Easy Goer was an American Champion Hall of Fame Thoroughbred racehorse, famous for earning American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt honors in 1988, and defeating 1989 American Horse of the Year Sunday Silence in the Belmont Stakes by 8 lengths. The victory deprived Sunday Silence of the Triple Crown. It was also the second fastest Belmont Stakes, behind only the record performance of Secretariat in 1973. In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, Easy Goer is ranked #34.
Homebred and owned by Ogden Phipps, Easy Goer was a son of Alydar, out of the champion mare Relaxing (by Horse of the Year Buckpasser). Trained by Shug McGaughey and always ridden by Pat Day, the bright chestnut colt with the white star in the middle of his forehead was a long-striding, massive, powerhouse stalker who won 14 of his 20 races, and placed second five times, including three runner-up finishes to arch-rival Sunday Silence.
At two, he won the Grade I Cowdin Stakes, and the Grade I Champagne Stakes, with his 1:34 4/5 final time for the mile tied fourth fastest in Champagne Stakes history, behind Vitriolic, Seattle Slew and Devil's Bag. He also finished second in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile on a muddy track. He was named Champion 2-year-old colt and was the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
At three he took the Swale Stakes in the fastest 7 furlongs of the Gulfstream Park meeting in a time of 1:22 1/5, the Grade II Gotham Stakes, the Grade I Wood Memorial, the Grade I Belmont Stakes, the Grade I Whitney Stakes, the Grade I Travers Stakes, the Grade I Woodward Stakes, and the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup. In the Gotham, Easy Goer's winning time of 1:32 2/5 for the mile set a new track record, was the fastest mile ever run on dirt surface by any three year old thoroughbred in history to this day, and was 1/5 of a second off of Dr. Fager's world record. Easy Goer also missed the stakes and track record in the Whitney by 2/5 of a second (established by Fred W. Hooper's Tri Jet), and the Travers by 4/5 of a second (held by General Assembly). In 3 of these races (Whitney, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup), Easy Goer defeated older horses, becoming one of the few 3-year-olds in modern American racing history to accomplish such a feat. Easy Goer is the only horse in history to win the Whitney, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Additionally, he is one of only two horses to win the Champagne, Belmont Stakes and Travers. He was one of the last American-trained horses to win two Grade I races at a mile and a half on dirt (Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup). Easy Goer's 1989 3-year-old campaign was most likely the greatest in American racing history, without yielding any year end championship awards.
At four, Easy Goer won the Gold Stage Stakes and the Grade I Suburban Handicap (3/5 of a second off Alysheba's existing track record). He was also third in the Grade I Metropolitan Mile, marking the only time Easy Goer did not finish either first or second. Easy Goer was beaten by a little more than a length, behind eventual Horse of the Year Criminal Type and two-time sprint champion Housebuster, while carrying considerably more weight than those two. In Easy Goer's 20 race career, he was never defeated by more than 2 1/2 lengths.
Before a leg injury ended his racing days, Easy Goer earned $4,873,770.
Rivalry with Sunday Silence
Champion Easy Goer was most remembered for his great rivalry with Sunday Silence, with a 1-3 record against the champion. The two first met in the 1989 Kentucky Derby, with Easy Goer installed as the morning-line favorite. The track came up muddy, and Sunday Silence came out on top with a 2 1/2 length victory, winning the Run for the Roses in the slow time of 2:05. Easy Goer's performance was apparently affected by the difficult footing, as his rider Pat Day stated, "Easy Goer simply did not handle the race track and never got out of second gear." Easy Goer had also finished second at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the previous year on a similar muddy track. Sunday Silence won despite not keeping a straight path through the stretch while 2 1/2 lengths clear of the field.
After the Derby, both horses returned to action in the second jewel of the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes. Easy Goer broke poorly when he dwelt at the start, but was able to get within 3 lengths of his rival with a mile remaining in the 1 3/16 mile race. Easy Goer had a 2 length lead over his rival with a half mile remaining. But Sunday Silence challenged and earned the win by a nose following a thrilling head-to-head duel for the final quarter mile, reminiscent of the great Affirmed/Alydar rivalry. Day was criticized for reining Easy Goer's head sideways to the right in the stretch. Day criticized himself as well, quoted after the race as saying, "It was absolute rider error" for moving Easy Goer prematurely from the 3/4 to 1/2 mile and gaining the lead with a half mile remaining.
The two met again in the final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, known as "The Test of the Champion" and "Run for the Carnations." Sunday Silence went off odds-on favorite, backed by his two wins against Easy Goer and attempting to earn American racing's most elusive achievement, the Triple Crown. This time, Easy Goer was at his best and defeated his rival by 8 lengths in 2:26, which seemed to vindicate his reputation. The final time marked the second best performance in the history of the race, with only the immortal Secretariat ever racing faster for the event at the world record dirt track time of 2:24.
The rivalry resumed for the final time in the Breeders' Cup Classic, run on November 4 at 1 1/4 miles. With champion honors at stake and their rivalry reaching a zenith, the race was labeled "Race of the Decade" by the thoroughbred media. Easy Goer was favored by the wagering public, based on his Belmont Stakes win and subsequent four Grade I wins, with three of those wins against older horses, most recently in the longer distanced 1 1/2 miles Jockey Club Gold Cup. Sunday Silence was second choice, with two races in the 5 months between the Belmont and the Breeders' Cup: a second to eventual Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized in the Grade II Swaps Stakes on July 23, and a win in the Super Derby on September 24. Sunday Silence's regular rider, Patrick Valenzuela, had recently been suspended for cocaine use. Trainer Charles E. Whittingham, needing to choose another rider, assigned the mount to Chris McCarron. Easy Goer, early on rated eleven lengths behind the brisk opening fractions of 22:2/5 and 46:1/5, got near his rival at the half mile point and appeared to be full of run. Sunday Silence then made a charge turning for home and gained the lead in the final furlong, 4 lengths ahead of Easy Goer. Easy Goer made a furious late finish, but wound up losing by a neck to Sunday Silence, who was under strong urging by McCarron, at the end showing the horse the whip with his left hand. The victory assured Sunday Silence Eclipse Award for Outstanding 3-Year-Old Male Horse and Horse of the Year honors for 1989.
As a Sire
After his retirement from racing, Easy Goer stood stud at the famed Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. He had the ultimate honor of occupying the number one stall in the number one barn. His stall was previously occupied by Bold Ruler and Secretariat. When only eight years old, Easy Goer was turned out for exercise one day, and spent the time bucking and racing around his pasture. According to Thomas Swerczek, D.V.M., Ph.D. (a veterinary pathologist at the University of Kentucky) in his 1994 postmortem examination of Easy Goer, that effort caused a sudden, massive allergic reaction.
Typically what happens is that you give a horse penicillin for four or five days and on the sixth day, he may get a mild case of anaphylactic shock," Swerczek said. "If the horse isn't turned out, he'll go right through it all right, but if you turn him out and he gets to running around, he may drop dead from a subtle type of hypertension from a combination of exercise and the reaction from the penicillin. I've even seen horses given a shot of penicillin and loaded onto a van who dropped dead on the van from the combination of stress and the shot. It has nothing to do with the heart per se, but rather a general reaction that causes pooling of blood due to the anaphylaxis."
Like humans, some horses are acutely allergic to bee stings and experience other allergies as well.
At stud, he sired three Grade I winners: the colt Will's Way (who won the Whitney Handicap and Travers Stakes just like his sire. Will's Way in turn, sired the Grade I Cigar Mile Handicap winner Lion Tamer) and the fillies Furlough (winner of the Grade I Ballerina Handicap and dam of Stakes Winner Happy Hunting) and My Flag(winner of the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and 3 other Grade I wins). He also sired Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes winner Composer, and the stakes winning mares Relaxing Rhythm, Smooth Charmer and Jetto. My Flag, the product of a mating with the legendary mare Personal Ensign, is the dam of champion filly Storm Flag Flying and stakes winner With Flying Colors. Personal Ensign (1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff), My Flag (1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies), and Storm Flag Flying (2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies) were the first three-generation consecutive winners of Breeders' Cup races.
Easy Goer is also proving to be an influential broodmare sire, with Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award Champion Storm Flag Flying, Grade I Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and Metropolitan Handicap (Grade I) winner Corinthian, Coaching Club American Oaks (Grade I) winner Funny Moon, Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) winner Monba, French 2000 Guineas (Group 1) winner Astronomer Royal, Yellow Ribbon Stakes (Grade I), Del Mar Oaks(Grade I), Gamely Stakes(Grade I) and John C. Mabee Handicap(Grade I) winner Magical Fantasy, promising young sire Mull of Kintyre, stakes winners Happy Hunting, Spring Waltz, Navesink River, Desert Hero, Sea Chanter, Sue's Good News, Unbridled Jet, Easyfromthegitgo, Nolan's Cat, Easy Grades, and the aforementioned Storm Flag Flying and her half sister With Flying Colors (who was sired by A.P. Indy) among his daughter's offspring.
In 1997, Easy Goer was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, the ultimate honor in Thoroughbred racing.