05/31/2012 1:54PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Sunday Silence, 1989


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)  


seattle More than 1 year ago
Easy Goer, record 3 year old mile of all time in 1:32:2, second fastest Belmont Stakes of all time in 2:26, ran among the fastest runnings of all time in the Travers,Whitney,Suburban,Champagne,Gotham,Belmont,etc and a historic campaign- Belmont,Whitney,Travers,Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup at 12f. What a horse, and SS was some horse also.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Easy Goer is such a tough horse to judge historically. Outside of his rivalry with Sunday Silence, he was just about unbeatable, except for the BC Juvenile and Met Mile. He won, and usually very easily, grade 1 races like the Cowdin, Champagne, Wood, Whitney, Travers, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Suburban and won the gr.2 Gotham in 32 and change by 13 lengths. And he did beat Sunday Silence by 8 in the 2nd fastest Belmont Stakes. No question that when looking at just their races outside the rivalry, Easy Goer was more accomplished than Sunday Silence. Without those other 3 races against Sunday Silence, Easy Goer might be ranked right up there with the likes of a Native Dancer. What makes Easy Goer fans argue, to this day, he was better than Sunday Silence and one of the greats off all time is that when one excludes the 4 races against Sunday Silence Easy Goer was arguably a top 15 all-time horse; the 4 races against Sunday Silence bumped Easy Goer down into the 30s on the Bloodhorse Top 100 rankings. Sunday Silence, on the other hand, would be no where near the top 100 without those 4 races. The 4 races are what made Sunday Silence a top 30 horse while they damaged Easy Goer's reputation. But, in the end, one cannot erase the memory of Easy Goer's 3 defeats to Sunday Silence. Those 3 races were three of the biggest races of Easy Goer's career, and he came up short. Sunday Silence was simply the better horse 3 out of 4 times. One can actually argue that in the 5 biggest races of Easy Goer's career(the 4 vs. Sunday Silence and the BC Juvy), Easy Goer failed 4 times. And if you are like me and believe that the Met Mile, because it was against Criminal Type and Housebuster, was Easy Goer's biggest race at age 4(over the Suburban), then Easy Goer's record is 1 for 6 in such races.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was going to be hard for any horse in history to win the Triple Crown that year. You get by Sunday Silence in the first two legs and then have Easy Goer at his home track at 12 furlongs. Good luck.