Turbulator - Washington Racing Hall of Fame

Washington's favorite son

by Jon White

Turbulator's Pedigree and Race Record

On 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 Crawford’s five-acre ranch in Veradale, WA, 12 miles east of Spokane.
    About a 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 mare’s 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. “I’ve 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. “You’re my Kentucky Derby winner.”
    The foal’s sire, Cold Command, had started in the 1952 Kentucky Derby, finishing ninth behind Calumet Farm’s victorious Hill Gail. Earlier in 1952, Cold Command had won a seven furlong allowance race at Keeneland, defeating Hill Gail.

Family Tree
    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 sire’s pedigree. They also knew of Sparrow Castle, a colt from Cold Command’s 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 Admiral’s descendants include Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Affirmed, plus such other greats as Swaps, Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, Alysheba and Cigar.
    Cold Command’s 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. Monsoon’s sire, *Mahmoud, won England’s 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 Piece’s sire, By Zeus, won the world’s 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.
    While 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.
    Fur Piece 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 Piece’s 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 horse’s legs in for soreness?” Marguerite asked her husband. “You know. That thing that whirls the water around?”
    “You mean a turbulator?” Tom responded.
    “Yeah. That’s it. How about that as a name for Fur Piece’s 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 Piece’s 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.
    The Crawfords hoped that eventually they also would see Turbulator show that speed at the racetrack.
    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 Command—Fur 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.

Bad Luck
    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 veterinarian.
    When the vet took Turbulator’s 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 vet’s treatment. He didn’t die, but it had been a close call.
    Turbulator’s 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.
    Because Turbulator had been so ill, Dr. Dale Johnson, one of the state’s most respected veterinarians, told Tom that he should forget about running Turbulator as a two-year-old. Heeding Johnson’s 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 it’s 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 Turbulator’s 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 Fuller’s Dancer’s Image rallied from last in a field of 14 to win the 94th Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths over Calumet Farm’s 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 Dancer’s 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 Dancer’s Image reinstated as the 1968 Kentucky Derby winner.
    Crawford could only imagine how a healthy Turbulator might have fared against Dancer’s Image and Forward Pass. Meanwhile, as time went on in 1968 and ’69, Turbulator’s 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 horse’s official record because the Daily Racing Form would not include races from Coeur d’Alene 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 day’s 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 Crawford’s, had become part owner of Turbulator prior to the gelding’s 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 that.
    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 September 14.
    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 Playfair’s 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 bright color.
    One day, Marguerite came home with a fabric sample and showed it to Tom. “It’s 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. Ruler’s 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 Ruler’s 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 Ruler’s Whirl winning time in the first division).
    When the fans reacted with a tremendous ovation, Turbulator seemed to acknowledge the cheers. As he approached the winner’s 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.
    “I think 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 shouldn’t have even tried because you couldn’t have heard me. I couldn’t even hear myself. Ultimately, I gave up and waited until the cheering subsided.”
    Turbulator’s final 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 Turbulator’s 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 Playfair’s.
    After the Playfair Mile, with Turbulator’s 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 Playfair’s 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 well-deserved rest.

Expanded Horizons
    Turbulator 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.
    Five different 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 Turbulator.
    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 Judgelyn’s path. Judgelyn, ridden by Mark Jennings (who had been aboard Turbulator in his 1969 Portland Meadows races), fell when unable to avoid clipping Silver Double’s 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 didn’t break stride too much. I’d say it put him a length or two farther back than he would’ve 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 Jay’s winning time in the 1969 Longacres Mile.
    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 winner’s circle, an enthusiastic fan yelled out, “He’s worth more than two cows now, Tom!”
    Turbulator’s 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 northwest’s 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.
    Weller wrote the following in the Daily Racing Form: “In a world’s record performance, John Farnsworth and Tom Crawford’s wonder horse, Turbulator, came charging from far back to capture the 30th running of the $10,920 Governor’s 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 winner’s 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.”
    After 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 didn’t think we would win. But at the sixteenth pole, I knew we’d win.”
    Turbulator’s 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 Longacres Mile.

The 1970 Mile
    With 45 horses nominated to the 1970 Longacres Mile, racing secretary Steve O’Donnell 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 Dancer’s 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 I’m riding is unbelievable,” Larry told his brother. “Yeah, but it’s a lot tougher down here,” Don said.
    “I know that,” Larry continued. “But I’m telling you, this horse can beat anything you have in California. Believe me.”
    Larry 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.
    Also nominated to the Longacres Mile was *Cougar II, who was assigned six pounds fewer than Turbulator. *Cougar II took Del Mar’s 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, Pierce’s 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 wasn’t 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, ‘Don’t panic.’ But this was something that had never happened to me before.”
    Entering the backstretch, while ninth in the field of 13, Pierce’s 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 Turbulator’s neck.
    “That scared me,” Pierce said. “But in a split second – I don’t 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.
    “From about 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 he’s trapped. I kept looking to get him to the outside, but he stayed trapped all the way to the end.”
    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 would’ve won.”
    Who 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 Park’s 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 Pierce’s ride. As Crawford watched the race from a box seat in the grandstand, he saw Pierce uncharacteristically flopping around on the horse’s back. The trainer also saw Tubby hopelessly trapped along the inside rail throughout the final quarter mile.
    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.”
    Crawford shrugged 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 wasn’t 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 doesn’t break, if my foot doesn’t slip out of the right stirrup, if I don’t almost fall off him, if we’re not trapped, if, if, if. And he still only got beat two and a half lengths.”
    Turbulator and Silver Double met again eight days later in the Seattle Handicap. Jim Hill, Silver Double’s 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.
    “Most 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 Crawford’s 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. Agnew’s Pitch Out. G and R Stable’s 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 Double.
    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.
    Pierce won 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 Washington’s three major tracks at that time, Longacres, Playfair and Yakima Meadows.

Home to Playfair
    Turbulator 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, Lora’s 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 barrier.
    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 it’s Melmitch fourth, followed by First Pop and I. Aylmer. And now, swinging to the outside, there he goes!
    “Around the far turn, it’s 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, he’s fifth, he’s fourth, he’s third, he’s second and going for the lead.
    “They’re into the stretch, it’s Fosket in front by two lengths. Turbulator is flying on the outside! It’s Turbulator now in front, Fosket and Melmitch. Down to the wire, it’s Turbulator!”
    That is the race call Price is most remembered for when it comes to his career as a track announcer.
    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 Playfair victory.
    “When we were turning for home, I could really hear the crowd,” Pierce said. “I’d never heard anything like it before.” T
    urbulator 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.
    Track management 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 said.
    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 Ruler’s Whirl. But this time Tubby could not quite get up. Ruler’s Whirl, carrying 121 pounds, prevailed by a neck in 1:38 3/5.
    “Turbulator’s 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 Tubby’s final race of the year.
    He later was named 1970 Washington-bred horse of the year.

Post Championship
    While 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 Turbulator’s life when he was a sick two-year-old at Playair, also took a turn as Tubby’s 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, was seven-to-two.
    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 Sullivan’s 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, he’s 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 it’s hard to find horses that want to win as badly as he does.”
    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 Ruler’s Whirl, who four years earlier had upset Tubby in the Playfair Mile.
    “As is always the case, win, lose or draw, Turbulator was cheered loudly by the crowd both before and after in the winner’s circle,” Dick Cartney wrote in the Daily Racing Form after Tubby defeated Ruler’s 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 Tubby’s final victory. Many of his fans thought this particular win was extra sweet because Best Hitter finished second. Best Hitter had broken their beloved Turbulator’s 6 1/2 furlong world record by one-fifth of a second in 1973.
    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 leisure.
    All told, Turbulator made 48 starts, including his unofficial race at Coeur d’Alene. 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 it’d be there. It’d be there instantly. He’d 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 don’t do that. He’d go by horses so fast, it’d take your breath away.”
    Like any star, Tubby also had charisma.
    “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 1973.
    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 the attention.

Hall of Fame #1 and #2
    On 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 comes Turbulator!’ ”
    It would not be Turbulator’s 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.
    On September 30, 1989, Turbulator made what would be his final public appearance when he again was honored at Playfair.
    “He 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.”
    However, soon 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.

Click here for a complete list of all the Washington Hall of Fame inductees.


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