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Sunday Silence Loses His Way as Prized Wins

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

It wasn’t exactly Onion beating Secretariat. Or Upset shocking Man o’ War. But on a scale of one to 10, the stunning victory by Prized at the expense of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence in Sunday’s Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park was easily a Richter rattling nine.

Rendered the 1-5 favorite and practically conceded the $232,400 first prize, Sunday Silence reverted to his old wandering ways through the final eighth of a mile. It was eerily reminiscent of the Derby, in which Sunday Silence ducked in and veered out but still drew off to a 2 1/2-length victory last May.

This time, however, the black colt dropped the bit, pinned his ears and lost his customary fluid action, leaving the door open to the opportunistic late run of Prized and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye.

Prized’s winning margin of three-quarters of a length gave Clover Racing Stable and partners their second major upset of the season, following the Santa Anita Handicap victory by Martial Law last March at odds of 50-1.

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The Swaps shock was also the latest payday in a relentless wave of success this year by trainer Neil Drysdale, who scored the first major victory of his career in the 1976 version of the same race.

Drysdale, however, was quick to deflect comparisons of Prized to Sunday Silence after the Swaps. But an upset, he admitted, was not out of the question.

“We had a fresh horse who clearly needs a mile and a quarter to run his best,” Drysdale said. “And while Sunday Silence is a superb colt, the Triple Crown is a rigorous campaign. It has taken its toll on great horses before.”

In fact, when Drysdale won the ’76 Swaps with Forceten, he was knocking off two fine colts who has run in all three legs of the Triple Crown--Belmont Stakes winner Avatar and Diabolo.

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Charlie Whittingham, who guided Sunday Silence through the eventful 1989 Triple Crown--winning a million-dollar bonus for the best overall record in spite of his second-place finish to Easy Goer in the June 10 Belmont--toyed with the idea of passing the Swaps and waiting for opportunities down the road.

But then Sunday Silence began training like he was none the worse for wear, and Whittingham decided to run. Hollywood Park sweetened the Swaps pot by $200,000 when the Derby-Preakness winner entered the Grade II event.

The opposition--only four colts dared run--consoled themselves with the prospect of increased secondary awards.

“At the head of the stretch I figured I was riding for second money,” said Delahoussaye, who kept Prized as close to the slow pace as possible.

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“Then I looked up and saw Sunday Silence start to weave in and out. I thought, ‘Maybe I got a shot at this after all.’ ”

To that point, Sunday Silence had complete control of the race. His regular rider, Patrick Valenzuela, dictated the every tick of the clock with perfect response from his colt. By the time they reached the head of the stretch, the only question left seemed to be the winning margin.

Even Whittingham, who owns Sunday Silence in partnership with Arthur Hancock and Dr. Ernest Gaillard, had put down his binoculars and was counting his money. Afterward, as he walked through the paddock after absorbing the reality of the loss, a fan yelled down, “You shoulda had Shoemaker on your horse.” Whittingham gave the guy a sheepish grin and a thumbs up.

“Yeah, Shoe would have waited longer to make his move,” Whittingham said. Bill Shoemaker, who departed on his farewell retirement tour across America on Saturday, won the last two runnings of the Swaps on Whittingham colts.

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“I don’t know why the jock didn’t wait longer to open up,” Whittingham said of Valenzuela’s tactics. “What’s the point of opening five lengths at the top of the stretch when you’ve got so much horse under you?”

Valenzuela, however, pointed out that he waited as long as he could before asking Sunday Silence for his final run.

“I can’t help it if there was nothing that could stay with my colt,” said the jockey. “He was going so easy, too. Then he ducked in a little when I cocked the stick, and after that he just lost his action.”

Delahoussaye defended Valenzuela’s ride as well.

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“Pat couldn’t have ridden him any better,” Delahoussaye said. “He set a slow pace and didn’t move till he hit the quarter pole. Of course, I would have waited till the eighth pole--but that’s just the difference between him and me. He knows his horse.”

Prized is a bay son of the Florida stallion Kris S. who won three of his first five races before coming to California in January. He won his first local start, the March 8 Bradbury Stakes at Santa Anita, but came out of the race with a hairline fracture in a hind leg.

Drysdale gave him time to mend, then brought him back for the Silver Screen Handicap at Hollywood on July 3.

“He had a nice little race that day,” Drysdale said. “He broke poorly but then finished well to be third, so I was encouraged.”

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Prized began his career in Florida for his breeders, the Meadowbrook Farms of Barbara LaCroix and her son, David. They sold half of Prized last winter to Constance Unger, Joe Ventresca, Andy Chewsky, Louis Block and John Cover--part of the Southern California-based Clover Racing Stable’s large syndicate of owners.

“I’m not sure if Sunday Silence came down to our level or Prized moved up to his,” Clover Racing Stable’s Jeff Siegel said. “All I know it that it feels good.”

Delahoussaye agreed.

“Beating a heavy favorite like this always gets your adrenalin going,” said the jockey. “I’ve been on the other end, too.”

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Sunday Silence and Prized may meet again in the $1,000,000 Molson Challenge Stakes at Woodbine in Canada on Sept. 10.

“It’s a mile and a quarter race,” Siegel said, “and that’s what we’re looking for with our colt. Can it happen again? I can hardly believe it happened once.”

Horse Racing Notes

The Sunday Silence upset must still take a backseat in Swaps Stakes history to the 1977 running, when Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew suffered his first defeat in finishing fourth to J.O. Tobin. . . . As a precaution, Sunday Silence was examined for traces of internal hemorrhage after the Swaps, but there was no signs of bleeding, according to assistant trainer Rodney Rash. . . . In the 1980s, there have been 23 horses to run in all three Triple Crown races. So far, only five of the 17 who ran again won their next race. . . . Hollywood Park closes today with a stakes double-header. Skip Out Front and Trokhos top the Auld Lang Syne Stakes and six 3-year-old fillies run in the Typecast Stakes.

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