06/01/2010 11:00PM

Chinook Pass, champion sprinter, dies at 31


Chinook Pass, the oldest living Eclipse winner at age 31, died Tuesday in Maple Valley, Wash.

The champion sprinter of 1983, Chinook Pass was euthanized Tuesday morning after showing signs of heart failure, said Jill Hallin, who was the gelding's caretaker since 1988.

"He had increased respiration and a high pulse," Hallin said Tuesday afternoon. "At 31, the vet said it's just old age disease. He wasn't in any distress or pain or anything like that. I didn't want it to get to that point."

A Washington-bred homebred for Hi Yu Stables, Chinook Pass was foaled at Rainier Stables in Enumclaw, Wash., on April 28, 1979. He went on to win the 1983 Longacres Mile, then a Grade 2 event, and 10 other stakes in a career that spanned three seasons. He set a new world and North American five-furlong record on dirt when he covered the distance in 55.20 seconds at Longacres in 1982, a mark that still stands. That same year, he also equaled three other track or course records, for five furlongs at Hollywood in 56 seconds in the Meteor Handicap on grass; 5 1/2 furlongs at Longacres in 1:02.40; and six furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:07.60 while winning the Palos Verde Handicap.

Bud Klokstad and Laurie Anderson trained Chinook Pass, who retired with 16 victories from 25 starts. A stakes winner on both dirt and turf, he also finished second four times and third once, and he amassed earnings of $480,073.

Chinook Pass retired with an injured splint bone and tendon trouble. During his rehabilitation, his caretakers included Hallin. Hi Yu Stables owner Dewaine Moore eventually agreed to let Hallin keep Chinook Pass, and the pair competed in dressage, rode trails, and appeared as ambassadors for Washington State's Thoroughbred industry.

Klokstad, who trained Chinook Pass for the first part of his career, recalled the gelding as the fastest and best horse he ever saddled.

"He was a tough horse and could get worked up a little, but we got along fine," Klokstad said. "We knew how to handle him. I'm just glad he got to live that long, because so many of them don't. And, you know, a lot of those horses end up on the garbage heap. He was lucky this girl came along and wanted him, and Dewaine gave him to her. He gave me a lot of good memories, that horse."

"He wasn't built to jump, so I did some dressage with him and we did a lot of trail riding," Hallin said. "He was kind of a bull-doggy, Quarter Horse-looking horse, shorter and stout. But he was very athletic."

"I felt honored to be associated with him," she said.

Chinook Pass has been cremated and his ashes are likely to remain at Hallin's four-acre farm in Maple Valley, where he resided for the last 14 years of his life.

Chinook Pass's death leaves steeplechase champion Flatterer, who was foaled slightly more than a month after Chinook Pass, as the oldest living North American champion.