Birthdate: 1-15-38; Pocatello, Idaho
Family: Wife, Carol; Adult children, the late Scott Cooper and daughter Michele
Residence: Hemet, California
Top Career Moments:
- Won the Bull Rustus Handicap and California Breeders Marathon Stakes with Harbor Beach in 2003.
- Won the inaugural running of the Marathon National in 2002 with Sign Of Lanty.
- Won the MCI World Com Distance with three-time distance champion Sign Of Lanty in 2001.
- Won the Marathon Handicap, QHBC Marathon, California Breeders Marathon Stakes and MCI World Com Distance Challenge with Sign Of Lanty in 2000.
- Won the Governor's Cup, PCQHRA Breeders and Golden State Derby and the California Sires Cup and Governor's Cup Futurity with Separatist in 1999-2000.
- Won the Southern California Derby with Mega Dash in 1993.
- Won the Golden State Futurity and Los Alamitos Derby with champion Chingaderos in 1983.
- Won the Champion Of Champions with former claimer Mr Doty Bars in 1979.
Career Profile: John Cooper is one of the veteran members of Los Alamitos' training colony, having trained at the southern California track since 1970. In 1999, John became only the second trainer, behind Blane Schvanevelt, to ever win 1,000 Quarter Horse races at Los Alamitos, doing so with Rod and Jackie MacPherson's Ol Bob Walker. "California has been good to me, and I've been lucky to enjoy such a good career." John began his training career in Pocatello, Idaho in 1966, picking up his first win later that year. Encouraged by his good friend Blane Schvaneveldt, John decided to try his luck on the southern California circuit. "Uncle West kept me here," John said of the distance horse that helped him get established in California. "I started getting 10 percent of the earnings from a good horse and I knew I wanted to be here for a long time." John's second World Champion was the gelding Chingaderos, who he trained for his wife, Carol, and daughter Michele. Cooper has trained superstar Separatist and distance great Sign Of Lanty. "He's the best 870 yard horse ever, as far as I'm concerned," said the trainer.
John Cooper will be inducted into the Idaho Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame on Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel Boise Downtowner. It's a well-deserved honor for one of the all-time great trainers in the sport.
Cooper is one of the most outstanding trainers in the history of Los Alamitos Race Course. In a career that spans five decades, Cooper ranks third all-time with 1,251 Quarter Horse wins and third all-time with 83 stakes wins at the Orange County oval. He has trained some great horses in his career, including the likes of Champion of Champions winner Mr Doty Bars and champions Chingaderos, Separatist and Sign Of Lanty. Cooper is proud to have been bestowed the honor of Hall of Famer by the IQHA.
"It's a humbling thing," said Cooper, who was born in Pocatello, Idaho. "I didn't have any idea at all. I got the call and all I could do was smile. Every one from my family will be there. It's going to be a special thing."
Cooper remembers the days when pari-mutuel Quarter Horse racing first became a reality in Idaho. Cooper, along with his ex-wife, Carol, was in the forefront of helping to establish the sport.
"We built the track at the Green Triangle Ranch," he said. "This was our first chance to have pari-mutuel races - that's how I got started. We had been involved with Quarter Horses via chariot horses before that. Carol used to write up the charts of the races to send them to the AQHA. I worked as a valet, I worked in the starting gate, we were all just happy to have racing there."
Cooper went to Denver, Colorado from there and shortly after it was "California, here I come."
"Blane Schvaneveldt encouraged me to go to California," he said. "I came with a horse named Uncle West, who won a couple of stakes races for us. They were having a two-week meeting at Los Alamitos but I knew right then that we were going to come back. When we came back Carol and I stayed in a tack room for two years, but little by little we began to pick up more owners and more horses. I was doing my own shoeing at the time, so we did all right. We had a great time.
"Racing has been so good to me," Cooper added. "I'm probably the last guy with a right to complain about anything because racing has been great to me. I've had the opportunity to work with some great people and some great horses.
"When we started out in Idaho, we did so many things at the track and were doing all those things for free. We thought it was just great to have a chance to do what we loved."
John Cooper has worked with some of the top horses of all-time. Here are Cooper's descriptions of those of his outstanding trainees:
Uncle West - "The first time I came to California I came with Uncle West. He won here so I knew I wanted to come back then. He was a grand old horse. He won races all the way up to when he was 10 years old. I'll never forget him."
Tiny's Gay - "I had him for his first three races but I didn't go with him when he went to Ruidoso Downs. He was a great horse. He ended up winning 11 races in a row. I went to Kennewick with him and he set a track record. He went on to win the Bay Meadows Futurity, Kansas Futurity, Rainbow Futurity, he had the fastest qualifying time to the All American Futurity, and in the All American Futurity he finished second by a head (to Easy Date). He was a great, great horse."
Mr Doty Bars - "We claimed him. He had some physical problems. We fixed his legs and he went on to win the Champion of Champions."
Chingaderos - "We raised him - that's the big part about him. He was a runner. He went on to win 12 stakes races, including two futurities and a couple of derbies. When you beat a horse like Gold Coast Express - that's a highlight right there. That's something you want to talk about for years. I remember Bob Baffert, who trained Gold Coast Express, telling me 'when I saw that red son of a gun Chingaderos coming down the stretch, I knew that he was going to get by my horse. He ran something like :17.30 on the night that he beat Gold Coast Express."
Separatist - "One of the most honest horses that I've ever seen. He had a ton of early foot and for being a stallion he had a great disposition. He was such a pleasure to train."
Sign Of Lanty - "He was just something else. He could run from behind or in the front. He was a champ. He gave you what he had every single time and not every horse will do that. They can compare him to all of the great distance horses of all-time and I think he stacks up great with any of them. He's the best ever as far as I'm concerned. He could stay with anyone around the turn."