Christopher "Chris" John McCarron
Sunday Silence was an American thoroughbred race horse, earning distinction as 1989 American Horse of the Year over American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse Easy Goer. He was foaled in 1986, sired by Halo out of Wishing Well. Though he was registered as a dark bay/brown, he was in fact a true black. In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, Sunday Silence is ranked #31. Sunday Silence was retired to Japan, where his success as a sire was confined mainly to Asia.
Sunday Silence was bred by Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds, Ltd. Passed twice at the sales ring as a yearling, he was finally sold in California for $50,000 as a 2-year-old in training. Arthur B. Hancock III bought him as a "buy-back" (he had bred him), hoping to ship him to Kentucky. However, an accident kept Sunday Silence in California. Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham bought a half share of the colt and then sold half of that to Dr. Ernest Gaillard. (Ownership designate: H-G-W Partners)
Although he showed ability, he didn't make it to the races until late in his 2-year-old season, winning a maiden special weight and finishing second in an allowance from three starts. In his third year, he managed to get an allowance win. In the Race to the Roses, Sunday Silence won the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby to allow him to qualify for a slot at the Kentucky Derby.
1989 U.S. Triple Crown
In the build up to the 1989 Triple Crown, a rivalry developed between the west-coast Sunday Silence and American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse Easy Goer, an east-coast thoroughbred with superior breeding. Easy Goer was also the media darling and favorite of the east-coast dominated sports media, who picked him ahead of Sunday Silence in each race of the Triple Crown. In the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, Sunday Silence and jockey Pat Valenzuela won by 2 1/2 lengths over Easy Goer, who was said to have had a tough time running on the muddy track that day, according to his trainer Shug McGaughey.
The media widely accepted the excuse by his trainer, and again picked "Goer" to win the Preakness Stakes. However Sunday Silence again prevailed, this time by a nose, over Easy Goer. This race has been proclaimed by many experts to be the "Race of the Half Century." Some Easy Goer loyalists in the media maintained their horse's superiority, attributing the loss to the fact that Easy Goer had dwelt at the start and his Jockey Pat Day reined Easy Goer's head to the right when he had a short lead in the home stretch. In the Belmont Stakes, known as the "Test of the Champion", the final and longest race of the Triple Crown at 1-1/2 miles, Sunday Silence would play the role of betting favorite with Easy Goer the underdog. Easy Goer won and defeated Sunday Silence by eight lengths in the second fastest Belmont Stakes in history behind only Secretariat, and denied Sunday Silence the elusive Triple. In the process, Easy Goer seemed to vindicate his reputation as the reigning champion two year-old. By virtue of his two Classic wins and his runner-up performance Sunday Silence was awarded the third $1,000,000 Visa Triple Crown Bonus for best three year-old in the series.
After the Belmont, Sunday Silence went on to finish second to eventual Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized in the Grade II Swaps Stakes on July 23, and win the Super Derby on September 24. Easy Goer was coming into the Classic with 5 consecutive Grade I wins, consisting of the Belmont Stakes, Whitney Handicap, Travers Stakes, Woodward Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup, with 3 of those wins against older horses, and his final race before the Classic the longer distanced 1 1/2 miles Jockey Club Gold Cup. This set up one final face-off with Easy Goer at the season-ending $3 Million Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park, run on November 4. The contest was dubbed the "Race of the Decade" and many believed would decide the winner of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year award. Sunday Silence's Jockey Pat Valenzuela had earlier been suspended for cocaine use and was replaced by veteran Chris McCarron. Once again Sunday Silence went off as 2-1 second choice behind Easy Goer at 1-2. Sunday Silence passed Blushing John at the top of the stretch and pulled ahead by a length. Easy Goer made one last late surge, but Sunday Silence prevailed by a neck.
At this point, Sunday Silence had won seven times in nine starts for the 1989 campaign, earning him Eclipse Award for Outstanding 3-Year-Old Male Horse and Horse of the Year honors. In 1996 he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
At the age of 4, Sunday Silence managed to win the Californian and place second in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He suffered an injured ligament which eventually led to his retirement. Out of 14 career races, he never finished worse than second. He won nine of his races and placed second in five.
After being ignored by most American breeders, Sunday Silence was eventually sold to Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida to stand at his Shadai Stallion Station in Shiraoi, Hokkaido. Yoshida had acquired a 25% interest in Sunday Silence early in his 4-year-old season and bought out the other partners for an undisclosed amount.
Sunday Silence flourished in Japan and became their leading sire in the last decade of his life, topping their sire list from 1995 through 2007. His progeny have won many races, mainly in Asia, including the Japan Cup and the Hong Kong Vase.
In August 2002, Sunday Silence finally lost his battle with laminitis, suffering a fatal heart attack. In May, infection in his right leg brought on laminitis in his left leg. His owners had been discussing whether to euthanize him or not for days. On the day of his death, he lay down in his stall, could not get up, and eventually died of heart failure.
Sunday Silence was buried at Shadai Stallion Station.