08/19/2002 12:00AM

Sunday Silence dies


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sunday Silence, the 1989 Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year, died in Japan at the Yoshida family's Shadai Stallion Station on August 19. The 16-year-old Halo horse, Japan's most revered stallion and the nation's leading sire for eight years, had suffered from a bacterial infection in his right front leg that ultimately led to founder.

An official at the Shadai Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido confirmed Sunday Silence's death, saying that the horse died of heart failure at about 11 a.m. on Monday morning local time. The official, who declined to be identified, said that the horse died on his own and was not euthanized. He would not confirm whether a planned insurance-related veterinary exam took place Monday before the horse's death.

"He could not stand, and then he passed away due to heart failure," the farm official said.

The official said that Katsumi Yoshida, brother of farm principal Teruya Yoshida, and farm veterinarians were with the horse when he died. Teruya Yoshida is in Deauville, France, attending the Thoroughbred race meeting and sales.

Sunday Silence underwent three surgeries since May to try to clear the bacterial infection in a right front tendon. The most recent of those surgeries took place on July 18. The horse developed founder, a painful and potentially life-threatening hoof disease that is a common risk after leg surgeries, in his left front leg after shifting his weight away from the injured right foreleg. In the last week, he also had developed soreness in his hindquarters as he attempted to keep his weight off his painful front legs.

Trained by Charlie Whittingham, Sunday Silence won the 1989 Derby, Preakness, and Breeders' Cup Classic, Super Derby, and Santa Anita Derby, all Grade 1, during his championship season. Campaigned by a partnership that included Whittingham and Stone Farm owners Arthur and Staci Hancock III, Sunday Silence amassed a lifetime record of 14-9-5-0 and earnings of $4,968,554.

Shadai founder Zenya Yoshida purchased Sunday Silence for $10 million in 1990 and brought the stallion to Hokkaido, where he became Japan's most influential sire.

Sunday Silence was by Halo out of the Understanding mare Wishing Well. He was bred in Kentucky by Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds Ltd.

Shadai had not established burial plans as of early Monday morning.