Silky Sullivan
One Of Racing's All Time Favorites 
  Ranked With
  Seabiscuit and Malicious

Shoemaker and Silky Sullivan trailed the field early by 30 lengths 
and drew clear to win the 1958 Santa Anita Derby
 by three lengths.
However 
his most memorable race 
was the 6 1/2 furlong allowance race shown in the chart below.

 

My sincere thanks to
The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association
for permission to excerpt their 1962 article
that those new to the sport of racing may also re-live the moment.

Click chart to enlarge

 Chart of Silky's most famous race below.



Silky_Chart2.JPG (40287 bytes)

 

   

Click audio's

Audio - 1

Audio's from the Charlie Clifton Radio Show.

Audio - 2

Shoemaker will always remember:
As exciting as the Santa Anita Derby was, it didn't come close to ranking as the most thrilling Shoemaker-Silky episode.
That came on February 25, 1958, in a 6 1/2 furlong allowance race.
 (see chart)
The 20,233 fans at Santa Anita that day and the countless others
who have seen the race on film since still cannot believe it.
As the chart shows, 
Silky Sullivan was 40 --lengths behind the eighth horse down the backstretch and still 15 lengths behind the field after a half-mile.
That he still won definitely qualifies Silky for Ripley.

Editors Note:
 Here is a most interesting observation from
a real fan . . . thanks rob!

Pretty Amazing.
Based on the one-length-for-every 1/5 second theory (which we know isn't exact) and according to my math his fractions were as follows:
1st 1/4 2nd 1/4 3 1/4 Last 1/2
30.3 20.4 21.2 44.1
First quarter in 30 3/5's. 
I'd like know what was going thru this horses head !

For all Silky Sullivan fans!

From Steve Williams:

I have a nice 10 minute segment on Silky Sullivan that shows the famous 6 1/2 furlong Santa Anita race and also talks about the great horse- it is a two part video- one part narrated by the late track announcer Todd Creed from Golden Gate Fields that shows great close up shots of Silky after his racing
days in a field with his trainer. It also shows the Santa Anita race and talks about Silky. The other part is narrated by someone from Southern Calif. and talks about Silky's career and shows the Santa Anita race with the actual track announcer calling the race. It also talks about the 1958 Kentucky Derby he ran in. It too talks about and shows Silky parading near the grandstand every St. Patrick's Day at Santa Anita. He also paraded on St. Patrick's Day at Golden Gate Fields. It is a very nice video and shows wonderful close ups of Silky Sullivan and his rider Willie Shoemaker. I also
have a short one minute or so piece on Silky and the Shoe in the 1958 Kentucky Derby.

Contact me for more info at Stwillms@aol.com 

Click photo to enlarge

Silky_Sullivan.3.JPG (29987 bytes)

Children were let out of school in Louisville
and Baltimore and Inglewood and Arcadia just to get a look at him.
He was met at railroad stations and airports with banners and flags and brass bands;
 and oddly enough, these jubilant demonstrations had nothing to do with victory or defeat. The day he ran second to Old Pueblo
 in the California Breeders Championship Stakes
 at Santa Anita
 he received one of the most thunderous ovations ever heard on a race track
and the gallant winner was almost completely overlooked
even by those who had bet on him.

Silky Sullivan was not only the most publicized Thoroughbred of modern times, 
he was one of the most beloved horses ever to look through a bridle. Wherever he went the public was drawn to him in droves. 
He possessed the rugged grandeur of a great mountain, the dignity of an elder statesman, the warmth and charm of a beautiful woman, and the glamour of a motion picture star.

People who knew next to nothing about a horse, 
who had never been to a race track, spoke of him with familiar fondness. 
They still do. He became a household word.
Why did all this happen when the horse himself never reached the true heights of greatness? 
Simply because Silky Sullivan, on a number of occasions, proved that he could make up more ground in the last half mile of a race than any other
 horse that ever lived. 
He could, and did, run final quarters in the neighborhood of 22 seconds flat. 
Once he was 40 lengths off the leader in a 6 1/2 furlong race, and won it ! The breath-taking thrill of such performances can never be forgotten. 
What made him amble out of a starting gate and then decide to run the last part of it, is still a mystery. 
It was just Silky Sullivan's way of doing things. He was an individual. As such, his greatest victory being in the Santa Anita Derby, and as a $10,700 purchase at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association - Del Mar yearling sales he was a bargain. 
He got $10,000,000 worth of news space in the three years he raced.