05/31/2012 1:54PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Sunday Silence, 1989

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Sunday Silence, smarting from a bruised foot, missed three days of training between his win in the 1989 Kentucky Derby and his thriller over Easy Goer in the Preakness. Following the Preakness, the black colt trained without interruption at Belmont Park, where he made headlines inflicting an accidental head wound upon his trainer one morning with a rearing front hoof. Blood trickling from his bald dome, Charlie Whittingham reacted in perfect character:

“I just hope he didn’t hurt himself on my hard head.”

Sunday Silence couldn’t put a dent in Easy Goer, though. Nitpickers might cite Pat Valenzuela for moving a tad too soon around the unfamiliar far turn, trying to get the same jump on Easy Goer that worked so well in the Derby. But Easy Goer was comfortable on his long fuse and ran by Sunday Silence with ease, winning by eight. Sunday Silence saved second and with it took home the million-dollar performance bonus, but nothing either Valenzuela or his colt could have done at any point in the mile and one-half would have made a difference. Whittingham was philosophical.

“I’m trying to feel bad,” Charlie said. “But they handed me this check for a million dollars, the horse is fine, and I plan on waking up tomorrow.”

Triple Crown near-misses

Spectacular Bid (1979) Pleasant Colony (1981) Alysheba (1987) Sunday Silence (1989)
Silver Charm (1997) Real Quiet (1998) Charismatic (1999) War Emblem (2002)
Funny Cide (2003) Smarty Jones (2004) Big Brown (2008)