Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.
When I had a Significant Birthday a few years ago, my brother and his family presented me with a framed, poster-sized cover of the June 13, 1994 Sports Illustrated: “Captain Marvelous: Mark Messier and the Rangers chase that elusive Stanley Cup.” It was signed by the Captain.
When my brother hit a Significant Birthday not long thereafter, I, in search of a similarly satisfying bit of sporting memorabilia, called his best friend.
“Who’s Michael’s favorite horse?” I asked.
“Easy Goer” was the unhesitating answer.
My brother has taught me much of what I know about racing, about pedigree, about betting; he brought me to the Belmont for the first time, and for the last nine years, I’ve run with him from the gates at 7 am on Travers Day to the backyard picnic area, victoriously securing tables for the afternoon’s events.
I’ve been reading Joe Drape’s To The Swift: Classic Triple Crown Horses and Their Race For Glory,
a collection of New York Times articles on the Triple Crown races from 1875 to 2006; earlier this week I finished the chapters on 1989. Drape includes articles on Sunday Silence’s wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but surprisingly, missing from the anthology is the report of Easy Goer’s Belmont win. Though I initially suspected that Drape might have been a Sunday Silence fan, I have been assured that editorial considerations, and not those of allegiance, led to the decision to exclude Steve Crist’s piece on Easy Goer’s remarkable victory.
Easy Goer’s performance “one of the most impressive in the history of the sport.” He also noted (dare I suggest a little smugly?) the bicoastal rivalry between Easy Goer and Sunday Silence:
After [the Derby and the Preakness], Sunday Silence’s camp derided Easy Goer’s lofty reputation, saying it was a fiction perpetrated by parochial New Yorkers, and called their California-based colt a cinch to win the Triple Crown. Yesterday, the New Yorkers were gloating a bit. As Easy Goer crossed the wire, the track announcer, Marshall Cassidy, could not resist saying, “It’s New York’s Easy Goer—in front!”
I recently asked my brother to recall that day at Belmont Park, and here’s what he told me:
My recollection was that the race was a foregone conclusion. No one there ever conceived that he might lose. Seemed to always be the way when he raced Sunday Silence, though Sunday Silence won the majority of the races. Look back and I think you will see that Easy Goer was favored in each of their four head-to-head races. [In fact, Sunday Silence was favored in the Belmont—Easy Goer’s only race in which he was not the favorite.]
Also interesting is how the atmosphere was so different from the other Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown on the line – where the fans are always so keyed up for a Triple Crown win. No one expected – nor wanted - a Triple Crown winner that day.
He was the fourth horse of 11 with a chance to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 following Spectacular Bid in 1979, Pleasant Colony in 1981, and Alysheba in 1987; and before Silver Charm (97), Real Quiet (98), Charismatic (99), War Emblem (02), Funny Cide (03), Smarty Jones (04) and Big Brown (08). Sunday Silence was quite possibly the only horse of that group who most of the crowd rooted against.
While that Belmont victory over his nemesis offered vindication for Easy Goer fans, I suspected that the chestnut colt’s win two months later, which joined the favorite horse, the favorite day of racing, and the favorite track, might hold some particularly celebratory value. So, hanging in the living room is a framed photograph of Easy Goer crossing the wire first in the Travers, along with the race’s program, signed by Pat Day—the birthday gift.
Below, two of Easy Goer’s New York victories—with, of course, Marshall Cassidy’s call in the Belmont: