Hoop Dreams - By Evan Hammonds

The results of the Dec. 8 Starlet Stakes (G1) had been official for little more than three hours when editorial@bloodhorse.com received an email from Lynn Taylor from Laharape, Ill. There was clearly something on her mind following Chasing Yesterday’s thrilling head score over Enaya Alrabb at Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California.

“Look at her damside. Tri Jet. Crozier. Olympia. All Hooper,” Taylor wrote.

“I’m 73. Hooper bred for Speed. It seems to be working, since this mare now has two grade 1 winners. (And of course Justify was one of them)

“Sorry I can’t remember what breeder said a race horse has to be FAST first of all. In light of Littleprincessemma’s accomplishments, it might be interesting to resurrect Hooper.”

Well, she wasn’t exactly right…but was certainly on the right track. The mare does have two grade 1 winners…Chasing Yesterday and 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Nevertheless, Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner, also has a valuable link to the bloodlines of the late Fred W. Hooper.

Taylor was referring to the legendary Florida horseman who died in August 2000 at the age of 102. A pillar of the sport—he earned an Eclipse Award of Merit in 1991—Hooper was head of the Hooper Construction Company and involved in breeding champion Hereford cattle in Alabama before he decided to give Thoroughbreds a try more than 70 years ago.

In 1943 Hooper headed to Kentucky for the yearling sales and came away with three purchases, one of which was a Sir Gallahad III colt that cost $10,000. Named Hoop Jr., the colt won the 1945 Kentucky Derby.

“A good many horsemen try all their lives to own a Derby winner and fail to make it,” The Blood-Horse reported at the time. “But Mr. Hooper came to the Keeneland yearling sales in 1943 and picked out his Derby winner. And here is one for the book.”

While Hooper didn’t win another Derby, he bred 115 stakes winners and raced 97. Unheard of today, 91 of his stakes winners are homebreds.

Hooper bred and raced many top runners including multiple champion Susan’s Girl and champion sprinter Precisionist. Hooper raced champion 2-year-old male Education.

Now, back to Littleprincessemma. Littleprincessemma’s second dam is the Fred Hooper-bred Zetta Jet, a daughter of Hooper’s successful runner and sire Tri Jet, out of Queen Zetta, a daughter of Hooper’s Crozier. Zetta Jet’s pedigree shows she’s inbred 3x4x4 to Olympia.

An outstanding source of speed—the name of the game in Thoroughbred racing according to Taylor and many others—Olympia won 13 stakes for Hooper and defeated Quarter Horse Stella Moore in a 1949 match race. Olympia’s name appears in the pedigree of many of Hooper’s best runners, including Crozier and Tri Jet, and through Tri Jet’s son Copelan (named for Dr. Bob Copelan, who was featured on the cover of BloodHorse in the Nov. 24 issue).

Providing a firm foundation of class in the pedigree of a Triple Crown winner and a grade 1 winner, strong families put together by Hooper’s breeding savvy have a habit of popping up in pedigrees time and time again. Adding to Hooper’s legacy is Justify—just the 13th  Triple Crown in U.S. racing history. Justify’s dam, Stage Magic, is a daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. Ghostzapper is a son of 2005 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Baby Zip, whose broodmare sire is Hooper’s Tri Jet.

In an extensive obit in the New York Times, Hooper explained his success came by “Hard work…and always looking ahead. Don’t look back.”

Hooper’s wife, Wanda, described her husband: “He’s like a cat. He’s got nine lives. And he’s always planning ahead.”

We’ll be looking ahead at the pedigrees of grade 1 winners to come, and won’t be surprised to continue to see the links to Hooper-influenced pedigrees.

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