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PIMLICO'S STALLS HOLD CONFIDENCE, DISAPPOINTMENT

"I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn't hurt."

It's the first line from "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," the Kris Kristofferson song that helped inspire Arthur Hancock when he named his race horse "Sunday Silence." And if life on the race track were a movie, there's no question what theme song would be playing in the background as the camera panned down stakes row at Pimlico shortly after daybreak Sunday morning.

At one end of the pink barn -- the end near Sunday Silence's stall -- heads were hurting from a night of celebrating the black colt's thrilling Preakness victory.

At the other end -- down where Easy Goer stays -- the heads were hurting for other reasons. Like from looking at the nose-to-nose Preakness finish picture too long. Or just from general head shaking.

Hope and optimism were not exactly the emotions Easy Goer's trainer, Shug McGaughey, projected as he fielded questions about why his horse has finished second to Sunday Silence in both legs of the Triple Crown.

"I don't know. I don't know what it could be," McGaughey said when asked what he might do differently to get that "one jump ahead" of Sunday Silence when they meet for the third time June 10 in the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont Stakes.

"I was disappointed, but you have to shake those disappointments off. I wasn't going downtown to dance or anything," he said.

McGaughey, reminded that Easy Goer wore No. 2B in the Kentucky Derby and No. 2 in the Preakness, said "I hope he won't get two in the Belmont."

"You have any doubts he can get a mile and a half?" he was asked. "I don't. But he has to go over there and do it."

The sun shined much brighter at the other end of the shed row as trainer Charlie Whittingham and others in the winner's camp laughed and told jokes.

"Charlie, when did you know you had the race won?" Whittingham was asked. It was a stooge question, planted by Dr. Alex Harthill, Sunday Silence's famous equine podiatrist.

"When the entries came out," replied Whittingham with a smile. Translation: there was never a doubt.

"Do you know what the taxes are on $5 million?" he was asked. That's the total Sunday Silence would earn in five weeks if he takes the Belmont.

"I'll let Uncle Sam worry about the taxes. I remember when I didn't pay any taxes," Whittingham said. "I wasn't in very good shape then."

Whittingham sees no problem whatsoever in asking Sunday Silence to go the Belmont distance.

"I don't have any trouble going a mile and a half," said the 76-year-old Hall of Famer, explaining how it's all in the genes. "Pedigree-wise, he's pretty good. On the bottom side, he has a lot of Mahmoud . . ."

Mahmoud, he explained, was the 1936 English Derby winner who later was imported to the U.S. by C.V. Whitney. Mahmoud sired Almahmoud, the dam of Cosmah, the dam of Halo, the sire of Sunday Silence.

Mahmoud also is the sire of Mahmoudess, the dam of Promised Land, the sire of Understanding, the sire of Wishing Well, the dam of Sunday Silence.

With Sunday Silence and Easy Goer both heading for Belmont Park, the question now becomes whether there are any other legitimate 3-year-old contenders out there. No other horse in the Preakness could come within five lengths of the dynamic duo and the best horses being mentioned Sunday -- namely, Fire Maker and Imbibe, the first two finishers in last week's Withers Mile at Belmont Park -- sent no fear into either camp.

The Belmont frequently attracts the smallest Triple Crown field. Only five horses challenged Preakness winner Risen Star last year. And in 1978, the year Affirmed and Alydar fought to identical one-two finishes in all three races, only three others showed up at Belmont. The history books -- this will be the 121st Belmont -- show the race drew only two horses five times. The last time it happened was in 1920, when Donnacona was the only challenger to a nice 3-year-old named Man o' War, who won by 20 lengths.

"Do you think this pair will fill Belmont Park?" Whittingham was asked.

"Belmont Park's hard to fill," he replied. "There's no doubt it's going to help racing when you get two horses like that."

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