I was honored to be asked to present the winner's trophy in today's Blue Norther Stakes, the 4th race at Santa Anita for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf. The race was named for the top filly Blue Norther (1961-1972), who was undefeated in 5 starts as a 3-year-old, winning the Ashland Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, and Santa Anita Oaks. The aptly-named filly was by Windy City out of Wyndham (a blue norther refers to a swift moving, cold front marked by a dark blue-black sky and strong, wintery winds).
The stakes is also a tribute to Blue Norther's trainer, Wally Dunn, who I was fortunate to call a friend during the last years of his life. Born in 1911 in Manitoba, Canada, Thomas Wallace "Wally" Dunn was a lifelong horse trainer. He went to British Columbia at the age of 17 to find work in Thoroughbred horse racing. Wally was one of five brothers who were involved with the sport, including Wilson Dunn, who bred George Royal, and George Dunn, who trained the 1965 Canadian Horse of the Year.
Wally Dunn moved his horses from British Columbia to Santa Anita in the 1930's. One of them was Canadian-bred Sahara Chief, who was listed in the Daily Racing Form as "something from Canada." Sahara Chief won and paid $107 for a $2 wager.
Wally's only break from horses was during World War II, when he served overseas with the Canadian Army. After the war, he returned to train in California.
His notable racehorses included Correspondent, winner of the 1953 Blue Grass Stakes and the 1954 Hollywood Gold Cup; and Colorado King, who won the 1964 Hollywood Gold Cup and American Handicap, while equalling the world record time of 1:46.40 for 1-1/8 miles.
Wally died in 2004 at his home in Arcadia, California, at the age of 93. We miss Wally, especially at Clockers' Corner, but appreciate Santa Anita providing this opportunity to remember him with a special stakes race each winter.