By Amy Nesse
Many considered the 1970s the golden era of racing, with three Triple Crown winners and a multitude of other champions, including Spectacular Bid
, Ruffian, etc. But there is one champion filly of the 70’s who often gets overlooked.This filly won 29 of her 63 starts and 24 of those wins being in Stakes races. She had earnings of over $1,200,000 and won 3 Eclipse awards. She was ranked number 51 on Bloodhorse’s top 100 racehorses of the 20th century list and was entered into the racing Hall Of Fame in 1976. Her name was Susan’s Girl.
Susan’s Girl was bred and owned by Fred W. Hooper who was a poor Southern farmer before he became one of the most successful breeders of the 20th century.The first horse he ever purchased was Hoop Jr., who went on to win the 1945 Kentucky Derby
. From there, Fred Hooper established a very successful stable.
Susan’s Girl was born in 1969. She was sired by the Cohoes stallion, Quadrangle and was out of a Quibo mare named Quaze. Susan’s Girl showed a lot of potential from the start. She was first trained by John W. Russel but would eventually go on to have several different trainers over her 4 year career.
Racing as a 2 year old in 1971, Susan’s Girl was already facing elite competition, including the American Champion 2 year old of 1971, Numbered Account and winning the Signature & Villager Stakes, but it was in her 3 year old season where Susan’s Girl really made a bang.
As a 3 year old in 1972, Susan’s Girl was almost unstoppable! Winning 9 out of her 13 starts and never finishing out of the money. She had major wins in the Kentucky Oaks, The Acorn Stakes, La Troienne, and the Beldame Stakes…just to name a few. While Secretariat was making his rise to fame as the top 2 year old and Horse of the Year, Susan’s Girl was the leading lady in the horse racing world, clinching the spot as Champion 3 year old of 1972.
As a 4 year old, she was just as impressive, winning major stakes on both coasts. Her major wins came in the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, The Santa Maria Handicap, The Santa Barbara Handicap, Susquehanna Handicap, The Spinster Stakes, and The Delaware Handicap, winning over $500,000.
By the end of her 3 year old season, Susan’s Girl was second only to the champion Shuvee in earnings. Hooper’s goal was to have Susan’s Girl become the first distaffer to earn 1 million, but in February of 1974 she was found to have chipped a bone in her right foreleg.
Hooper sent her to the noted equine surgeon, Dr. Robert Copelan. who removed three chips from her leg. She was then sent home to Hooper’s Farm in Ocala, Florida. For two months, Susan’s Girl went through therapy and swam in the nearby Lake Weir every day. After nine months, she recovered and was ready to return to the races.
Unfortunately, during her time on the sideline, 2 fillies managed to pass the million dollar mark (Dahlia and Allez France), both European fillies. Susan’s Girl had some catching up to do. Hooper was still set on setting the American record. At the age of 5 and 6, Susan’s Girl made a major comeback. In 1974, Susan’s Girl won the Falls Handicap and as a 6 year old in 1975 she was even better, winning 6 stakes and placing in 8.
1975 was her leading money making season. In the Matchmaker Stakes in Atlantic City, New Jersey, she set a new track record. She beat older females and males and earned a million plus dollars in earnings, setting the American record in earnings for a filly. Susan’s Girl proved herself to be one of the top female racehorses in the country, if not the world. Susan’s Girl was the only filly throughout the twentieth century to become champion 3 year old (1972) and champion older female twice, in 1973 and 1975.
In 1975, she was finally retired and went on to become a reasonably successful broodmare producing Grade 1 winner Copelan, who was named after her surgeon. She died at Hooper’s farm in Ocala FL in 1988. Susan’s Girl was a perfect example of a tough, versatile racehorse. Running on multiple different tracks on both coasts beating females and males, but sadly Susan’s Girl seems to be a name that has gradually been forgotten in the horse racing world, perhaps it was because of the multitude of champion horses of the 1970’s that may have perhaps overshadowed her long arduous career, but she is nothing short of a legend and one of the top racehorses of the 20th century and one that will never be forgotten.