Sherwood C. Chillingworth, a longtime director and executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association, passed away on Tuesday at age 93.
A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Chillingworth, known affectionately as “Chilly” to all who knew him, was named an Oak Tree director in 1989, and later assumed the title of Executive Vice President in 1993. A tireless advocate for the many causes that the not-for-profit Oak Tree Racing Association funded since its inception at Santa Anita in October, 1969, Chillingworth was a truly beloved figure in California racing.
“He was a great man who was a very big part of the Oak Tree Racing Association for many years,” said Hall of Fame trainer and fellow Oak Tree Board member Richard Mandella on Wednesday morning at Santa Anita. “He lived a full life and from what I knew, he loved every minute of it. He had a great sense of humor, he loved to bet and he loved our game.”
Although still active in funding various charitable causes, the Oak Tree Racing Association, which conducted its final fall meeting at Santa Anita in 2009, operated for one year at Hollywood Park in 2010, and then conducted fall meetings at the Alameda County Fair Grounds in Pleasanton through 2018.
A former real estate developer, Chillingworth, who served as Vice Chairman and CEO, Santa Anita Realty Enterprises from 1994-1996, had a true passion for horses and horse racing as he owned and raced Thoroughbreds dating back to the early 1970s under the nom de course Paniolo Ranch.
It was in Thoroughbred partnerships however, that he experienced considerable success, as he owned percentages of Grade I stakes winners Swing Till Dawn (1983 Strub and Widener Stakes), Yashgan (1985 Oak Tree Invitational and 1986 San Gabriel Handicap), Forzando (1985 Metropolitan, Ft. Marcy and Sierra Madre Handicaps), and Valley Victory (1986 Coaching Club American Oaks).
“He was a first class guy,” said Hall of Fame conditioner Ron McAnally, whose legendary gelding John Henry won three straight runnings of the Grade I Oak Tree Invitational in the early 1980s. “Doc Robbins (original Oak Tree Director and John Henry's attending veterinarian) admired him so much, and was so appreciative of everything he meant to Oak Tree and our racing here. Chilly was good for the horses and he was good for the business.”
A consummate gentleman and tireless consensus builder, Chillingworth was also a past Steward of the Jockey Club, Secretary of the Board of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA), director of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau (TRPB) and member of the Equibase Management Committee.
“Chilly was one of the kindest and most gracious executives in racing,” said George Haines, former Santa Anita General Manager. “He treated the employees with great respect and was universally loved by all. His wit and humor will be missed but not forgotten.”
Chillingworth, who resided at Santa Anita Park with his wife Sandra, is also survived by four sons and two daughters, as well as several grandchildren.
Services are pending.
Equibase issued the following statement following Chillingworth's death: “Chilly was one of the longest serving members of the Management Committee of Equibase Company, joining the board in 1999 and serving for 17 years. His extensive industry experience helped guide many of the initiatives launched by Equibase during his tenure. Chilly was a gentleman and a true sportsman in the best traditions of racing. We will always be grateful for Chilly's integrity and leadership, and we express our deepest condolences to his family in his passing.”
Statement from Breeders' Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel on the passing of Sherwood Chillingworth:
“Chilly has been a much loved member of the Breeders' Cup family and we celebrate the vibrant life and good will of a true gentleman. We recall his outstanding leadership of the Oak Tree Racing Association, known for the quality of racing it conducted, including four Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita, and for their charitable contributions to our sport. Chilly was always quick with a laugh and full of appreciation for our game. We will miss him and our hearts go out to Sandy and his sons and daughters and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
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