silky sullivan,


Silky Sullivan

1955, Stallion 

Sullivan x Lady N Silk

27 Starts

$157,700 Total Earnings


His name is synonymous with success despite the odds, if you’ve ever heard the saying, he pulled a “Silky Sullivan” or a “Silky Sullivan Finish” you’ve heard of him. He was the underdog who didn’t always win, but he tried with all his heart. He was one of America’s favorite horse’s, who is thought of as highly as the great Seabiscuit, and just like Seabiscuit people waned to see him run even if he didn’t win. School Children were let out of school just see him, when ever he arrived at train stations or airports he was met with brass brands, flags, banners, and cheering fans. His father was a well thought of English-bred stallion who did very well at the track winning 5 of 8 races. His mother is a different story, she was rescued from Santa Anita Park by Riley H. Roberts before she could be put down as she had a T-shaped crack in her hoof. She was the great granddaughter of the mighty Fair Play on her dams side, and granddaughter of Pharos on her sires side, she was bred to go fast, she raced 4 times and did not place even once. Silky was sold as a yearling for $10,700 to Phil Klipstein, and Tom Ross, he was then sent to Devonshire Downs to for training under Reggie Cornell.

His first race was as a two year old, a 5 1⁄2 furlong race for maidens at Hollywood Park, he broke with the field, and then slowed down until he was 15 or 20 lengths off the rest of the horses, his trainer said about the first part of the race that “here’s one for the glue factory” and “I thought I’d be looking for a job.” His Jockey had on idea what was going on, he let him run like that until they got to the three-eighths pole, and then he taped him on the shoulder and at that moment everyone saw what Silky could do, he made up all the distance to win, his jockey George Taniguchi said about the race “I never thought we’d catch up, we were so far back” “I never rode anything like that before” and “We were flying.”  He then made up 27 lengths to win the one-mile Golden Gate Futurity, his jockey Manuel Ycaza said about the race “When I asked him to run, he answered and ran like a machine, like a rocket. You felt therng special because nobody had seen anything like that. It takes a helluva lot of running when you’re 20 lengths behind. You have to be greased lightning.”

His first race as a three year old was one mile, in that race two horse, Circle Lea, and The Shoe, had been dueling for the lead, Ray York, Circle Lea’s jockey, thought he had beaten  Willie Shoemaker, The Shoe’s jockey,  he said “I beat you this time, Willie.” Shoemaker replied “Yeah, But you didn’t beat that sucker on the outside.” The sucker was Silky Sullivan, who had won by a neck. He raced in the Breeder’s Champion Stakes, he came up from 40 lengths behind, and lost by a nose to Old Pueblo. The fans put up one of the most thunderous cheers ever heard at a racetrack, they weren’t cheering for the winner, they were cheering for Silky. Old Pueblo’s jockey said this about Silky “He’s just a running fool. He runs that last eighth in 10 seconds flat—or less. You feel like you’re standing still. Sometimes when he comes up alongside, you are.”

His most spectacular finish was on February 25, 1958, at Santa Anita in a 6 ½ furlong allowance race, as he and the 8 other horses came down the backstretch he was 41 lengths behind the field, after a half-mile he was still 15 lengths back, but he came from nowhere and won by a neck.

On March 8th he raced in the Santa Anita Derby, he was up against Old Pueblo the horse who had beaten him in the Breeder’s Champion Stakes. Silky was 28 lengths back until the half-way mark, he won by 3 lengths. The last photo is of the Santa Anita Derby, the arrow on the left is the leader, and the one on the right is Silky.

On May 3 1958, Silky ran in the 84th running of the Kentucky Derby. He and another horse named Tim Tam were the favorites to win. Before he was sent to Kentucky a offer of $350,000 was made to buy Silky, his owners refused. As everyone by now knows Silky run far FAR behind the field for most of the race, so to solve the problem of no one being able to see him for most of the race CBS used a split screen when it was telecast. Most of the screen was the main field, but the lower right hand corner was of Silky. He broke well and promptly fell back, at one point in the race he was 34 lengths behind, he made his move as they came on to the final turn, but he only overtook one horse, and finished 12th, Tim Tam won. His exercise jockey Pete Kozar said this about his loss “Nashua, Native Dancer, Man O’ War, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey—they all lost. I still think Silky is great.”

He retired after his four year old season, in 1963 he was sold to Kjell Qvale, who when he hard that Silky was for sale immediately made a offer. Fan still came out to see “Mr. Heart Attack” and the “California Comet” for the rest of his life. He was sent Christmas and Birthday cards, he got so much fan mail he had a secretary to answer it all. Starting in 1965 he was paraded by his owner for Saint Patrick’s Day at Golden Gate Fields, and for the Santa Anita Derby, were he was a crowd favorite.

He was a good stud, his most success coming from the Quarter Horses that were brought to him to add speed to the foals. He sired some successful Thoroughbred’s as well.

He died on November 18, 1977, in his sleep. He is buried at Golden Gate Fields, to the left of the tote board, and is one of only two horse buried there. In the winners circle there is a tribute to him, one part of which reads:

“Out of the gate like a bullet of red, Dropping behind as the rest sped ahead, Loping along as the clubhouse fans cheer, Leisurely stalking the field in first gear.”

This is a video of him


Few horses have been able to pull a “Silky Sullivan” finish like Silky Sullivan (Sullivan x Lady N Silk, by Ambrose Light) himself. The opening section of this mini-doc displays the California Comet’s 1958 Santa Anita Park win, where he lagged as much as 40 lengths off the pace before igniting an incredibly explosive closing run. Truly amazing!

rinaway  asked:

What are your favorite races to rewatch? I've only been watching horse races since 2008, but my favorites are Mine that Bird's Derby, Secretariat's Belmont, Zenyatta's Breeder's Cup Classic, Birdstone's Belmont, and Winning Color's Derby. Just curious.

DAMN THIS IS A GOOD ASK. I have a few videos of races I love to watch again and again:

  • BOTH Zenyatta Breeders’ Cup Classic races as well as her Lady’s Secret win over Switch and the Vanity Handicap over St. Trinians. Whenever I see something scary good– like a movie, photo, or what have you– it sends a chill up my legs to my head. Brr! Zenyatta so scary good!
  • Secretariat’s Belmont win, though sometimes I secretly avoid watching it while PMSing because it’s the one and ONLY thing that moves me to tears almost every time I watch it.
  • Funny Cide’s Kentucky Derby win - Such a cool gelding, and the way he split between both of Frankel’s horses down the home lane was so inspiring to me.
  • Rags to Riches’ Belmont win - The craziest Belmont I ever watched live. What a magnificent duel she and Curlin had.
  • Some of Silky Sullivan’s efforts– probably the greatest closer I’ve ever seen.
  • Tiznow’s 2001 Classic win - Knowing the story behind the scenes made watching this race even more fulfilling. Chris McCarron gave him one last whack to try and catch Sakhee and the horse really gave it a whole new gear then. All heart.
  • Rachel Alexandra’s Kentucky Oaks win - Just overwhelmingly awesome. To have seen this race was to witness something divine, and I’m glad to have been born in the R.A. generation.
  • Any of Frankel’s races
I have several other awesome races I like rewatching, but I won’t list them here since many of them are part of separate posts I have in drafts. Also notice I left out the exciting 2011 races ;)

Silky Sullivan works at Churchill Downs in preparation for the 1958 Kentucky Derby

Silky’s large size and rather workmanlike trudge was commented on by William Robertson in A History of Thoroughbred Racing in America:

“In a field of typical thoroughbreds mincing to the post, Silky resembled a battleship under escort”

Silky threw a uncharacteristic race, refusing to extend himself into his usual stretch run. He finished 12th in a field of 14.