Sunday Silence won the Breeders' Cup Classic, but it is unclear who actually finished second--Easy Goer or the Eastern racing press, which is maintaining a stiff upper lip.
Sunday Silence's trainer, Charlie Whittingham, lobbed the first salvo even before the fingerprints had been wiped from the Classic trophy. And since then, the supporters of Sunday Silence have expressed more giddy delight over the defeat of the Eastern overdog and, therefore, of those accused of having created a myth, than for the perceived vindication of their opinion.
There are few, even in the East, who would vote for Easy Goer as 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year after a third failure to defeat Sunday Silence. That position is defenseless in light of the results of their four meetings. Still, the consensus would make Easy Goer a clear favorite if the two were to meet at 10 furlongs or more tomorrow.
Sunday Silence will be Horse of the Year despite never having won at 12 furlongs and never having given weight to older horses. He will be Horse of the Year despite going one for two during a span of five months while Easy Goer won the Belmont, Whitney, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup with a dizzying succession of awesome finishing moves.
Sunday Silence will be Horse of the Year because he is a more agile animal, because he was ridden in a manner that suited his considerable ability and because Pat Day, the best rider in Louisville, Ky., handled Easy Goer all year like the exposed end of a live wire.
Sunday Silence will be Horse of the Year, but most still believe Easy Goer is the better horse.
Barring injury, Easy Goer will waltz under a rider other than Day through the next season, beginning with the Handicap Triple next spring, while Sunday Silence recovers from minor knee surgery in the hands of a very patient trainer with a chance to win consecutive Classics. It is unlikely that they will meet again, if ever they do, until the next Breeders' Cup at Belmont in Elmont, N.Y. That lapse is unfortunate.
It is a disservice, to both the horses and the public, to delay their next meeting so long, and the chance of both reaching the last Saturday of October in good form is, realistically, remote. Yet their rivalry is the most interesting since Alydar and Affirmed, and the prospect of its continuation through another season is compelling--something racing needs badly these days.
The owners of both are major figures in the sport, and it should be obvious to them that they have a rare opportunity, if not an obligation, to the public. The Phipps family's preference for racing in New York is deeply engrained. Arthur Hancock is a Kentuckian with a distaste for New York, and Whittingham leaves California infrequently. All should, in this case, rethink their plans. It would be better if they all pointed toward Maryland in May.
The Pimlico Special, which is run a week after the Kentucky Derby for $700,000, would be a perfect spot for their next conflict were Ogden Phipps willing to pass the Met Mile
Can't make Easy Goer Horse of the Year; couldn't bet enough on him at 1 3/16 miles with, say, Angel Cordero riding and, maybe, getting a couple of pounds from Sunday Silence.