Friends and fans celebrate Chinook Pass’ 30th birthday
April 27, 2009 · Updated 9:27 PM
When he was born at Dewayne Moore’s Rainer Stables near Enumclaw on the night of April 28, 1979, the little bay colt that would be named Chinook Pass had nothing to distinguish him but the tiniest star on his forehead – so tiny you could probably count the white hairs. Other than that, he was just a plain brown wrapper. No one could have imagined the greatness that lay ahead, that in less than five years his owner and trainer would be toasted at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, their buttons bursting with pride as they accepted thoroughbred racing’s highest honor, the Eclipse Award, on his behalf. Later, Chinook Pass would be voted Washington’s Horse of the Century.
In between, he was the stuff of legends. His blazing speed was evident from the time he was first brought to Longacres in 1981, and by September of 1982 he’d set a world record for the five-furlong distance. More than 26 years have passed, and millions of races have been run, but his time of 55 1/5 seconds still stands as the North American dirt record.
After burning up the Longacres track at two and three, he headed to southern California in the fall of 1983 to test himself against the best in the West. It was there he would attain his greatest glory as he racked up victory after victory in Santa Anita’s top sprint stakes races, setting or equaling track records time and again in the process. By midsummer, Chinook Pass was ready to return home, determined to capture what he had missed by a neck as a 3-year-old: The most storied race of the Pacific Northwest, the Longacres Mile.
His final prep race was the Bing Crosby Handicap, one of the West’s two premiere sprints. After distancing the field by a remarkable eight lengths, Chinook and his connections headed home. Returning to a hero’s welcome, the conqueror of Santa Anita and Del Mar did not disappoint, crushing the opposition in a six-length romp to victory. It would be his last race.
Tendon injuries forced Chinook Pass to retire just as he was planning his ultimate campaign: an Eastern offensive that would take on the presumptive champions in their own backyards at Belmont and Aqueduct. His connections felt he had deserved the Eclipse Award the previous year, when he finished third in the national balloting, and this year they were determined to leave no room for doubt. Fortunately, his achievements of 1983, capped by his victory in the Grade 2 Longacres Mile, were sufficient to cinch the award.
Hoping his tendon would heal, his owner and trainer gave him a layoff, but when they brought him back in to training, he strained the tendon in his other front leg. His injuries were far from life-threatening, but they were career-ending. Chinook Pass retired with a record of 16 wins, four places and one show in 25 starts, and $480,073 in winnings.
The disappointment was all the greater because that year, 1984, was the maiden season of the new Breeders’ Cup series, which offered millions of dollars in purses.
“Had the Breeders’ Cup Sprint started just a year earlier,” Breeders’ Cup media director Jim Gluckosn recently wrote, “I know you would have taken the inaugural running in grand style. You are truly a living legend, who personifies the grit and glory of a Champion. Happy birthday, Chinook Pass.”
In response to an inquiry, Gluckson did a little research and found it’s “highy likely” Chinook Pass is now the oldest living Eclipse Award winner.
Throughout his long life he has often called “the fastest horse in the world,” a description that is bound to provoke skepticism. But don’t take our word for it. Take it from all-time great Jockey legend Laffit Pincay Jr., who rode him during his days of greatest glory.
“Chinook Pass is the fastest horse I ever rode and the fastest horse I ever saw,” Pincay says. “I have always thought that he might’ve been the fastest thoroughbred that ever lived.”
Friends and fans gathered to celebrate Chinook Pass’ 30th birthday Tuesday in Renton.
This release was provided by Friends of Chinook Pass.
Dark Bay or Brown Gelding
Bred in Washington and raced by Hi-Yu Stable, J. Edward Purvis Foaled April 28, 1979, at Dewaine Moore’s Rainier Stables near Enumclaw.
Race Record: 25 Starts, 16 Wins, 4 Places, 1 Show
Career Earnings: $480,073
Trainers: Bud Klokstad, Laurie N. Anderson
Racetracks: Longacres, Portland Meadows, Los Alamitos, Turf Paradise, Santa Anita, Del Mar
Jockeys: Michael Baze, Danny Sorenson, Chris Loseth, Jerry Taketa, Gary Baze, Jody Davidson, Basil Frazier, Bill Shoemaker, Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr.
Stripling Stakes, Longacres
Washington Stallion Stakes, Longacres
Speed Handicap, Longacres
Governor’s Handicap, Longacres
Meteor Handicap (turf), Hollywood Park
Palos Verdes Handicap, Santa Anita (now G2)
Sierra Madre Handicap, Santa Anita (later G3)
Potrero Grande Handicap, Santa Anita (now G2)
San Simeon Handicap, Santa Anita (now G3)
Bing Crosby Handicap, Del Mar (now G1)
Longacres Mile (then G2), Longacres
• Set world record of :55 1/5 at Longacres on 9/17/82, currently the North American dirt record
• Routinely set or equaled track records throughout his career
Eclipse Award Champion Sprinter (1983)
Washington Horse of the Year (1982, 1983)
Washington Champion Sprinter (1982, 1983)
Washington Champion Three-Year-Old (1982)
Washington Champion Handicap Horse (1983)
Sprinter of the Meet, Santa Anita Park, (1983)
Washington Horse of the Century (2000)
Washington Racing Hall of Fame (2003)
Chinook Pass Sprint Stakes at Emerald Downs
Believed by NTRA to be oldest living Eclipse Award winner