by Tim Hopp
fter posting a scorching time of 1:14
3/5 aboard Chinook Pass in the 6 1/2 furlong Potrero Grande
Handicap at Santa Anita, a mesmerized Lafitt Pincay, Jr. declared, This
horse is fast, but he does it easy . . . hes just unreal.
Chinook Pass hit the board in 21 of 25 career starts,
and was thought by many as one of the fastest Thoroughbreds in racing history.
He was not only a threat to break track marks each and every time he uncorked
his tremendous speed, but was always a potential threat to shatter world sprint
records. His blistering five furlong record-setting victory of :55.20 in the
Longacres Owners Handicap in September of 1982, still stands today, despite
thousands of races run in the country since. He was so fast that his trainer
Laurie Anderson once remarked, He [made] the hair stand up on my
neck. In fact, fans watching a Chinook Pass race were probably more apt
to watch the teletimer in eager anticipation of a possible record setting
performance, rather than the race.
He has been
inundated with words of praise, nation-wide recognition, and everlasting fame
throughout his scintillating career. He was showered with so much hardware that
owner Ed Purvis probably had a hard time building a trophy case big enough to
hold everything. It would even be an encyclopedic task to compile the seemingly
interminable array of titles Chinook Pass garnered in his lifetime. Not only
was Chinook Pass the first and only Washington-bred equine Eclipse Award
winner, but he was also the first horse ever to win the coveted award on the
His illustrious career could have been
even better had not the injury incubus so rudely intervened. Regardless, this
Washington-bred horse of the century had an historic three-year career that
made the Washington racing industry and its fans proud. And, the Chinook Pass
story is like a fine wine, as it continues to improve with age.
The Rise of a Champion
Pass was born under the banner of Hi Yu Stables owned by retired beat police
officer and restaurant owner Ed Purvis. Purvis bred his broodmare, Yu Turn, to
Native Born for the second time in as many years in 1978. The *Turn-to mare
gave birth to Chinook Pass at Dewaine Moores Rainier Stables in Enumclaw
on the 28th of April, 1979. Moore remem-bers how unimpressive the dark bay colt
seemed from the onset. He was sorta lackadaisical, always the last colt
in a bunch coming in from the field, he was the dog of the group. This
was made more apparent when Chinook Pass was with pas-turemate Belle of
Rainier, who seemed to be a promising individual. In comparison, Chinook Pass
looked as mun-dane as a bale of hay next to the grandeur of Belle of Rainier,
who not only looked the part of a champion, but later played it as well. But
when Chinook Pass was gelded at about two years of age, according to Moore,
He changed entirely. He was like a bull in the woods, and no one could
get ahead of him! He ran with all heart and had a disposition
[that] was out of this world.
knew he had something special after Chinook Pass unleashed his speed at Woods
Creek Training Center. He worked a quarter, which I saw, and then another
quarter that I didnt see. Then I saw him work in under :37, and
thats when I knew I had something. After that three month stint,
Purvis brought Chinook Pass to Longacres for training under the tutelage of
two-year-old connoisseur Bud Klokstad. Bud, Purvis quipped upon
entering the Klokstad camp, this might not be the fastest two-year-old on
the grounds, but I guaran- tee you hes the fastest two-year-old in your
barn. Klokstad remained skeptical upon seeing the high-strung
two-year-old for the first time. He recalled that Chinook Pass seemed to be
a nice horse, but did not look like [anything] special
at the time. After an outstanding work, however, Klokstad became an immediate
convert. You stand there in the morning with a watch and this horse will
frighten you, Klokstad once remarked.
Chinook Pass saga began in June 1981 with a bump in the road, as he was
disqualified after an easy win in a maiden special weight race, at first
asking. But he was able to shake off that disqualification, as well as minor
leg ailments and various starting gate maladies to finish an otherwise
promising season with three wins in five starts. An easy victory in his second
start propelled him into local stakes company. In an outward demonstration of
pure speed and raw power, Chinook Pass knocked a second off the track record in
his wire-to-wire victory in the 5 1/2 furlong Washington Stallion Stakes. Two
weeks later, he posted another scintillating victory, this time in the six
furlong Stripling Stakes. Then the Klokstad camp aimed their splendid sprinter
for the mile-long two-year-old champion- ship, the Gottstein Futurity. As the
race favorite, he was a profound disappointment that day. Not only did he break
from the gate abysmally, but he overexerted himself by trying to catch up.
Despite setting most of the fractions against the throng of competitors,
Chinook Pass lost steam while in the stretch, managing to finish 11th out of a
field of 14. To make matters even worse, it was discovered he had injured a
cannon bone in the effort.
After a seven month
layoff, the maestro of speed spearheaded his 1982 sophomore campaign by winning
a skein of allowance races at Portland Meadows and Longacres. In the latter
victory, he used his tremendous speed to tie the track record of 1:02 4/5 for 5
1/2 furlongs. His winning streak was interrupted, however, as he again failed
to win at a mile, this time in the Seattle Slew Handicap. Apparently, the
precocious runner proved that he was too high on speed and too short on
endurance. Three weeks later, Chinook Pass made up for that terrible effort by
capturing both the Speed and Governors Handicaps. He executed his
trademark move by going wire-to-wire to defeat his elder competitors in both
races. His win in the Speed Handicap prompted Gary Baze, his jockey, to comment
Once we got the lead, he was just coasting. Even more impressive,
Chinook Pass became the first three-year-old to win the Governors
Handicap since Travel Orb accomplished the feat in 1965. These back-to-back
stakes victories immediately vaulted Chinook Pass into contention for the
prestigious Longacres Mile-G2.
The Longacres Mile
gave Chinook Pass a chance to win the Mile, given his wretched performances in
the eight furlong Gottstein Futurity and Seattle Slew Handicap. Even Klokstad
was doubtful, lamenting, We might be shooting for the moon. It was
an anomaly to see a pure sprinter venture into a mile race, especially against
seasoned veterans like Pompeii Court; a winner of three-out-of four starts and
the reigning Santa Anita record holder at a mile. Other prominent horses in the
field of 11 included Hallowed Envoy, a 12-time stakes winner; Tilt the Balance,
a Longacres Mile veteran running on fresh legs; Police Inspector, a
Canadian-bred stakes winner of $286,000; and Pencil Point (Ire), an Irish-bred
sprinter who had been so impressive in winning the Bing Crosby Handicap at Del
Mar, that his owners had supplemented him to the field. For Chinook Pass, the
Mile would prove to be a turning point in his distinguished career.
Chinook Pass was loaded in the five spot. All of a
sudden the gates flung open under the clang of the bell and roar of the crowd.
The race was underway. He took the lead like he was launched from a mighty
catapult. With scorching speed, the talented gelding set the early fractions.
The stretch neared and it was apparent Chinook Pass was not going to fade where
many thought he would. Pompeii Court, a length behind, laid in wait like a
coiled viper ready to strike. A duel was brewing. Soon Pompeii Court caught
Chinook Pass in the stretch. Back-and-forth they went, as the finish line
quickly loomed ahead. Both grudgingly refused to yield to one another. The
crowd of 19,467 on hand stood and cheered as the horses fast approached.
Pompeii Court suddenly took a short lead. Then it was Chinook Pass by a neck.
But then without warning, Pompeii Court put it into high gear and pulled away.
Chinook Pass hung on with all the heart and strength his body could muster, but
it was all in vain. Pompeii Court would be the one basking in the glory that
day while an exhausted Chinook Pass, lathered in sweat from a hard days
work, could only take solace in a courageous second place effort. Once again,
the distance proved too much for him. But his second place effort was not
fruitless, for his performance garnered tremendous new-found respect among
many. He ran a game race, his jockey Jody Davidson said in awe.
As game as any horse Ive ever been on . . . Id be crazy to
ever get off this horse. Chinook Pass not only proved his mettle, but
showed everyone that he had a heart made of gold.
His dauntless Mile endeavor earned him a well-deserved
four week rest. His next effort, however, would prove to be a landmark in
Thoroughbred racing. Chinook Pass not only annihilated the Longacres
track record of five furlongs in the Owners Handicap, but demolished the world
record with a sizzling time of :55.20. He left everything in his wake
including the sound barrier. It was as if he were seemingly propelled around
the track by a pair of rocket boosters strapped to his hindquarters. He was in
front by more than 20 lengths when he crossed the 3/16 pole. He was so far
ahead of the field that the racing cameras could not pan wide enough to capture
everyone on one screen.
Chinook Pass ended the
Longacres meet with a second place finish in the 8 1/2 furlong Puget Sound
Handicap. Then Purvis and com-pany set out to invade southern California.
The Southern Offensive
gelding escaped the provincial scene with a tour of duty to the likes of Los
Alamitos, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Turf Paradise and Del Mar. His campaign
first began with a loss at the Los Alamitos oval in the Orange Coast Handicap
on October 25. He was again bested by arch rival Pompeii Court in the six
furlong romp, losing a valiant effort by a head. Then the precocious runner
traveled to Hollywood Park in search of better fortune. Unfortunately, the six
furlong National Sprint Championship yielded similar results for Chinook Pass.
A bad break and a wide turn caused him to finish third behind Unpredictable.
It was then time for Chinook Pass to make headway
on the national scene. He once again displayed his God-given talent in the
aptly named Meteor Handicap with a wire-to-wire victory that equaled the
American turf record of :56 for five furlongs. His natural speed is
extraordinary and I believe that hes the fastest sprinter in
America, Klokstad now proclaimed to the national audience. People were
beginning to believe in the splendid sprinter. But the Chinook Pass train was
just getting started. At Santa Anita, he unleashed his uncanny speed to win the
six furlong Palos Verdes Handicap on December 26 by 3 1/2 lengths in trademark
fashion. He startled observers with his speed and tenacity over some of
Californias quickest horses. Even National Racing Hall of Fame jockey
Pincay was stupefied, remarking Ive never seen a horse that quick
for the first quarter of a mile . . . Hes the fastest horse on the
backstretch Ive ever been on. This is no small statement, as Pincay
has ridden the likes of Ancient Title, Rising Market, Maheras, Raise a Man,
Stained Glass and Wiley Float; the Santa Anita record holder for 4 1/2
furlongs. Those victories, at two of the greatest tracks in the world, made the
wire-to-wire guru a prime candidate for the next years prestigious
Chinook Pass embarked on his
four-year-old season a week later with a sixth place finish in the Malibu
Stakes-G2 at Santa Anita. Once again, the gate malady bug reared its ugly head.
There was also a shake-up in the ranks as Klokstad elected to return to the
northwest so he could train a larger contin-gent of horses. Purvis hired Laurie
Anderson to fill the void. A change in trainer and barn did little to impede
Chinook Pass progress. In an unbelievable display of talent, the new
sultan of speed vanquished four out of five of the best stakes races the
southwestern United States had to offer. The Chinook Pass express was now at
full throttle and could not be stopped. Stakes race after stakes race fell
before the might of Chinook Pass, like houses of cards upon a gale. Down went
the 6 1/2 furlong Sierra Madre Stakes by a neck. Down went the 6 1/2 furlong
Potrero Grande Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths in the slop; just a few ticks shy of
the track record. Down went the 6 1/2 furlong San Simeon Handicap by four
lengths. And down went the Bing Crosby Handicap by eight lengths at Del Mar.
The fastest Thoroughbreds that California had to offer proved to be no match
for such an indomitable machine. The Longacres Mile loomed in the distance.
The Return of the King
Washingtons favorite son arrived at Longacres for
a grand homecoming. Fans were excited to watch their homegrown champion race
once more. This time, however, there was a lot at stake. He needed to win a
graded stake race to ensure an Eclipse Award. But again, there were a bevy of
skeptics on hand to question his ability to go the distance. Even Pincay
wondered, When I came up here I wasnt sure I had a sure
thing. Others joined the chorus of doubters. Can Chinook get the
mile under 125 pounds? Joe Withee reminisced, stroking his beard in
seemingly deep thought. There was once again tremendous talent in the Mile
field of 14, like Travelling Victor; Canadas 1983 horse of the year.
Other distinguished invaders included Earthquack, a winner of four straight at
Del Mar; Wander Kind, a Canadian multiple stakes winner; and Pewter Gray, a
graded stakes winner that had been shipped north by Eclipse Award-winning
trainer Ron McAnally. A total of 23,157 fans, the second largest attendance
ever at the Renton oval, were on hand to watch Chinook Pass attempt to make
history. Vengeance would not be in vain this time.
Chinook Pass was the last horse loaded in the gate that
sunny afternoon, despite being in the sixth hole. Suddenly the bell rang, and
in an instant Chinook Pass exploded out of the gate as if blasted from a
cannon. His legs churned like pistons in an engine and his hooves dug deeply
into the thick black dirt. Using his quickness, he cut through the mass of
horses and riders like a sharp blade. He took a commanding lead with ease. An
elated Anderson turned around and shook Mr. Purvis hand at the
quarter pole. Chinook Pass was in a league of his own that day, as the
race was over before it had ever really begun. Once again he posted
scintillating fractions en route to a six length win, the biggest margin in
Longacres Mile history. He had answered his doubters in a tone as loud as the
deafening roar of the fans and then some. Anderson remarked in jubilation,
I said that if they go with him its going to break their hearts,
and if they dont, theyll never catch him. And they never did.
Chinook Pass surpassed Trooper Sevens standard of $371,435 by more than
$100,000 to claim the title of Washingtons all time richest Thoroughbred.
Now I think there really is no faster horse in the land, Pincay
aptly exclaimed. The Daily Racing Form and the Thoroughbred Racing
Association were convinced too. They subsequently voted Chinook Pass the 1983
Eclipse Award for best sprinter of the year, resulting in a major coup for the
Washington Thoroughbred industry. The Mile, however, would prove to be his last
Unfortunately for Chinook Pass, life was
not without its array of vicissitudes. It was discovered he had suffered a
cracked splint bone in his right front foreleg during the running of the Mile.
This cancelled plans for an east coast invasion indefinitely. Then a potential
Quarter Horse match race had to be scrapped when Chinook Pass bowed a tendon,
again in his right foreleg, during a rehab gallop in mid-December. After an
extended rest, he was sent to Donida Farm Training Center in Auburn to train
for a chance to return to the racing wars. But when he could not hold up under
the rigors of training, he was retired permanently. Thus ended the career of
Washingtons greatest Thoroughbred. Or did it?
The Great Ambassador
Pass now enjoys a great second life, thanks to the efforts of Jill Hallin.
Hallin first met the horse when she was assigned to aquatread him at Donida.
She chuckled at the thought of seeing him for the first time. I thought
this was such a famous horse, she recalled, that I wanted a picture
taken [of me] on him bareback. She diligently worked with him until that
day arrived. At first the imposing animal was antsy when she climbed atop of
him, but then he quickly settled down. She then had her picture taken while
seated on the fastest horse in the world. Hallin enjoyed this
moment so much that she decided to ride him throughout his rehabilitation
process. A lasting bond had been formed. Chinook Pass returned to Rainier
Stables when it was apparent he could not race again. This move, however, did
little to dampen their new-found relationship. There Hallin routinely walked to
the farthest field on the farm just to see Chinook Pass. Then in a great act of
kindness, Moore permanently loaned the retired champion to her.
Chinook Pass is a very tolerant and accepting animal
that loves to be at the center of attention. When saddled, he is raring to go.
He is the only horse Hallin allows to take off walking before she jumps aboard.
He made $480,000, Hallin laughs. So if he wants to walk, he
can walk. Evidently, some inveterate habits die hard. Chinook Pass has
had an impact on Hallins life. Not only does she frequently identify
herself as Jill with Chinook to all the racing people she meets,
but she has learned that former racehorses can indeed have very productive and
prosperous careers after racing. As a result, Hallin keeps her charismatic
equine quite busy. He has trail-blazed through the wilderness, become an
accomplished dressage and show horse, and made a bevy of local public
The two have made these showings in
an attempt to quench the publics insatiable desire to see the former
champion. This has transformed Chinook Pass into an ambassador of racing. The
pair attended the Seafair Parade in 1991 as part of the Save
Longacres contingent. People were thrilled to see the legendary champion.
Even Chinook Pass was excited; giddy as ever, he displayed a curiosity that
would rival that of a newborn. In and out of formation they went, one moment
mingling with the throngs of spectators that adorned the parade route, the
other ambling about and inspecting the colorful parade floats and decor like a
shrewd detective. Even the thundering din of the monorail overhead did little
to impede their fun. They also made a surprise visit to a Boy Scout breakfast
fundraiser at the Red Lion Hotel grand ballroom where Ron Crockett was speaking
in 1996. The Boy Scouts were not only delighted to see him, but were excited to
learn about his renowned racing exploits as well. Hallin and Chinook Pass were
also at the 2001 City Proclamation at West Lake Plaza to help generate an
interest in racing. Last year, they even appeared at a local movie theater
attended by racing enthusiasts celebrating the release of Seabiscuit. The crowd
had a blast, as did Chinook Pass, who enjoyed indulging in the extra attention.
And within the last few months, the two visited Shoreline High School to cap a
class reading marathon of Laura Hillenbrands best-selling Seabiscuit.
Whether entertaining inquisitive children or
educating fascinated adults, Hallin finds no shortage of joy in passing Chinook
Pass knowledge and history onto others. Thanks to her efforts, the legacy of
Washingtons most famous Thoroughbred will continue to endure and abound.
Pincay once referred to Chinook Pass as The
fastest horse that [he] ever rode or saw. This brief statement speaks
volumes of Chinook Pass remarkable racing career. But he is more than
just a famous racehorse, for he is also a great ambassador of the sport. And as
a result, the Chinook Pass story has turned into a legend, a legend which will
forever remain a part of Washingtons racing identity.
Chinook Pass heritage reads well
upon close scrutiny. His sire Native Born had established himself at stud in
Washington by siring a bevy of stakes winners, spearheaded by the exploits of
Crafty Native, a two-time Washington horse of the year. The indomitable double
chef-de-race Native Dancer, Chinook Pass paternal grandsire, was not only
a legend on the race track after winning 21 of 22 career starts, but was a
marvel at stud; siring the likes of Kentucky Derby first place finishers Kauai
King and Dancers Image, as well as the proponent Raise a Native. Native
Dancer was also the damsire of Northern Dancer.
Chinook Pass maternal line also abounds with speed, despite the short
racing careers of his first and second dams, Yu Turn and Iyearn. Yu Turn had a
double cross (2 x 3) of *Royal Charger, a son of Nearco, who had first-class
speed and was out of a half-sister to *Nasrullah, who traces to perhaps the
fastest of all fillies, Mumtaz Mahal. Yu Turn displayed this great speed at Bay
Meadows before a rash of injuries cut her career short. Her dam, Iyearn, had a
meager race record as well, but produced six winners out of eight foals.
Chinook Pass maternal grandsire *Turn-to, a
racing champion, was very successful at stud as exhibited by the endeavors of
his progeny: Best Turn, Cyane, First Landing, Hail to Reason and Sir Gaylord;
all who turned out to be major sires.
number one speed gene in Chinook Pass immediate family can clearly be
traced to one source: I Salute.
I Salute flaunted
uncanny speed to challenge track records throughout the country during her 11
win career. She equaled or set the track record for 5 1/2 furlongs at Atlantic
City three different times, set a new track record at Pimlico going six
furlongs, and then set a new track mark at Santa Anita in a 6 1/2 furlong romp.
As a broodmare, I Salute produced I Recall, a filly that set a course record
for eight furlongs at Woodbine. I Salute also produced Indoctrinate, a colt by
Intent who showed exceptional speed by setting a course record at Laurel Park
for a mile. I Salute was also grandam to Gimli, a filly with 10 wins, including
a record setting six furlong performance at Belmont Park; and the grandam of
Andrew Feeney, a colt with 26 wins including a victory in the Arizona Downs
Sprint Championship. Hence, if there is one forebearer to whom Chinook Pass
relates, it has to be the maternal great-grandam I Salute, a first-class
sprinter with tremendous speed.
for a complete list of all the Washington Hall of Fame inductees.