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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2002

Japan's leading sire Sunday Silence dies

Staff writer

Japan's leading sire, breeding giant Sunday Silence, has lost a 14-week battle with illness and laminitis. According to the Shadai Stallion Station in Hayakita, Hokkaido, the 16-year-old American champion, whose progeny changed the face of Japanese racing, succumbed to heart failure at 11 a.m. Monday.

Laminitis, a debilitating hoof disease, was first diagnosed on Aug. 5, some two weeks after a July 18 operation, the third operation the stallion underwent for an infection in his right foreleg. Though at first the prognosis for a full recovery was excellent, the infection failed to heal completely. The extra burden on the other legs, as Sunday Silence struggled to alleviate the pain on his right fore, took its toll and the laminitis grew progressively worse. The necessity of having to make the decision to put the stallion down loomed ever larger.

A round-the-clock team of staff workers and veterinarians kept watch over the past months as inquiries, get-well wishes, and advice flooded in from fans around the world. The Stallion Station also received numerous angry messages of frustration on its Web site, and postcards with handwritten pleas to not end the horse's life.

The situation grew critical from early last week. On Sunday, after days of remaining standing due to the pain in his legs, America's 1989 champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year, lay down one last time. Hours later he was dead.

His last hours are believed to have been relatively easy, the pain dulled by injections of painkillers.

"We hope he found some comfort in his last moments lying down. He had been receiving heavy doses of painkillers for the past three days," said Eisuke Tokutake, media liaison for the Stallion Station, where Sunday Silence served stud duty since 1991.

The death comes as a severe blow to the Shadai breeding operation. Shadai spokesman Teruya Yoshida said, "Normally, at 16 years of age, one would have looked forward to many more years of active duty. It's extremely unfortunate. His death is a tremendous loss not only to Japanese breeding, but to the entire world of racing."

Sunday Silence, by Halo, out of Wishing Well, was bred by Stone Farm in Kentucky. He was purchased by Shadai Farm's founder Zenya Yoshida for 1.65 billion yen and was syndicated for what at the time was a Japanese record 2.5 billion yen. Sunday Silence enjoyed the top spot as sire for the past eight years with his offspring winning 143 graded races, including 28 G1 races and four Nippon Derbys, in Japan Racing Association-sponsored races.

Close to 370 of his offspring are currently racing in Japan. In JRA races this year, 117 winners have netted 156 wins and over 4 billion yen in prize money.

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