Anita grass on Oct. 1, 2011, when Battle Force lost by three-quarters of a length. At least he’s cutting into the difference.

As to the future, Mandella would seem to have plenty of options for Silentio in the target-rich environment for turf milers in North America these days. That would be the good news. The other news is that some of the best horses in North America just happen to be very good turf milers as displayed at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November by Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan, the resurgent Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and California’s best older miler, Obviously, who ran 1-2-3.

“Maybe I’ll get lucky,” Mandella said. “Maybe Graham Motion will take Animal Kingdom to Dubai, and he’ll be out of the division for a while. And maybe Charlie Lopresti will put Wise Dan on a different path this year and do some more dirt racing with him. I mean, his horse is so versatile, shame on Charlie if he’s just going to run him in the same races he ran in this year. That’s just not acceptable.”

Good luck to that. In the meantime, through his work with Silent Name and Silentio, Gary Mandella continues to blow on the glowing embers of the memory of Sunday Silence, the 1989 Horse of the Year when he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Hailed by racing fans but shunned by Kentucky breeders, Sunday Silence ended up spending his stallion career in Japan, where he revolutionized the breed, imbuing a gene pool full of European stayers with a fiery zest for speed over a distance of ground.

The figures will not be in for a long time, but given the ongoing success of the sons and daughters of Sunday Silence, it is a virtual certainty he will end up every bit the historical rival of Northern Dancer in terms of economic impact. Sunday Silence stood at Shadai Farms in northern Japan, where Silent Name was foaled in 2002 before beginning his racing career in France. Silent Name now stands at the Canadian branch of Adena Farms in Ontario.

Arthur Hancock absorbed the news of Silentio’s win in the Sir Beaufort with a familiar mixture of pride and regret. Hancock, who owns Stone Farm in Kentucky, bred Sunday Silence and raced him with partners Ernest Gaillard and trainer Charlie Whittingham, then sold him to leading Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida when no interest was being shown to keep him in America.

“When we got him back here and tried to syndicate him, I had three people who wanted shares and just two others who wanted contracts to breed to him,” Hancock recalled. “Word was getting around that he was a fluke and a freak, and like Citation he’d never make a sire. You know how this industry is – once a perception is created it takes a lot of breaking to change it.”

And once the first few crops of Sunday Silence started hitting the racetracks of Japan, no amount of American money could get him back.

“At least there’s a few young sires of promise by Sunday Silence here,” Hancock said, noting one named Hat Trick, who stands at Gainesway. “Still, it was sad we couldn’t keep him. He would have been a great stallion over here and had a lot of sons. I’ll never forget what Charlie Whittingham always said: ‘Never say anything about a horse till he’s been dead at least 10 years.’ ”

Sunday Silence died in 2002, so go ahead.