Sunday Silence. Easy Goer. Benign names, both. But 30 years ago, in the Preakness, those two colts staged a race for the ages, thundering down the stretch, head to head, in a white-knuckled finish that still stirs the blood of race fans.
Stride for stride they ran — Sunday Silence, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Easy Goer, the runner-up at Churchill Downs who would, at Pimlico, trim his rival’s 2½ -length victory in the first leg of the Triple Crown down to just a nose. If that.
For nearly 2 furlongs — more than the length of four football fields — the horses ran as one, heads bobbing in tandem, Easy Goer on the rail and Sunday Silence to his right. If the former had an edge, it vanished in midstretch as Sunday Silence — a blackish gamer who, as a foal, had nearly died — appeared to turn his head and scowl at his chestnut challenger. Then they hit the wire.
“It’s a whisker, one way or the other,” ABC-TV’s Jim McKay said of the photo finish, before the winner was announced. Either way, he exclaimed, “This is one to remember.”
By the thinnest of margins, Sunday Silence had kept alive his Triple Crown bid. It was not to be. In the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the Big Three races, Easy Goer outlasted the favorite to win by 8 lengths, though it took the second fastest time in the history of that event (behind Secretariat’s) to do it. Both horses are enshrined in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.