A Classic in every sense of the word
Not since Affirmed and Alydar had fought out their season-long grudge
match had two three-year-old colts dominated the racing year as had
Sunday Silence and Easy Goer through 1989.
Between them they had won all three legs of the Triple Crown, with
Sunday Silence capturing the Kentucky Derby (see
video) by two and
a half lengths and the Preakness by a nose, both times from his great
When it came to the Belmont, however, Easy Goer turned the tables
to the tune of eight lengths, rolling right over any Triple Crown
aspirations Sunday Silence may have laid claim to.
Then the two went their separate ways, with Easy Goer rattling up
four consecutive wins in Grade One company - the Travers Stakes, the
Whitney Handicap, the Woodward Stakes and a four-length dismissal
of Cryptoclearance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Sunday Silence had
a quieter time, finishing runner-up in the Swaps Stakes before routing
his rivals in the Super Derby.
The scene was set for the showdown - the Breeders' Cup Classic at
Gulfstream Park in Florida, Sunday Silence versus Easy Goer, with
Horse of the Year honours awaiting the victor. This was what the Classic
had been designed for, the great match between the best horses of
Easy Goer had run 16 times, Sunday Silence had run 11 times. Neither
horse had ever finished out of the first two. There were six others
on the track, but everyone knew the race didn't concern them.
Cryptoclearance was back for another go at Easy Goer, while Western
Playboy came fresh from a 17-length parade victory in the Pennsylvania
Derby. The ex-French Blushing John, Present Value, Mi Selecto and
Slew City Slew rounded out the field. The betting market was led by
Easy Goer at 1-2, with Sunday Silence at 2-1 and the rest starting
with Western Playboy at 17-1. They didn't matter. This was a duel.
Slew City Slew went off in front, with Sunday Silence following close
under Chris McCarron and Pat Day keeping Easy Goer to the rear. These
were questionable tactics, as Easy Goer had proved he stayed 12 furlongs
very well in the Belmont, and here was Day riding him for a sprint
finish over ten furlongs.
And when McCarron moved Sunday Silence closer to the pace to deliver
a challenge around the far turn, Day missed a beat and lost crucial
lengths at a crucial stage. He let Sunday Silence have first run,
and when the Derby winner took the lead at the top of the stretch
Easy Goer had four lengths to find.
But now, on an even keel and with the lights on the winning line
giving him a target, he was finding it. Out of the Florida night came
Sunday Silence and McCarron with a clear advantage, but Easy Goer
was gaining hand over fist and Day was doing all he knew to narrow
the gap. In the final furlong Easy Goer was closing with every stride,
but Sunday Silence had the call and he wasn't in the mood to surrender.
He summoned extra reserves to hang on by a neck.
Blushing John, whose performance was practically ignored in the heat
of the moment, was only a length back in third and ran the race of
his life in the process.
The victory gave Sunday Silence Horse of the Year honours and took
his yearly prize-money earnings to $4,578,454. When it mattered, in
the Derby and the Classic, Sunday Silence had kept his great rival
in the shadows.
But it takes two horses to make a race, and Easy Goer was much more
than the support to Sunday Silence's leading role. It was a shame
one had to lose.