After the Racetrack: Chindi Thrives in His Second Job
Don’t ever let anyone tell you horses don’t love their jobs.
A common sight in the early mornings at Churchill Downs or Oaklawn Park is trainer Steve Hobby on a snow-white gelding named Chindi. After nine seasons on the racetrack, Hobby retired the millionaire sprinter, but Chindi was not content to ride off into the sunset and a life of leisure. Instead, the gelding, now as well known for his longevity off the track as he was for his thrilling closing kick on the track, eschewed the turned-out life for daily visits to the racetrack, content to supervise the generations of Thoroughbreds that have followed him.
Chindi’s active retirement is a shining example of what life can be like after the racetrack.
Stand Out on the Track
Sired by the Irish-bred El Prado, Chindi shares a sire with Medaglia d’Oro and Kitten’s Joy; his dam Rousing is by Alydar, giving this sprinter talent and heart on both sides of his pedigree. In his nine seasons, he raced 81 times with 18 wins, 13 seconds, and 23 thirds, finishing in the money in more than half of his starts. He was best known for his closing bids, often coming from out of the clouds in the race’s final strides. “He was always a big fan favorite because he was big and white and would come from way, way behind,” Hobby remembers.
Those 18 wins include two graded stakes, the Ack Ack at Churchill Downs and the Count Fleet at Oaklawn, and listed stakes like the Iowa Sprint Handicap. His longevity as a racehorse came from Chindi’s ability to stay sound over nine seasons. “He was never sick. Never bled. 100% sound,” the long-time trainer says. “He’s a freak of nature. Never a missed a day of training.” That steadfastness remains true in the gelding’s later years.
In 2005, at age 11, Chindi ran his last three starts of his career, winning one. By this point in his life, the gelding was a millionaire, an achievement reached the hard way over those long seasons of competition. He had nothing left to prove for Hobby and his owner Carol Ricks. He walked off the racetrack as easily as he walked on it, not missing a beat when retirement came — except that he did not like it.
Stand Out off the Track
Hobby and Rinks turned Chindi out, giving the gelding the time off that most horses need after their competitive days are over. “He walked the fence, lost weight,” Hobby shares. “So I put a saddle on him and brought him back to the track with me.” While Chindi did not miss the racing part of his life — he even shied away from standing near the starting gates in those early days after his retirement — he did miss the activity of the racetrack. He thrives on being there, watching the hustle and bustle of morning workouts and of the backside.
He may not miss the work, but he does enjoy another trapping of being on the track: the attention. In these days as Hobby’s companion on the track, Chindi relishes the mints, the pictures, and the fame. “When he’s at Churchill, the tours come around and I will let them feed him mints and visit and take pictures,” Hobby says. “He likes to get out on the track, park, and watch everyone train. He’s smart. He knows it’s a pretty good life.”
The gelding enjoys that life as much as any human on the backside. He likes to soak his hay in his water bucket, which means that he needs two water buckets in his stall. He is not prone to kicking, but will bite occasionally, unless a visitor comes around with a treat. Chindi is not one for hugging or petting, yet he has a soft spot for children and women. Even better, the snow-white gelding is a reminder of what an off-track Thoroughbred, or OTTB, can become.
“I think it has to be good advertisement for people to see that, to see him have a second job after he was done racing,” Hobby says. As a member of the board of directors for the Arkansas Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), the trainer has been part of the effort to set up a retraining program in the state, which helps OTTBs transition off the track and into a new job. Hobby understands the benefits of a second job for horses coming off the racetrack: “He [Chindi] has lasted so long because I’ve kept him so active. If you retire and you don’t do anything, you get old fast.”
For Chindi, who at 28 still is strong in body and mind, being a stable pony has given him purpose and that has kept the snow-white gelding in great health more than a decade and a half after his last race. Hobby’s success with this OTTB is indicative of just how much potential each has as they come off the racetrack with years ahead of them. The ability to adapt and work can be limitless provided they have the right people to help them realize it.
A Fan Favorite
In 2022, what makes Chindi a celebrity even now, years after the last time he entered a starting gate. “It’s just longevity. He’s just always around,” Hobby reflects on the famed gelding. “He stands out from your average Thoroughbred.” That distinctive white coat and his joy in standing watch over younger horses makes him a familiar sight for those around Churchill and Oaklawn. The gelding is a draw for fans of all ages, who supply him with mints and indulge his love of attention. For Hobby, this OTTB, this graded stakes winner occupies a special place in this lifelong horseman’s heart.
“He’s my identity. Everybody thinks of Chindi when they think of me.”