Monday, March 23, 2009

The Final Resting Place for Silky Sullivan at Golden Gate Fields

The final resting place of Silky Sullivan at Golden Gate Fields.

Saturday I took a day trip up to Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, where I had the pleasure of visiting with well-known Thoroughbred owner Kjell Qvale in the turf club. The 89-year-old Qvale – still sharp as a tack – is an iconic figure at Golden Gate Fields, where he served as president for 25 years. He has raced horses in Northern California for more than 50 years, and among the many champions he has owned was Silky Sullivan. Qvale purchased Silky Sullivan after his racing days were over and owned him until he passed away in 1977 at the age of 22.

Earlier Saturday morning, just after my arrival at the track, I trudged out to the Infield to take a picture of the memorial that marks the final resting place of Silky Sullivan. The great horse is buried beneath flowering shrubs surrounded by a white picket fence, halfway between the tote board in the center of the Infield and the far turn of the grass course.

Silky Sullivan, a chestnut colt by Sullivan foaled in 1955, was well known for his come-from-behind racing style. Called the “California Comet,” Silky would gallop along in a race until the rest of the field was many lengths in front of him, then switch to rocket gear and blow past them. He once came from 41 lengths back to win a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race.

Purchased as a yearling in Del Mar by Phil Klipstein and Tom Ross, Silky Sullivan made 27 career starts, with 12 wins, 1 second, and 5 thirds. Silky Sullivan won the Golden Gate Futurity in 1957 and the Santa Anita Derby in 1958. His total career earnings were $157,700, a substantial amount for the 1950’s. He was trained by Reggie Cornell, the uncle and mentor of today’s Hall of Fame trainer, Ron McAnally.

After his retirement in 1965, Silky Sullivan was paraded each year at Golden Gate Fields for Saint Patrick's Day and at Santa Anita for the Santa Anita Derby. He was wildly popular with California racing fans, and even had his own secretary to answer his mail.


Anonymous said...

Great post Mary

Sally said...

A very moving post.

Anonymous said...

I am so delighted to see this post about Silky. He deserves to be remembered and I am glad that GGF keeps his resting place looking nice. He was alot of fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

Making up 41 lengths to win WOW!

Is it still on film/video?

Thanks. SS and Stymie were the best that I never saw run in person. J'regret.

Shrink and Grow said...

Nice post about Silky Sullivan and Mr. Qvale. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the CTBA Awards Dinner and you are right he is sharp, and infact I would never have guessed his age. He spoke fondly that night of Silky Sullivan.
I will have to see this next time I am at GGF in June.

Anonymous said...

Now if they could do the same for the great Lost in the Fog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. The first year I was on the racetrack was 1976 and it was that year, before the Santa Anita Derby that Silky Sullivan pranced and threw a few kicks, while parading down the track in front of the grandstand. I don't remember knowing that that would be the last time any of us ever saw him. But, to think back on it all now, WOW! how privileged I was to have been able to partake of his glory!

So too that of John Henry at Aqueduct. As an aspiring female jockey, to touch John Henry as he walked around the shedrow, bucking and kicking, was such an invigorating experience. I still have one of the nails from his shoes, and the halter and name plate of Hollywood Bull too!

Blessings, S.J. Koster

Phyllis Pieri said...

Thanks Mary for the great post. My grandfather was Philip Klipstein and I remember going to the track in Del Mar and feeding Silky carrots and sugar cubes when I was a little girl. I am amazed how often he is till referenced in articles. Thanks for your post too. Phyllis Lovegren Pieri

Cheryl said...

Hi Mary, perhaps you or someone in this thread can help me. I'm working on an art project and need to know what Silky's silks looked like. I can't find a picture, or any record. Surely someone knows/remembers. I realize this post is quite old but maybe this will find you. Thanks.

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