I have always been a lover of a horse. Zenyatta is the first to come to mind, as she would settle way back to the area and mow them down after looking hopelessly beaten. Racing’s”Queen” lost just one race, and with a short head, after 19 straight victories.
The new creation of horseplayers is likely somewhat less comfortable with Silky Sullivan. In the late 1950s, this family name was synonymous with winning a losing struggle. Silky Sullivan was, by far, the best come-from-behind horse of all time.
Silky, frequently ridden by the excellent Bill Shoemaker, was nicknamed Mr. Heart Attack, also for good reason. This horse didn’t only come in the clouds, he came from a different world! I’ve heard lots of tales of old timers that tore their gambling tickets while viewing the horse left behind, only to go through the garbage and try to tape their winning slips.
In 1957, Silly won the Golden Gate Futurity, easily making up 27 lengths on the field. At a race at Santa Anita in 1958, Silky took back some 41 lengths off the leaders and passed them to win by open lengths in a 6-1/2-furlong sprint! What is even more amazing is he ran the previous quarter-mile of the race in 22 minutes. Later on in his career, he would come from 32 crosses from it to score conveniently in The California Breeders’ Champion Stakes.Silky Sullivan was a legend and a folk hero. He had his very own train to journey, obtained Christmas and birthday cards and had his own secretary to start and respond to his own mail.
He was also a gentleman. He’d let kids walk underneath him, sit back and stroke the white star on his forehead. When an adult would try any of the, Silky would quietly but firmly remove them in the area.
Silky Sullivan has been foaled on St. Patrick’s Day in 1955 and hurried during his four-year-old season. Beginning in 1965, he was paraded at Golden Gate Fields each year on his birthday. He was also revealed at the Santa Anita Derby each year. In the mature age of 20, he was being exhibited at racetracks across the nation, and he loved every minute of it.
While his two- and – three-year old seasons were decent, he didn’t fire in big races like the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. His career ended with a record of 12 wins from 27 starts, with one second place finish and five thirds. Silky earned $157,700 in his life.
Silky died in his sleep, in Pleasanton, California, on November 18, 1977, at the age of 22. He was buried in the infield in Golden Gate Park, simply to the left of the tote board. Just another horse — Lost In The Fog — is buried in this track.
What Silky Sullivan gave a production has been priceless. He supplied thrills and chills and pure excitement. He took people’s problems away for a few minutes every time he ran and showed us no matter how bad things are, there’s still always expect. His name is still used today in sports and politics — when a person or staff is really far behind they cannot possibly win and they still do, it’s called a Silky Sullivan Finish.
We could all use a little Silky Sullivan within our lives.