Such an unappreciative audience, however, is nothing new to Sunday Silence, a colt once so ugly that nobody wanted him. As a yearling, this son of Halo had some notable defects in conformation: He was knock-kneed and "weedy"—horse lingo for scrawny. Twice he was taken to public auction, but there was so little interest in him that his principal owner, Arthur Hancock, bought back the horse both times. On the way home from the second auction, the driver of the colt's van had a fatal heart attack while on the road. The van overturned, and a shaken Sunday Silence had to spend two weeks recovering at a clinic in Oklahoma. But when he finally got to the races last October, the ugly horse started to look darn good. He lost to Houston by only a short head in early December, and three weeks ago he won the San Felipe Handicap by 1� lengths. His impressive win in the Santa Anita Derby has Sunday Silence sitting pretty for the first Saturday in May.
The 75-year-old Whittingham, who was so excited by his colt's performance that his hands were still shaking long after the race, compared the horse with his 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand: "Sunday Silence has more natural ability, more speed, and is more of a willing worker. But it gets tougher the farther you go."
Whittingham will probably not run his horse in another prep, but there are still a few out-of-town tryouts before the really big show in Louisville. Easy Goer will test his speed around two turns in the 1?-mile Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 22. Awe Inspiring, in keeping with his role as understudy, will wait in the wings. Lukas said he may give Houston another audition in the 1[1/16]-mile Lexington Stakes on April 25. The only certainty in this drama is that when the curtain finally falls at Churchill Downs on May 6, only one horse's tale will have a happy ending.