By Mint Julep


Fred Hooper Owner: One Kentucky Derby Winner

hoop jr 1945 kentucky derby winner

Join us on an exciting adventure as we follow Fred Hooper’s incredible journey from a modest beginning to becoming a prominent figure in Thoroughbred racing. Discover his historic victory at the Kentucky Derby with Hoop Jr., explore his successful breeding efforts that led to more than one hundred stakes race winners, and learn about his lasting impact as a respected breeder, owner, and mentor in American horse racing.

Early Life and Career Beginnings

Fred William Hooper, who was born in Cleveland, Georgia in 1897, left school early but went on to achieve success in various fields such as teaching and farming. He then ventured into heavy construction work before embarking on a remarkable journey of breeding champion livestock near Montgomery and later focusing on horses at Circle H Farm.

Hooper’s ability to adapt and determination were evident as he transitioned from different jobs to becoming a prominent breeder. His decision to switch from raising Hereford cattle to breeding Thoroughbred horses marked a crucial turning point defining his legacy in horse racing.

The transformation of Hooper’s career trajectory portrays his progress from humble beginnings and highlights the resilience and foresight he demonstrated when exploring new horizons within the equine industry.

Entry Into Thoroughbred Racing

Fred Hooper made a grand entrance into the world of Thoroughbred racing that was truly remarkable. His first horse, Hoop Jr., won the prestigious Kentucky Derby in 1945, setting the stage for his successful career ahead. Over the next fifty years, as a smart breeder and owner, Hooper built an impressive legacy filled with victories in more than one hundred stakes races. Particularly noteworthy were two of his standout horses—Precisionist and Susan’s Girl—who were both honored by being inducted into the prestigious U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.

Starting with that single win at Churchill Downs, Fred Hooper dedicated himself to decades of hard work and passion for horse racing. He became known for excellence in breeding and ownership within American horse racing—a field where champions are made through determination rather than luck alone. Precisionist’s powerful strides resonated through history alongside Susan’s Girl, immortalizing their achievements and Fred Hooper’s unwavering spirit that inspired these champions to greatness.

As time passed and racetracks across the country witnessed numerous stories unfold, Fred Hooper emerged as a shining example—a leader whose impact went beyond wins to influence future generations profoundly. The echoes of his triumphs continue to inspire young jockeys who dream big while hearing tales about horses like Precisionist and Susan’s Girl, stories woven with threads woven from pure perseverance embodying everything that defined Fred Hooper as a giant in Thoroughbred racing—a true legend among men shaping destinies on graceful hooves amidst endless applause resounding across turf-covered arenas he once ruled supreme over.

The Pros & Cons of Racing Legends


  1. Racing legends continue to inspire the next generation of horse racing fans.
  2. Their incredible accomplishments and record-breaking performances add depth to the sport’s captivating history.
  3. The stories of these racing icons often mesmerize enthusiasts, drawing them closer to the sport.
  4. These legendary figures infuse horse racing events with energy and prestige, making them even more thrilling.
  5. They play a crucial role in increasing awareness and generating interest in horse racing by leaving a lasting legacy.


  1. Some all-time great racers might steal the spotlight from today’s rising stars, making it harder for newer competitors to get noticed.
  2. Young athletes can feel overwhelmed by the expectations of being compared to legendary sports figures.
  3. Scandals involving racing icons could damage the reputation of horse racing.
  4. Focusing too much on past legends may divert attention from addressing current issues within horse racing.
  5. Finding a balance between honoring past heroes and showcasing new talent can be quite challenging.

Recognition and Awards

Fred Hooper was recognized for his outstanding dedication to breeding excellence with prestigious accolades. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder in 1975 and 1982, highlighting his commitment to producing top-quality Thoroughbreds for the racing world. These awards showed how much he influenced the industry.

In 1992, Fred Hooper received the esteemed Eclipse Award Of Merit, recognizing his significant contributions beyond success on the racetrack. This award emphasized his talent in breeding champions and his deep passion and understanding of horse racing.

Fred Hooper’s induction into the Calder Race Course Hall of Fame in 1995 marked a milestone in his career. This honor solidified his legacy within the racing community and acknowledged him as a critical figure whose impact would inspire generations of breeders, trainers, jockeys, and fans alike.

Influence on Jockey Development

Fred Hooper didn’t just breed champion horses – he also played a huge role in shaping American jockeys by helping talent from Latin America succeed. Hall of Fame riders like Laffit Pincay Jr., Braulio Baeza, and Jorge Velásquez all got their start under his guidance.

Hooper had a sharp eye for spotting potential and was great at turning it into real skill on the racetrack. By focusing on developing new jockeys, he not only made the sport better but also gave aspiring riders a chance to shine in Thoroughbred racing. The success of these jockeys shows how much Fred Hooper influenced horse racing.

Thanks to Hooper’s help, these talented individuals grew into some of the best jockeys ever, making their mark on American horse racing history. Their accomplishments showcased both their skills and Fred Hooper’s ability to recognize greatness in young riders.

Fred Hooper’s dedication to supporting Latin American jockey talents has had a lasting impact on Thoroughbred racing that still shapes its future today. Through his mentorship, he not only guided talented people toward success but also added diversity and new perspectives to the sport which are now essential parts of its colorful story.

Fred William Hooper: A Legacy of Excellence

Category Information
Born October 6, 1897
Cleveland, Georgia, United States
Died August 4, 2000 (aged 102)
Miami, Florida
Education Public school: Grade 8
Occupation(s) Businessman, Racehorse owner/breeder
Spouses Laura C. Girdner Hooper, Wanda Hooper
Children Betty, Fred Jr., Robin, Kay
Honors – Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder (1975, 1982)
– Fred W. Hooper Handicap at Gulfstream Park

Legacy and Posthumous Honors

Fred Hooper had a fantastic journey in horse racing that ended with a legacy that still inspires many today. He had such a big impact on the industry that Gulfstream Park, a famous racetrack, honored him by naming an event after him – the Fred W. Hooper Handicap. This event represents his lasting contributions as both breeder and owner, showing how much people respected and looked up to him during his successful career.

Even after he passed away, Fred William Hooper continued to receive honors for his incredible achievements in Thoroughbred racing. Not only did he win at the prestigious Kentucky Derby with the legendary colt ‘Gustoso,’ but he also changed breeding practices forever, leaving a mark on the sport that would last for years. His hard work and forward-thinking approach made it easier for future breeders and owners to follow in his footsteps.

When fans come together at events like the Fred W. Hooper Handicap, they aren’t just honoring a name; they are celebrating someone whose love went beyond competition – it showed true passion for these magnificent animals and unwavering dedication to excellence in every aspect of horse racing. With each beat of their hooves reminding us of past victories, Fred Hooper’s spirit rides alongside every competitor on that special track – always remembered as an icon known for grace, determination, and greatness in American horseracing history.


1. How did Fred Hooper first become involved in Thoroughbred horse racing?

Fred Hooper started his journey in Thoroughbred horse racing when he used his savings to buy a single mare. This marked the beginning of his incredible path towards becoming a well-known figure in the industry.

2. What were some of Fred Hooper’s most notable achievements as a breeder and owner?

Fred Hooper made remarkable accomplishments as a breeder and owner, creating champion horses like “Precisionist” and “Susan’s Girl.” These successes solidified his reputation as an innovator in the Thoroughbred racing industry.

3. Can you elaborate on Fred Hooper’s historic Kentucky Derby win and its significance in his career?

In 1945, Fred Hooper made a big splash by winning the Kentucky Derby with his horse, Hoop Jr. This victory was a turning point in his successful career, boosting him to fame in the world of Thoroughbred racing and cementing his reputation as an innovative owner and breeder.

4. How did Fred Hooper contribute to the development of jockeys in the American horse racing industry?

Fred Hooper played a key role in shaping American horse racing by founding the Jockey’s Guild. He created pathways for young riders to improve their skills and thrive in the industry.

5. In what ways has Fred Hooper’s entrepreneurial spirit left a lasting impact on the Thoroughbred racing world?

Fred Hooper made a lasting impact on the world of Thoroughbred racing with his win at the Kentucky Derby, successful breeding ventures, commitment to training jockeys, and receiving posthumous honors. These achievements cement his legacy as a significant figure in American horse racing.