Washington's favorite son
by Jon White
n April 6, 1965, exactly one week after the
first U.S. combat troops had been ordered to Vietnam and 25 days before Lucky
Debonair and jockey Bill Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby, Fur Piece foaled a
colt by Cold Command at Tom and Marguerite Crawfords five-acre ranch in
Veradale, WA, 12 miles east of Spokane.
month earlier, Fur Piece had been sent to Veradale from the Crawfords
much larger ranch north of Missoula, MT. The Crawfords preferred to have their
Thoroughbreds foaled at their Veradale ranch instead of in Montana so they
would be eligible for Washington-bred races, especially Washington-bred stakes
races, if they were good enough.
Tom Crawford was
not home the night Fur Piece went into labor. Recognizing that Fur Piece was
close to foaling, Marguerite called their veterinarian. Throughout the process,
Marguerite a registered nurse when she had met Tom years earlier in San
Diego served as the mares midwife, making as sure as she could
that the mare did not have any difficulties. Fur Piece delivered her foal
without a hitch.
The following day, Tom returned
to the Veradale ranch. He asked his wife about Fur Piece.
Come out to the barn, Marguerite said.
Ive got something I want to show you.
Tom followed his wife out to the barn.
Now stand in the corral, Marguerite said.
Marguerite unfastened the stall door to let Fur Piece and her foal into the
small corral. The mare stayed behind and let her foal go out by himself. That
surprised Marguerite. Once in the corral, the foal stood as still as a statue,
looking at Tom.
As Tom slowly approached, the foal
still did not move. Having spent much of his life as a successful automobile
salesman, Tom inspected the foal, much as he would a used car.
Hi, little fellow, Tom said.
Youre my Kentucky Derby winner.
The foals sire, Cold Command, had started in the
1952 Kentucky Derby, finishing ninth behind Calumet Farms victorious Hill
Gail. Earlier in 1952, Cold Command had won a seven furlong allowance race at
Keeneland, defeating Hill Gail.
The Crawfords, who
spent many evenings studying bloodlines and reading breeding publications, had
decided to breed Fur Piece to Cold Command because they liked that sires
pedigree. They also knew of Sparrow Castle, a colt from Cold Commands
first crop, which consisted of just six foals. After winning the Longacres
Derby in 1960, Sparrow Castle registered six stakes victories at the 63-day
Longacres meeting the following year. He became the first horse to win that
many stakes in one season at Longacres, highlighted by a victory in the premier
race in the northwest, the Longacres Mile. Finishing last in the Longacres Mile
that year was Aryess, owned and trained by Tom Crawford.
Foaled in 1949, Cold Command was a son of 1937 Triple
Crown winner War Admiral. A son of the legendary Man o War, War Admiral
also sired Busher, who was acclaimed horse of the year as a three-year-old
filly in 1945. War Admirals descendants include Triple Crown winners
Seattle Slew and Affirmed, plus such other greats as Swaps, Buckpasser, Dr.
Fager, Alysheba and Cigar.
dam, Monsoon, won the 1946 Correction Handicap at Jamaica, the 1946 Queen
Isabelle Handicap at Laurel and the 1947 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa
Anita. Monsoons sire, *Mahmoud, won Englands famed 1936 Epsom Derby
in record time.
Fur Piece was a half-sister to two
stakes winners for the Crawfords, Barbara Jo and Mercy Me. Fur Pieces
sire, By Zeus, won the worlds first $100,000 grass race, the 1954 San
Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita. Owned by Mrs. Edward Lasker (actress
Jane Greer) and trained by Buddy Hirsch, By Zeus rallied from 11th in a field
of 16 to win the San Juan Capistrano by 4 1/2 lengths, setting an American
record of 2:26 for 1 1/2 miles on the turf.
Tom concentrated on training the horses, he pretty much left the task of naming
them to his wife. Marguerite named Fur Piece after a fur coat that she had
wanted. Tom had told his wife that she could have the coat or the By Zeus
filly. Marguerite chose the filly.
certainly would not win any beauty contests. She was an ugly filly born
with a crooked front leg, according to Marguerite. A knee injury
sustained as a two-year-old prevented the filly from ever racing.
As for Fur Pieces 1965 foal by Cold Command,
Marguerite had an idea for his name as well.
What do you call that thing you have to put a
horses legs in for soreness? Marguerite asked her husband.
You know. That thing that whirls the water around?
You mean a turbulator? Tom responded.
Yeah. Thats it. How about that as a name
for Fur Pieces baby?
Before making a
decision, Tom said the name out loud a few times. Turbulator . . .
Turbulator . . . Turbulator . . . I like the sound of it.
So do I, Marguerite said.
Three names, in order of preference, were submitted to
The Jockey Club for Fur Pieces baby. The Jockey Club accepted the
Crawfords first choice, Turbulator.
Marguerite always enjoyed looking out the window of
their Veradale home to watch Turbulator and the other young Thoroughbreds at
play. The youngsters sometimes had their own spontaneous races. Marguerite
would see Turbulator grazing quietly when, all of a sudden, some of the other
youngsters would start running across the pasture. Turbulator would look up and
take off. Marguerite was struck by the speed with which Turbulator would catch
up to them before passing them all.
hoped that eventually they also would see Turbulator show that speed at the
Tom suffered a serious heart attack in
1966. With his health now an issue, he thought it best to reduce the number of
horses he owned. He consigned four yearlings to the 1966 yearling sale
conducted by the Washington Horse Breeders Association at the Spokane
Interstate Fairgrounds. According to The Blood-Horse, Crawford did sell
three of the yearlings, but the B. g. Cold CommandFur Piece
yearling was withdrawn. Crawford had changed his mind about selling Turbulator,
who by now was a gelding. He had been gelded because he had been acting like
an orangutan, Marguerite said.
After being gelded,
Turbulator became much easier to handle. Not only that, as a two-year-old in
training at Playfair in the spring of 1967, he began to show that he possessed
some talent. One day that spring, Tom was beaming after returning to the
Veradale ranch from Playfair. He had wanted to see just what the son of Cold
Command and Fur Piece might have under the hood.
Turbulator impressed his trainer that morning. However,
later in the day, when the groom, Bruce Samuels, was about to give Turbulator
his routine afternoon feeding, Samuels found him standing at the back of his
stall, sweating and breathing hard. A virus had killed a number of horses at
Playfair that spring. The groom knew that some horses had died within five or
six hours after showing signs that they were sick. Afraid that Turbulator might
have this potentially lethal virus, Samuels ran as fast as he could to find a
When the vet took Turbulators
temperature, it was a dangerously high 105 degrees. The groom called Tom, who
quickly returned to Playfair, where he found Turbulator gravely ill.
Fortunately, Turbulator responded to the vets treatment. He didnt
die, but it had been a close call.
Turbulators great-grandsire, Man o War, had
gone through a similar experience. Man o War was one of several yearlings
to contract a virus at Nursery Stud in 1918. Some of them died. Man o War
got over the virus, but not before giving everyone at Nursery Stud a scare when
he was found to have a high temperature. His breathing also became hard and
irregular. It took two days before his temperature and breathing were back to
normal. Man o War survived the ordeal and went on to a racing career in
which he won 20 of 21 starts.
had been so ill, Dr. Dale Johnson, one of the states most respected
veterinarians, told Tom that he should forget about running Turbulator as a
two-year-old. Heeding Johnsons advice, Tom sent the horse to the ranch in
Montana. Early in 1968, Turbulator was doing so well that Tom was looking
forward to putting him back into training. Then one day that spring the phone
rang at the Crawfords Veradale home. After hanging up, a glum Tom
Crawford sat down with tears in his eyes.
That was the farm manager from Montana, he told his wife.
Turbulator hurt his right knee real bad. He ran into a sprinkler in the
pasture. The vet stitched it up the best that he could. All we can do now is
wait and see if its going to heal okay.
At that moment, Tom realized Turbulator might never run
in a race. The gelding would require considerable treatment for the injured
knee, probably eventually including some therapy from a turbulator.
Frustrated by Turbulators bad luck, Crawford
thought enough was enough. He offered to swap Turbulator to a neighboring
Montana rancher for two cows. But the neighbor refused the trade.
On a spring day in 1965, Crawford had said Turbulator
would be his Kentucky Derby horse. On May 4, 1968, while Turbulator was in
Montana recuperating from his knee injury, Peter Fullers Dancers
Image rallied from last in a field of 14 to win the 94th Kentucky Derby by 1
1/2 lengths over Calumet Farms Forward Pass.
That particular Kentucky Derby became one of the most
controversial races in the history of the sport. When the post-race urinalysis
of Dancers Image showed the presence of Butazolidin, which at the time
was a prohibited medication in Kentucky, Forward Pass was declared to be the
winner except for pari-mutuel payoffs. First purse money and the winning trophy
were awarded to Forward Pass owner by order of the Kentucky State Racing
Commission. Fuller initiated a legal battle that would last for years in a
futile attempt to have Dancers Image reinstated as the 1968 Kentucky
Crawford could only imagine how a
healthy Turbulator might have fared against Dancers Image and Forward
Pass. Meanwhile, as time went on in 1968 and 69, Turbulators knee
healed well enough that it appeared he might be able to race after all.
A Four-year-old Maiden
Considering what the gelding had been through, it was
almost a miracle that Tom Crawford entered Turbulator in a race at an Idaho
track on June 7, 1969. This race would never appear on the horses
official record because the Daily Racing Form would not include races
from Coeur dAlene in its past performances until the following year.
Although Turbulator was an unraced four-year-old
gelding, he was asked to compete against winners in the days feature at 5
1/2 furlongs, an allowance race with a purse of just $300.
Ridden by Terry Motschenbacher, Turbulator finished
third, 5 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Stout Me. Testify ran second. The
time of the race was 1:09. John Farnsworth (known as Marvin to his friends), a
Spokane businessman and hunting partner of Tom Crawfords, had become part
owner of Turbulator prior to the geldings unofficial debut.
It looked like Turbulator was headed for a career as a
claiming horse, and his next two races did nothing to dispel that notion. He
finished second at Portland Meadows in a maiden $1,500 claiming sprint on June
16 as a four-to-five favorite. A week later, he ran second at that track in a
maiden $2,000 claiming sprint, again as a four-to-five favorite.
No one would ever get the chance to claim him after
On July 20, Neil Armstrong took his first
step on the moon. On August 22, Turbulator took his first step in a Playfair
race. He won a six furlong maiden contest by 1 1/2 lengths. He also won his
next two starts. Then came his first stakes victory. He won the Washington
State Breeders Handicap by 4 1/2 lengths while carrying 114 pounds on
By now, Turbulator was becoming
quite a hit with the fans, thanks to his explosive come-from-behind victories
under the Crawfords bright pink silks on Playfairs five furlong
oval. When the Crawfords began racing horses, Tom had left the design of their
silks to Marguerite. Because Tom had difficulty seeing the horses on the
backstretch from the grandstand, his only request was that the silks be a
One day, Marguerite came home with a
fabric sample and showed it to Tom. Its a hot pink called
fuchsia, she said. Is that bright enough for you?
Tom liked it. Thereafter, the Crawfords silks, as
denoted in any official program whenever one of their horses raced, were:
Fuchsia, with white C on back.
Turbulator again raced under the Crawfords
fuchsia silks on October 19 in the second division of the Playfair Mile, the
most prestigious race of the meet. Rulers Whirl won the first division by
a nose over Honda Dream. In the second division, Turbulator, attempting to
extend his winning streak to six, was asked to carry 124 pounds and spot five
pounds to an equine buzz saw in Silver Double, who a week earlier had defeated
Rulers Whirl and Honda Dream in the Spokane Derby. Catching the speedy
Silver Double would not be easy. Racing for the G and R Stable of W. S. Grey
and Horace Rekunyk, Silver Double had won three stakes races that year at
Exhibition Park (now Hastings Park) prior to taking the Spokane Derby.
When Silver Double had a four-length lead with a
furlong to go in the Playfair Mile, he appeared on his way to an emphatic
victory. But Turbulator, running his final quarter mile in :24 1/5, closed with
a rush and won by one length in 1:37 (three-fifths faster than Rulers
Whirl winning time in the first division).
the fans reacted with a tremendous ovation, Turbulator seemed to acknowledge
the cheers. As he approached the winners circle, he pranced along, acting
like a ham. It was as if he was taking bows for his performance, which made the
crowd applaud and yell even more.
you could hear the cheers from the crowd all the way to downtown Spokane. And
downtown was a couple of miles away, track announcer Jim Price said.
It was a huge din, and it lasted for five, six, seven minutes. I
attempted to make some sort of announcement over it, and that was silly. I
shouldnt have even tried because you couldnt have heard me. I
couldnt even hear myself. Ultimately, I gave up and waited until the
quarter mile time was remarkable, particularly from the stand-point that
Playfair was a five furlong oval. The distance from the top of the stretch to
the finish line measured just 704 feet. That meant approximately half of
Turbulators final quarter-mile was run around a sharp turn.
A year earlier, when Dr. Fager had set a world record
of 1:32 1/5 for one mile at Arlington Park, he ran his final quarter mile in
:24 3/5. Granted, Dr. Fager carried 134 pounds and won easily by 10 lengths.
But at Arlington Park, a 1 1/8 mile oval, the distance from the top of the
stretch to the finish line was 1,029 feet, a much longer stretch run than
Playfair. Plus the turns at Arlington Park were not nearly as sharp as
After the Playfair Mile, with
Turbulators winning streak now at six, many wondered if perhaps Tom
Crawford would take him to California. The Bay Meadows meeting that had begun
on October 14 would be continuing through December 22. Or maybe Crawford would
send Turbulator to Santa Anita for that meet, which traditionally starts the
day after Christmas.
Instead, Crawford shocked
just about everyone by entering Turbulator in Playfairs Inland Empire
Marathon Handicap, a two-mile race run seven days after the Playfair Mile.
Racing secretary Mannie Keller assigned Turbulator 128 pounds. The most weight
ever carried to victory in the race, first run in 1947, had been 125 by Sioux
Cadet in 1967.
Undaunted by the 128 pounds,
Turbulator toyed with his outclassed opponents, winning by three lengths.
When he had arrived at Playfair in the summer of 1969,
Turbulator was a four-year-old maiden. He won all seven of his races at the
meet, at distances from six furlongs to two miles.
After Turbulator was named horse of the meet at
Playfair in 1969, many again wondered if he might be going to Bay Meadows or
Santa Anita. However, instead of going to California, he received a
resumed racing the following spring at Yakima Meadows, a one mile oval with
turns not nearly as sharp as those at Playfair. After losses in a pair of 5 1/2
furlong stakes events, Turbulator started in the biggest race of the Yakima
Meadows meeting, the Yakima Mile.
jockeys Terry Motschen-bacher, Mark Jennings, Frank Inda, Dan Castle and
Wendell Matt had ridden Turbulator prior to the Yakima Mile. However,
Crawford was convinced that Larry Pierce would be a perfect partner for
Pierce agreed to come up from Golden
Gate Fields to ride Turbulator in the Yakima Mile. Crawford also elicited an
agreement from the jockey and his agent, Nick Puhich, to ride Turbulator
whenever he raced at the upcoming Longacres meet.
Turbulator won the Yakima Mile with ridiculous ease by
3 3/4 lengths. All Tom had told me was to not make the lead too
soon, Pierce said. I cracked him on his ass a couple of times, and
he just opened up and set a track record.
The final time of 1:35 1/5 lowered the track record by
four-fifths of a second. The record stood for more than two decades. It would
not be broken until Slew of Damascus won the 1993 Yakima Mile, before going on
to capture the grade one Hollywood Gold Cup in 1994.
Turbulator was named horse of the meeting at Yakima
Meadows. After Pierce had felt what was under him in the Yakima Mile, the rider
certainly was looking forward to the 1970 Longacres meet.
On July 4, Turbulator won the Independence Day Handicap
at one mile. It was his first Longacres stakes victory, and the vanquished
included a familiar foe. Silver Double finished second, only to be disqualified
and placed last for inference that nearly caused Turbulator to fall.
While in front but not yet clear approaching the
clubhouse turn, Silver Double, with apprentice Jason Iwai in the saddle, moved
over to the inside rail. As he did, he took Judgelyns path. Judgelyn,
ridden by Mark Jennings (who had been aboard Turbulator in his 1969 Portland
Meadows races), fell when unable to avoid clipping Silver Doubles heels.
It happened right in front of me, just a
little bit to the side, Pierce said. I missed the fallen horse, but
I went over Mark Jennings. Tubulator just leaped right over him. He didnt
break stride too much. Id say it put him a length or two farther back
than he wouldve been.
Going into the
backstretch, Turbulator was 13 1/2 lengths behind. He won by two lengths in
1:34 4/5, running his final quarter mile in an exceptionally fast :23 1/5.
The 1:34 4/5 clocking missed the track record by only
two-fifths of a second and matched Praise Jays winning time in the 1969
Bob Schwarzmann had been covering
Longacres for The Seattle Times since 1963. Before the Independence Day
Handicap, he wrote a story about Turbulator, chronicling how Tom Crawford had
tried unsuccessfully to trade Turbulator for two cows.
As Turbulator posed for pictures in the winners
circle, an enthusiastic fan yelled out, Hes worth more than two
cows now, Tom!
Turbulators fan club
was growing with each triumph.
Up until the
Independence Day Handicap, there was an opinion among some that Turbulator had
yet to beat anyone and belonged on the other side of the mountains [at Playfair
and Yakima Meadows], Tony Weller wrote in the Daily Racing Form.
They pointed out that his early life was obscure and that no horse that
got beat in his [official] maiden debut as a four-year-old could possibly
attain the rank as the northwests number one handicap horse. When he came
within two-fifths of a second of the mile record on the Fourth of July, those
who spoke against the wonder horse were now on the bandwagon.
Later in the summer at Longacres, Turbulator made
headlines when he broke the world record for 6 1/2 furlongs. His win was
reported worldwide by the Associated Press.
wrote the following in the Daily Racing Form: In a worlds
record performance, John Farnsworth and Tom Crawfords wonder horse,
Turbulator, came charging from far back to capture the 30th running of the
$10,920 Governors Handicap as he zipped the 6 1/2 furlong distance in
1:14 flat. A loud ovation by the 9,548 in attendance greeted Turbulator as he
jogged back to the winners enclosure. In the post-race ceremonies, both
Farnsworth and Crawford were on hand to accept the trophy. Jockey Larry Pierce
also took part in the presentation.
the race, Pierce said: We had clear sailing and, when we moved, I had a
lot of horse. I saw the inside was tight, so I went to the outside, but they
took me wider than I wanted to go. At the eighth pole, I didnt think we
would win. But at the sixteenth pole, I knew wed win.
Turbulators popularity soared. By now most people
were simply referring to him by his nickname, Tubby, stemming from the
whirlpool-like device for which he was named. Two weeks after his world record
performance, Tubby started in the most coveted race in the northwest, the
The 1970 Mile
With 45 horses
nominated to the 1970 Longacres Mile, racing secretary Steve ODonnell
assigned T. V. Commercial top weight of 125 pounds, two more than Turbulator.
T. V. Commercial had just won the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. As a
three-year-old, T. V. Commercial finished fourth in the 1968 Kentucky Derby and
was awarded third money following the disqualification of Dancers Image.
Pierce was so excited about Turbulator after the
world record that he phoned his brother, Don, who was riding at Del Mar. One of
the leading jockeys at Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, Don Pierce had
been aboard T. V. Commercial when he won the San Diego Handicap.
This horse Im riding is unbelievable,
Larry told his brother. Yeah, but its a lot tougher down
here, Don said.
I know that,
Larry continued. But Im telling you, this horse can beat anything
you have in California. Believe me.
was so confident that he was going to win the Longacres Mile with Turbulator
that he was disappointed to learn T. V. Commercial would skip the race. Larry
thought it would have been great fun to beat T. V. Commercial, especially if
brother Don had come up to ride him.
nominated to the Longacres Mile was *Cougar II, who was assigned six pounds
fewer than Turbulator. *Cougar II took Del Mars Escondido Handicap on
August 8, his first win since coming to the U.S. from Chile. However, *Cougar
II, like T. V. Commercial, stayed at Del Mar. *Cougar II would go on to win the
1973 Santa Anita Handicap-G1 and finish third behind Secretariat and Riva Ridge
in the 1973 Marlboro Cup.
Larry Pierce was not the
only one expecting Turbulator to win the most important race in the northwest.
Tubby was the six-to-five favorite. Instead, he finished fifth, beaten by 2 1/2
lengths, in what is unquestionably the most famous loss in northwest racing
history. At the start, Pierces left stirrup iron got caught on the
starting gate and broke into several pieces.
There was a new 14-stall gate, Pierce said.
It was very narrow between the stalls. When I came out of the gate, I
could feel that my left foot was not in the stirrup. I just thought my foot had
come out of it. I was kind of riding lopsided, a little off balance, but I
wasnt that worried about it right then. I was worried more about my
position going to the first turn.
In a one
mile race at Longacres, it was a relatively short run to the first turn.
I wanted to get as good a position as I
could, Pierce continued, and I figured I could put my foot back in
the stirrup later. Just before we got to the first turn, I reached down to put
my foot in the stirrup, and I realized there was no stirrup! My first thought
was, Dont panic. But this was something that had never
happened to me before.
backstretch, while ninth in the field of 13, Pierces right foot came out
of the stirrup. Now he was riding with both legs dangling. At one point on the
backstretch, he lost his balance and rolled over to the left side of
me, Pierce said. But in a split second I dont know
whether it was fear or adrenalin I got back down in the saddle. I
crawled my way back off his neck. As I came to the half mile pole, I got my
right foot back in the stirrup.
the five-eighths pole, he was running free. He was doing things on his own
because I had just about lost control of him. He made a move down the
backstretch on his own. But then I got trapped on the inside [on the far turn].
The horse had gone through so much already, and now hes trapped. I kept
looking to get him to the outside, but he stayed trapped all the way to the
Despite all the adversity, Turbulator
managed to improve his position from 10th to fifth in the final quarter mile.
He gave me everything he had, Pierce
said. I really believe that if I had just been able to somehow get him to
the outside, he still wouldve won.
won? Silver Double, who Turbulator had defeated in the Independence Day
Handicap and Playfair Mile and who carried 10 pounds fewer than Tubby, took the
Longacres Mile by one length. The California-bred son of Double Lea paid $12.90
to win. That was a very generous payoff considering Silver Double had gone into
the Longacres Mile off a three-length win in Exhibition Parks Sun
Handicap, when he had run 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 3/5 to break the track record.
Tom Crawford, who had longed to win the Longacres
Mile, was disappointed by the loss and furious at Pierces ride. As
Crawford watched the race from a box seat in the grandstand, he saw Pierce
uncharacteristically flopping around on the horses back. The trainer also
saw Tubby hopelessly trapped along the inside rail throughout the final quarter
As Crawford walked out onto the track to
await the return of Turbulator and Pierce for unsaddling, the trainer could not
believe what he had just seen. What the hell were you doing out
there? Crawford snapped as the rider dismounted.
At first, Pierce said nothing. He simply pointed toward
the saddle. And then the rider, speaking softly, said only three words:
My stirrup broke.
and walked off. It turned out that all but one of the several pieces of the
shattered stirrup were recovered and later given to the trainer, who thought
the stirrup pieces would make an interesting keepsake. He had the stirrup
fragments framed and enclosed in glass to display like a painting.
It wasnt like it was a bad stirrup or an
old stirrup, Pierce said. It just got caught up on the side of the
gate. It just got ripped off coming out of there.
You know, there were so many ifs. He wins easy,
if the stirrup doesnt break, if my foot doesnt slip out of
the right stirrup, if I dont almost fall off him, if
were not trapped, if, if, if. And he still only got beat two and a
Turbulator and Silver Double
met again eight days later in the Seattle Handicap. Jim Hill, Silver
Doubles trainer, was miffed that Tubby had received so much attention in
the media after the Longacres Mile. Hill thought Silver Double did not get the
attention he deserved for his victory.
people I talked to this week thought Turbulator was the better horse in the
Mile, Hill was quoted as saying in the Daily Racing Form.
But we had an excuse, too. Silver Double had his noseband break at the
start and ran with his mouth open all the way.
Turbulator was the first horse entered in the Seattle
Handicap. He also was first at the end of the 1 1/8 mile race, which was run on
a sloppy track.
In the Daily Racing Form,
Weller wrote: John Farnsworth and Tom Crawfords Turbulator, who had
the Longacres Mile escape him due to ill racing luck last week, clearly
established himself as one of the leading route horses in the west by coming
from far back to account for the 35th running of the $22,575 Seattle Handicap
this Labor Day afternoon. At the end of the 1 1/8 mile fixture that was run
over some of the most adverse footing ever seen here, Turbulator won going away
to be two lengths over S.J. Agnews Pitch Out. G and R Stables Mile
winner, Silver Double, retired to fourth after setting the early fractions.
Turbulator was far back for the first half
mile being some 18 lengths off the lead as Pierce was not in any hurry. Once
into the stretch, Pierce lightly hit Turbulator two or three times and from
then on it was all over as he won in hand.
Turbulator carried 123 pounds, four more than Silver
On September 14, closing day of the
Longacres meet, Turbulator won the Washington Championship by four lengths.
Despite being under restraint late and carrying 128 pounds, he ran 1 1/16 miles
in 1:41 to break the track record by two-fifths of a second. Call Call had
established the mark 16 years earlier.
his first Longacres riding title in 1970, while Turbulator was acclaimed horse
of the meeting. Tubby became the only horse ever to earn that title at all
three of Washingtons three major tracks at that time, Longacres, Playfair
and Yakima Meadows.
Home to Playfair
returned to Playfair that fall a conquering hero. His next start came in the
Washington State Breeders Handicap on September 27. He was asked to pack
134 pounds, 20 more than he had carried to victory in the same race a year ago.
Wash. Breeders Cap at Playfair
Headed by Fabulous Turbulator, was the Daily Racing Form headline.
Early in the one mile race, Turbulator was last,
20 lengths off the lead and six lengths behind the next-to-last horse,
Loras Pal. Tubby then generated an incredible rally. On the final turn,
he passed opponents with such speed that it seemed he might break the sound
This was how track announcer Jim Price
described the final quarter mile (though the crowd noise was such that
virtually no one could hear it): Going to the far turn, Fosket is in
front by half a length, Knute K. is second, Feed King is third, then its
Melmitch fourth, followed by First Pop and I. Aylmer. And now, swinging to the
outside, there he goes!
Around the far turn,
its Fosket in front by a length and a half. Feed King is second a head on
the outside. Knute K. is third, Melmitch is fourth, and now Turbulator is
sixth, hes fifth, hes fourth, hes third, hes second and
going for the lead.
Theyre into the
stretch, its Fosket in front by two lengths. Turbulator is flying on the
outside! Its Turbulator now in front, Fosket and Melmitch. Down to the
wire, its Turbulator!
That is the race
call Price is most remembered for when it comes to his career as a track
With the near-record crowd of 7,257
fans cheering wildly, Tubby roared past nine opponents in the final
quarter-mile to win by two lengths in 1:37 4/5. It was his eighth straight
When we were turning for
home, I could really hear the crowd, Pierce said. Id never
heard anything like it before. T
ran his final quarter mile in :24 2/5, quite a feat considering he was carrying
134 pounds on a five-eighths oval. He paid $2.60 to win. In a racing oddity,
his nine opponents all had more money wagered on them to place or show than to
win. It is believed to be the only time that has happened at a northwest track.
Next, Turbulator carried 138 pounds in the
Playfair Mile on October 25. That tied the record for most weight ever carried
in a race at a Washington track. Hank H. had set the record when he won the
1947 Washington Championship.
certainly wanted the most celebrated horse in the northwest to run in the
Playfair Mile. The racing surface had been wet the day before (officially muddy
for the first five races, slow for the final five races). If the track was wet
for the Playfair Mile, Tubby might be scratched, since it could be risky for
him to race on such a surface with 138 pounds.
According to Price, extraordinary measures
were taken to try and dry out the racing surface the morning of the 1970
Playfair Mile. The track remained wet enough to be listed as good for the first
five races that day. Scott Shirley, the person responsible for determining the
track condition for the Daily Racing Form as their chart-caller, did
upgrade it to fast beginning with the sixth race. The Playfair Mile was the
ninth on the 10-race card.
I know the
Racing Form called the track fast for the Playfair Mile, and it was fast
in places, but it also certainly was dead in places, especially on the turns,
because there was still residual moisture underneath the surface, Price
Sent away as a two-to-five favorite,
Turbulator was 13 lengths off the lead in the early going. He was closing
furiously on the final turn when he suddenly bobbled.
He hit a spot that still had moisture in it, and
he skidded with the foot that he stepped with on that wet spot, Price
said. As a result, he lost his action a bit. It was hard for him to
regain his momentum, especially while carrying so much weight. When he hit that
wet spot, it ended up killing the explosiveness of his move.
Trying with all his heart coming down the stretch,
Turbulator gained steadily on the leading Rulers Whirl. But this time
Tubby could not quite get up. Rulers Whirl, carrying 121 pounds,
prevailed by a neck in 1:38 3/5.
Turbulators high impost, giving up 17
pounds to the winner, plus the fact the track was not conducive to rallying
horses on a card completely dominated by speed campaigners, may be said to give
him ample excuse for his second place game effort, Shirley wrote in his
Daily Racing Form recap of the race. That was Tubbys final race of
He later was named 1970 Washington-bred
horse of the year.
preparing for a 1971 campaign, Tubby worked a half mile in :47 1/5 between
races at Yakima Meadows on May 2. But he did not race in 1971 due to a
suspensory injury, according to the Daily Racing Form.
Tom Crawford died of a heart attack on February 27,
1972. So when Turbulator resumed racing that year on June 16 at Longacres, he
did so for a new trainer, Leonard Roberts. (Bruce Samuels, who had helped save
Turbulators life when he was a sick two-year-old at Playair, also took a
turn as Tubbys trainer late in his career.)
Beginning in 1972, Turbulator would always race with
front bandages. That was a sign that this Tubby was not as good as the one seen
in 1969 or 70. Still, he continued to win each year that he competed.
The closest he came to his glory days was when he
ran in the 1972 Washington Championship. Red Wind, the two-to-one favorite, was
coming off a win in the Longacres Mile that year. The exceedingly swift Grey
Papa, who eight days earlier had set a world record of 1:07 1/5 for six
furlongs at Longacres, was the second choice at five-to-two. Turbulator, who
had finished seventh in the Longacres Mile and third in the Seattle Handicap,
In the Washington Championship,
Grey Papa had a two-length lead with a furlong to go. According to the official
chart, Turbulator was eight lengths behind at that point. Closing with the kind
of rush seen so often from him earlier in his career, Tubby won by a
half-length in 1:41 2/5. His time was two-fifths of a second off his own track
record set in 1970. Grey Papa finished second. Red Wind wound up ninth.
Turbulator won despite being farther back with a
furlong remaining than Silky Sullivan had been in any of his victories. In what
generally is regarded as Silky Sullivans most amazing performance, he won
a 6 1/2 furlong race after trailing by 41 lengths at Santa Anita in 1958. On
that occasion, he trailed by seven lengths with a furlong to go. When Silky
Sullivan won the Santa Anita Derby that year after being 26 lengths off the
early pace, he trailed by five lengths with a furlong left.
Turbulator won two races in 1973. Face it,
hes never going to be a sound horse again, Roberts said in a 1973
Daily Racing Form story. But he always does his best and, if we
pick his spots pretty carefully, he can still win some good races. He wants to
win and its hard to find horses that want to win as badly as he
Turbulator won twice more in 1974 at
the age of nine. He won a one mile allowance contest at Longacres on July 31 by
1 1/2 lengths. Finishing second was Rulers Whirl, who four years earlier
had upset Tubby in the Playfair Mile.
always the case, win, lose or draw, Turbulator was cheered loudly by the crowd
both before and after in the winners circle, Dick Cartney wrote in
the Daily Racing Form after Tubby defeated Rulers Whirl in 1974.
On September 1 of that year, Turbulator won
another one mile allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths at Longacres. It was
Tubbys final victory. Many of his fans thought this particular win was
extra sweet because Best Hitter finished second. Best Hitter had broken their
beloved Turbulators 6 1/2 furlong world record by one-fifth of a second
On closing day of the 1974 Longacres
meet, Turbulator raced in choppy strides and struggled home to finish ninth in
the Washington Championship. Marguerite Crawford knew the time had come for
Tubby to go home for good. He never raced again. He had earned a life of
All told, Turbulator made 48 starts,
including his unofficial race at Coeur dAlene. He won 21 times. Eleven of
his victories came in stakes. Only once in his 48 starts did he fail to
maintain or improve his position in the final furlong. That was when he ran on
a sticky track officially rated slow at Exhibition Park in 1970.
Pierce rode Turbulator a total of 24 times. They
collaborated for 11 victories.
He had such
an explosive move, Pierce said. And he had that move whenever you
asked for it. You could ask him for it anytime in a race and itd be
there. Itd be there instantly. Hed go full steam. There was no
halfway about it. His move was awesome. I just had so much confidence in him.
He could make up 10 lengths, easy, in a quarter of a mile. Horses just
dont do that. Hed go by horses so fast, itd take your breath
Like any star, Tubby also had
If ever there was a horse that
brought sheer joy and hysteria to a track and thrived on that crowd response it
would be Turbulator, it was written in The Washington Horse in
He was so popular that there were Turbulator
T-shirts and coffee mugs. Turbulator buttons were given away at Longacres when
he returned there for a special retirement ceremony on June 21, 1975. The
buttons were fuchsia with white printing and said: I Love Tubby!
After his retirement, he continued to make public
appearances at Longacres and Playfair for years. And he always seemed to enjoy
Hall of Fame #1 and #2
September 24, 1985, Turbulator joined some talented human athletes when he was
inducted into the Inland Empire Sports Hall of Fame during a luncheon at the
Spokane Convention Center.
Howie Stalwick wrote in
The Spokesman-Review: The seven new Hall of Famers included the
first animal inductee, Thoroughbred racehorse Turbulator. The 20-year-old
gelding made a surprise appearance at the luncheon, emerging from the rear
entryway to the familiar cry of former Playfair announcer Jim Price, Here
It would not be
Turbulators only Hall of Fame membership. He also was voted into the
Washington Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. Turbulator was among the
first five horses so honored, joining Captain Condo, Chinook Pass, Saratoga
Passage and Trooper Seven. Not bad for a horse that nearly died as a
two-year-old and wrecked a knee at three.
September 30, 1989, Turbulator made what would be his final public appearance
when he again was honored at Playfair.
hammed it up, Marguerite Crawford told Dan Weaver of The
Spokesman-Review after that appearance. He knew when he was on stage.
He loved the applause.
thereafter, there would not be applause, only sorrow.
On Tuesday, November 7, 1989, just three days after
Sunday Silence won the Breeders Cup Classic-G1 in a thriller over arch
rival Easy Goer, Turbulator died. According to the obituary that appeared in
The Spokesman-Review, the cause of death was a heart attack.
Tubby was gone. But for anyone lucky enough to have
seen his electrifying charge to victory beneath the fuchsia silks with white C
on the back, he will never be forgotten.
for a complete list of all the Washington Hall of Fame inductees.