Chindi on ‘Chindi Day’ held on March 15, 2020 (Coady Photography)
By Robert Yates – Oaklawn Barn Notes
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— A millionaire on the racetrack, but even more popular as trainer Steve Hobby’s longtime stable pony, Chindi was euthanized Thursday. The snow-white gelding was 29.
Hobby said Chindi’s physical condition had deteriorated for several weeks, adding he believes it was because of a neurological disorder triggered by his advanced age, rare to reach for a Thoroughbred racehorse.
“When he got bad, he went fast,” Hobby said on the trainer’s stand Friday morning. “I noticed little things riding him, like he kept bearing left and I had to keep correcting him. He wasn’t putting his hay in his water bucket. He’s done that his whole life. Then he started losing his action in behind. I hadn’t taken him to the track for four or five days. It was neurological. He was going to fall down and not get up. I had him out the day before yesterday, in the morning. I just took him out to clean his stall and I almost couldn’t get him back in his stall. He was going to fall down.”
Campaigned by Hobby’s most treasured client, Oklahoman Carol Ricks (Cres Ran LLC), Chindi had an 18-13-23 record from 81-lifetime starts and earnings of $1,000,838. Ricks, 93, learned of Chindi’s death Thursday night from her grandson, Ran Leonard, who now manages Cres Ran’s racing operation.
“She was very upset,” Leonard said Friday morning. “I mean, all of us were. But my grandma, she’s obviously an amazing human in every way. But she has this really good knack of immediately turning anything like that around and just commenting on how fortunate we were for everything he gave us during his racing career and post-racing career. And, how much he gave to Oaklawn and how much he gave to just racing in general and as an ambassador for the sport. I she said something about how he essentially gave us two lives. He had the one life as a racehorse that was amazing and then the whole life as a stable pony. We got more than we could have ever expected out of him. Twenty-nine years is a long time.”
Ricks’ late husband, Ran, privately purchased Chindi on the advice of bloodstock agent Omar Trevino, who stumbled across the horse and his dam, Rousing, while looking at some land near Lexington, Ky.
A late-running sprinter, Chindi – the Navajo word for “ghost” – recorded seven career victories at Oaklawn, including the $125,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs in 1998. Chindi trailed by 11 lengths after a quarter mile and was still seventh after a half-mile before unleashing his patented stretch kick to win by 1 ½ lengths under Don Pettinger. Pettinger, now the agent for Oaklawn-based jockey Travis Wales, rode Chindi regularly early in his career.
“Pretty cool horse,” Pettinger said Friday morning. “He was a lot of fun. Got to where I would just let him fall back and he’d be way back there. When you asked him that last quarter mile, he’d kick it in and make up a lot of ground. Everybody would think: ‘He’s beat, he’s beat’ because he’d be so far back. He was pretty cool.”
Chindi debuted on March 15, 1997, at Oaklawn and retired following a sixth-place finish in the $40,000 Better Bee Stakes July 3, 2005, at Arlington Park. Retirement at Ricks’ CresRan farm north of Oklahoma City didn’t agree with the gelding and he quickly transitioned to Hobby’s stable pony, a position he held for almost two decades.
“But again, he never really spent any time there (farm) because he wanted to be at the racetrack with Steve,” Leonard said. “He was every bit as much Steve’s horse as he was ours, if not more. They had a bond that was – can’t put it into words. I really don’t believe in this kind of stuff as a general rule, but my grandma has spent the last two weeks going through all these old Chindi photos and trying to organize them and stuff. And then this happened. It’s just kind of like, ‘Was something in that world telling grandma?’ It’s just crazy how things like that happen.”
As the years passed, Chindi’s popularity grew, particularly at Oaklawn, where he made 24 career starts and was often the subject of acclaimed equine photographer Barbara Livingston. Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe proclaimed March 15, 2020, “Chindi Day,” allowing fans at Oaklawn a chance to again see the gelding in the winner’s circle and indoor paddock between races. He was already a morning fixture at Oaklawn, escorting Hobby’s horses to and from the track.
“Absolutely,” Hobby said, when asked if Chindi was more popular after his racing career ended. “I don’t know why. I think longevity is one thing. People got so used to him and he was just always around. It’s like he was immortal. That’s why it’s kind of got everybody that he died. Like, ‘Chindi can’t die. He’s Superman.’ ”
Hobby said he may keep half of Chindi’s ashes, possibly sprinkling some at Oaklawn’s finish line. The other half, Hobby said, would go to Ricks.
“It was the right choice, had to be done,” Hobby said. “I did the humane thing. He lived a great life and I’m just going to look back on the all the great memories.”
In Chindi’s honor, Leonard asks fans to donate to Thoroughbred retirement charities in their state.