CHICAGO — Sunday Silence, who earned 1989 Horse of the Year honors after three stirring victories over Easy Goer, was retired today because of a strained ligament in his left front foot.
"He's the best horse I've had in my lifetime, and I've had a lot of good ones," said Charlie Whittingham, Sunday Silence's trainer and co-owner with Arthur Hancock. "It's not a very bad problem, but with a horse of his caliber, you don't want to take a chance. He's done everything he can and we're going to let him retire in a dignified way."
Sunday Silence had been training for Saturday's Arlington Challenge Cup at Arlington Park when the injury occurred. The injury was diagnosed by Dr. Alex Harthill, who today detected "heat" in the foot of the 4-year-old.
Whittingham said there was no swelling in the leg and the horse is not lame. Sunday Silence will stand stud at Stone Farm in Paris, Ky., across the street from where rival Easy Goer is standing stud.
"They'll be able to shoot the bull for the rest of their lives," Whittingham said. "We'll get him to Kentucky in a few days.
"I have a special feeling for Sunday Silence. He's got a great personality. There's not a bad race in his pedigree."
With the loss of Sunday Silence, the Challenge Cup suffered another blow to what once was a stellar field. After the news of Sunday Silence hit, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who last month withdrew Criminal Type from the event after Easy Goer was retired, said today he was withdrawing 1989 male grass champion Steinlen. Also today, Opening Verse was removed from the field because of a minor foot injury.
The field for the Challenge Cup now stands at three--Western Playboy, Beau Genius and Santangelo--with the purse having been further reduced to $250,000. The original purse was $1 million, but when Easy Goer was retired, it dropped to $600,000.
Sunday Silence retires as the third-leading money winner of all time, with $4,968,554, behind Alysheba and John Henry. Sunday Silence won nine of 14 career starts and finished second in the five other races.
This year, Sunday Silence raced twice, winning the Californian Stakes on June 3 at Hollywood Park and finishing second to Criminal Type in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 24.
His retirement follows the departure of Easy Goer, who retired July 18 because of bone chip to the right front sesamoid. The two were to meet for the first time as 4-year-olds in the Arlington Cup Challenge.
Sunday Silence will best be remembered for his thrilling battles with Easy Goer in the 1989 Triple Crown races. Sunday Silence won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before Easy Goer took the Belmont to spoil Sunday Silence's Triple Crown hopes. But Sunday Silence avenged that defeat in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream in November.