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Zipse At The Track

The Greatest Preakness Ever Run

In my excitement for tomorrow's big race, I find myself recalling my favorite all-time editions of the Preakness. There were many great ones over the years, in one of my favorite races, but one special running stands head and shoulders above the rest. 22 years ago today, the world witnessed the greatest Preakness ever run as two titans of the turf waged an epic struggle in which neither proud colt would give an inch to his excellent rival.

In fact, the 1989 Preakness was one of the greatest races ever run on an American racetrack. It brought together Sunday Silence, a horse that nobody other than Arthur Hancock III seemed to want, and Easy Goer, the juvenile champion, and a horse who was considered the chosen one from the day of his birth. Sunday Silence, who had nearly died from a viral infection as a weanling, and from a van accident as a juvenile, and had twice gone through auction unsold, was fresh off his Kentucky Derby win over his blue-blood rival. Easy Goer finished second in that muddy edition of the run for the roses as an overwhelming favorite. Before Louisville, it was well established that the powerful chestnut son of Alydar was a special horse, but with his win in the Derby, the west coast star, Sunday Silence, had emerged as the second superstar from the 1986 foal crop. The Preakness would be a showdown between the East Coast establishment and the West Coast upstart. The world was watching.
Easy Goer, trained by Claude McGaughey was once again made the odds-on favorite at 3-5, while Sunday Silence was again the clear second choice at 2-1. Because of the messy Churchill Downs surface, it seemed few people believed the result from two weeks earlier. There would be no excuses this time as the Preakness would be contested over a fast track at Pimlico Race Course.

Easy Goer's pilot, Pat Day, was careful not to give Sunday Silence too much room for comfort, and made a strong move on the far turn to go by his rival. At the same time the black horse from California was squeezed, and in a flash was suddenly two lengths behind. Pat Valenzuela aboard Sunday Silence, knew he could not let the big horse get away. He swung his charge to the outside and then something magical happened. Sunday Silence, using perhaps his greatest racing asset, an electrifying burst of speed, pounced like a cat on a mouse and was abreast of Easy Goer like a shot. The race was on. The entire Pimlico stretch became a racing battleground for two great horses desperate to prove that they were too good to lose. The only other time I have ever witnessed such an intense display was in the greatest of all the Affirmed and Alydar battles, the Belmont Stakes of 1978.
Both horses seemed to understand that this was what they were born to do. The two fantastic colts turned their heads slightly so that they could look at each other eyeball to eyeball as their riders vigorously urged them on. Sunday Silence, the tall and lanky near black colt, was on the outside, while the robust and muscular chestnut, Easy Goer, was scraping the paint on the Pimlico rail. The rest of the field had fallen away as to give the two superstars center stage. The record Preakness crowd of more than 90,000 roared in approval. Neither horse had one iota of give up; it was racing perfection encapsulated within a glorious quarter of a mile.
Easy Goer fought on gamely from the rail and gained a nose advantage in the stretch, but in the end, Sunday Silence edged in front by a whisker. The two had completed the Preakness trip together in 1:53 4/5, one of the fastest editions of the Middle Jewel ever run. Pat Day would claim foul for the leaning that Sunday Silence had done on Easy Goer during the magnificent stretch battle. The stewards correctly disallowed the claim. Easy Goer would gain a measure of revenge back at home in the Belmont Stakes, ending the Triple Crown attempt of his rival, but on that unforgettable afternoon of May 20, 1989, it was Sunday Silence who reigned supreme.


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Older Comments about The Greatest Preakness Ever Run ...

the way i saw it it was exactly the same race as the derby just a 1/16 shorter. shackleford takes the lead on on back stretch opens up at the top of the lane and animal kingdom runs at him. the only difference between the derby and the preakness was a 1/16. that is the difference between a triple crown possibility and shackleford being over bet the rest of the year. even dialed in ran the exact same race. he just had less horses to suck along by to end up finishing 4 and not 8. animal kingdom is the real horse. he obviously loves 1 1/4. that is the championship distance. not 1 3/16.
I agree completely-best Preakness ever! Losing Easy Goer after siring only 99 foals was one of the biggest blows to breeding-as well as the loss of SS to Japan and his death at 16. And yes, I am still mad at PD for the ride!
The 1997 edition was the best Preakness.
without a doubt it was epic The eyeball to eyeball so intense you felt a fight would break out in the middle of the stretch
I was really upset to see Sunday Silence go to JApan. Did we ever have any of his babies run here. Sunday was a favorite of mine.
Never saw this one before today. As Trevor would say: two scintillating performances! A couple of my favs are 1992: Was all over Pine Bluff that day; 1994: Tabasco Cat getting revenge on Go For Gin; 2004 & 2005. Was in B'more for last year's race. Nailing the exacta after not having a good day felt good.
That was a great one but my favorite was a seemingly beaten Curlin running down Street Sense.Watching the replay it still doesn't seem like he can get there.
Sorry, Mary ;-) Love the silks, Tiz! This race and the BC Classic that fall still give me goosebumps ... two great horses going at it for the biggest of stakes, what could be better?
Without a doubt in my mind...Afleet Alex was miraculous, but this was just epic.
Even after all of these years, I still can't watch this race. Same with the '89 Classic. Yes, I was and will forever be an Easy Goer fan. I still am convinced that had Pat Day (who is one of my all time favorite jockeys, don't get me wrong) not turned Easy's head slightly to the right, it would've been a deadheat. Ah well. Great race, and two great horses, that's for sure.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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